The province of Ifugao belongs to the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), which is home to several ethnic tribal communities such as Igorot, Ifugao, Kalingan, Kankanaeys, Illian, Baliwon and many others. Unlike other regions, this is the only landlocked area in the Philippines and as such is wholly reliant in agriculture and farming. In the central part of the Cordillera Mountain Range are the renowned rice terraces or fondly called ‘stairways to heaven’. The unparalleled beauty of the Ifugao Rice Terraces represents an enduring image of an ancient civilization passed on from generation to generation. Believed to be built by hand of indigenous ancestors 2,000years ago, these historic terraces are a living cultural landscape that will leave visitors in complete awe for its beautiful aesthetics and bountiful yield. In 1995, 5 of the most impressive rice terraces in 4 different municipalities were declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. This includes Bangaan, Mayoyao, Hungduan, Nagacadan and Banaue. Of the five, Banaue is most famous having the best and most well-preserved rice terraces but all are equally beautiful stone or mud walls carved into the contours of the mountains. This recognition serves as a memorial to the history and hard work of more than a thousand farmers who utilised their own natural resources to achieve a landscape of this magnitude.
Apparently, the best time for a visit is just before harvest season when the rice plants are golden yellow and after cleaning and planting season when they start to exude rich green colours. The season for each cluster terraces varies but is normally from June to November and between February and May.
The journey is undoubtedly a long way from Manila and can only be reached by land. However, this treasure up north is truly breath-taking.
Banaue is about 218miles from Manila. Travel by private transport is reserved for highly experienced drivers familiar with the winding route.
The easiest way and fairly comfortable travel is by public transport in one of the buses operating the route regularly. Florida and Ohayami bus companies provide good service and modern fleet from Manila direct to Banaue although departures are restricted in the evening. Journey takes approximately 9hours. Morning trips are serviced by other companies from Manila to Bagabag Junction, taking 6-7hours, and another jeepney or bus transfer for the remaining portion, to arrive Banaue in 2.5hours.
*Register at Banaue Tourism Centre upon arrival for useful information and advice. Local tour guides can also be booked at the centre.
*Light jacket for colder days and slightly thicker ones to wear during the night and when taking a public airconditioned bus.
What else to see?
Tappiya (Tappiyah) Falls
Beyond the rice paddies of Batad village is a hidden gem, the Tappiya Falls. It is a stunning 70-meter drop of ice cold water that is lusciously inviting especially after navigating a series of steep paddies up and down. The arduous trek takes about an hour (depending on your pace) from Batad Saddle point but makes up for a priceless experience.
This is a small town in the mountain province packed with unrivalled adventure than anywhere else in the country. It has become synonymous with ‘hanging coffins’, which is an ancient way of burying people that is still practised until today. For the ultimate outdoor encounter, trekking, waterfalls hiking, spelunking are sure way to fire up adrenaline-fuelled fun.
Sagada remains one of a few places that have preserved its indigenous culture with little Spanish influence.
This town can be reached from the 2 major destinations in the north. From Banaue, it will take 3 hours to reach Sagada and from Baguio, it will take 8hours.