Friday, October 18, 2013

Heading North: A Guide to Ilocos Norte's Top Spots

The Ilocos provinces are two of my favorites in the country. Both are like one-stop destinations for tourists who are hunting for historical landmarks and heritage churches, or looking for beaches with amazing sunsets, or those chasing waterfalls, and beautiful natural and man-made structures.

Ilocos is a wonderland that had consistently amazed me during my last four visits. I feel almost apologetic that I've overlooked blogging about it in the past years. Given its many notable attractions, Ilocos rightfully deserves a spot in Backpacking Pilipinas.

This post will focus on the gems of Ilocos Norte, the other half of the Ilocos provinces. I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite attractions to give you an idea of what to see and expect on your next trip to the north.

Here are the top spots you may check out while in Ilocos Norte:

Bangui Windmills - Also known as the Bangui Wind Farm, these 20 giant wind turbines that stretch along the coastal town of Bangui is worth a visit. The first in the Philippines and considered the biggest in Southeast Asia, I like how this renewable energy wind farm provides electricity to Bangui. These turbines are visible even in the coasts of Pagudpud, but nothing beats getting near them up close. 

I highly recommend going there during the sunset as the sea breeze gets colder and the windmills provide a perfect backdrop that's great for photography. 

How to get there:

Take the Laoag to Cagayan route, then ask the bus driver to drop you off at Burgos. Check the marker on the left side of the road that leading to the Bangui Bay. From there you could already see the windmills. Follow the road leading to the bay which leads straight to the windmills.

Travel time from Laoag to Bangui is approximately 1.5 hours.

Laoag – Bangui BUS: P50.00
Tricycle within Bangui: P20.00 – P30.00

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation - Breathtaking! That's how I find this amazing natural attraction off the coast of Burgos. This immaculate white rock formation fronting the wild waves of the sea is a geological wonder like the Biri Rock in Norther Samar. Cha and I had the wonderful experience of getting into the rock and seeing it up close back in 2009. Unfortunately today, I heard that a part of the rock has been closed to the public due to vandalism. :(

How to get there: 

From the jump-off point at the main road in Burgos, it's about 15-20 minutes walk along a stretch of slippery rocks near the sea. Be extra careful! I highly recommend you wear a comfy footwear and bring umbrella or cap.

Laoag – Burgos
BUS: P50.00
TRICYCLE - within Burgos: Negotiable

Pagudpud beaches - Maira-ira and Polaris Resort are two of the beaches I visited during my stay in Pagudpud in 2009 and 2013. What I liked about the beaches in Pagudpud is the perfect sunset and that there's not too many tourists unlike other beaches in the country (well, at least during the times I was there). I have to warn you, though, to expect intense wind and waves especially at Maira-ira Beach even on a fairly good weather day. 

How to get there:

From Laoag, you may take a bus bound for Cagayan. You also have the option to hire a trike going directly to Pagudpud. Travel time may take about 1.5 hours.

Laoag – Pagudpud
BUS: P60.00
TRICYCLE - within Pagudpud: P20.00

Patapat Viaduct - Another interesting man-made structure worth stepping into is this 1.3 KM long bridge going to Pagupud. It looks like a snaking concrete etched along a mountainside facing a sea. It provides an easy travel to those who are coming from Cagayan Valley to Ilocos Norte. I had visited it twice (back in 2009 and this year 2013) and did some snap shots while the motorists are out of sight. Not a difficult feat since it's not a very busy highway, but still a piece of advise -- watch out for vehicles behind you!

Enroute to Patapat Viaduct, Anchi and I passed by a place where he said that visitors can drink water from a miraculous stream. I don't recall the name but I remember there is an image of Mother Mary set near where the stream flows. 

Laoag City - Before or after exploring the countryside, it's a must to check out the city proper of Laoag. Although a metropolitan already, it still hasn't lost much of its old charm as evidenced by some calesas parading the streets and some old stone houses still standing proud around the city.

I suggest you do a walking tour and visit the St. William Cathedral (a National Cultural Treasure), the Sinking Bell Tower (located near the church),  experience the thrill in La Paz Sand Dunes, and fill in your buds with authentic Ilocano dishes (bagnet, longanisa) at Johny Moon Cafe!

Within Laoag
CALESA: P15.00

Paoay Church (Church of Saint Augustine)- This is one of the most photographed religious sites in Ilocos Norte and said to be the most outstanding example of "Earthquake Baroque" church. I'm very privileged to have seen this historical church twice and still awed by its beauty each time. Besides being one of the four baroque churches included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Paoay Church also holds an important place in our history as its tower was used as an observation post by the katipuneros during the revolution.

While in Paoay, check out what was then the vacation house of the Marcoses, the Malacanang of the North.  I visited it back in high school and we were toured around the mansion where some stuff on display are antiques, canopy beds, paintings, and chandeliers. What I remember most from the trip was the calm and placid view of Paoay Lake from the mansion.

Laoag – Paoay
TRICYCLE - within Paoay: P11.00

Cape Bojeador - Set high on Vigia de Nagparitan Hill in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, this lighthouse was erected in 1890 and was first lit on 1892. After 100 years, it still functions today as a guide to international ships entering the Philippines. The light marks the northwestern-most point of Luzon. This octagonal-shaped  stone tower was part of the Spanish government's master plan of illuminating the Philippine archipelago.  Over the years, restorations were made and its original lamp was replaced after it was damaged by the 1990 earthquake.  Cape Bojeador Lighthouse was declared a National Historical Landmark on August 13, 2004 and a National Cultural Treasure on June 20, 2005 by the Philippine Government.

Aside from the historical significance, what I like most about this lighthouse is the refreshing view of the mountains and sea it offers to travelers. I also enjoyed taking photos of its architectural details like the rusty spiral stairway and the bricked walls.

Laoag – Burgos
BUS: P50.00
TRICYCLE - within Burgos: Negotiable

Kaibigan Falls - Another must-visit place is the refreshing Kabigan Falls located at Barangay Baloi in Pagudpud. 

It's about 1.8 km away from from the main road and can be reached on foot. We had to hike for about 30-40  minutes along a dirt road where we passed by a couple of streams, verdant forest and rice fields before we reached this cascade. Bring some cash as you may pass by locals selling buko juice. :)

Even on DIY, I still suggest you ask help from a local guide. The local officials there are very organized and are helpful to tourists, just make sure to log in to the visitors' book and pay corresponding fees before going to the falls.

Museo Ilocos Norte - To take a quick look and experience a bit of Ilocos life, head on to this museum. I like the interactive displays depicting the rich culture and history of the people of Ilocos. I got a glimpse of the Ilocano artistry through the pots they make, learned about the Tobacco monopoly industry, and the simple life of the Ilocanos.

Address: Gen. Luna corner Llanes Streets, Laoag City
Telephone: (077) 770-4587

How to get to Ilocos Norte: 

For those coming from Manila, the easiest way to get there is by taking a 45-minute flight to Laoag City via domestic airlines Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Phil, and Zest Air.

Those who opt a land travel will have to brave an 8-hour long bus ride. To fight off boredom, morning trips in northern Luzon has very scenic roadside views of the countryside which you may also enjoy. :) Some of the buses that ply the Manila-Laoag-Manila route are Farinas, Florida, Partas, and RCJ.

Once in Laoag, you may explore the city on foot, or by riding the calesa. Trikes, jeepneys and buses are also available for short and long rides especially to tourist destinations mostly located in nearby towns.



  1. are you sure yan pa rin mga fare rates? and same route pa din ba? hahaha!!! joke lang! never get tired of reading your blogs! =D

    1. hahaha! i verified tama naman so far or baka may recent updates pero minimal lang. hehehe. backblogging pilipinas pa din ako! dapat kasi highschool pa lang ako nagblog nako. :D andami ko pa upcoming blogs, ja. mukhang 2020 na ako matatapos sa kakaupdate. hehehehe

    2. Ok lang yan.update update din pag may time.can't wait to read them all.ilang hakbang na lang matatapos kn.congatz! :-)

  2. I miss Ilocos isa sa mga lugar na di nakakasawang puntahan khit balik balikan..

  3. Those were the days when we were traveling with IDs pa. hahahaha #throwback

    1. When we were scared going around on our own and had to join TF's tours. :D

  4. I viewed the photos again. May mga IDs nga kayo ni Cha. :-D Good job!

  5. Beautiful photos here, Che! I want to Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, it looks so cool and intriguing.. :)

  6. Hi very nice and beautiful photographs and also your post

  7. Ganda ng mga photos mo miss Che. Thanks din sa info. Nagamit namin when we went to Pagudpud.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hi! You blog is very helpful! May i know how long did you stay there???

  10. There is another bus company that goes to ilocos norte, maria de leon.


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