For families and friends that doesn't see or talk to each other often because of distance and difference in schedules, holidays are the best time to catch up. It has been a yearly thing to spend a 3-day vacation with Herbert's high school friends and I am glad to join their cheerful, no-dull moment group. This time we are going experience an Ilocos adventure with the full-packed tour to historic sites, falls, beaches, lighthouse and sand dunes.
“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience “– Francis Bacon
The estimated travel time from Manila to Vigan is 6 hours and 30 minutes. We had a few stopovers for a quick toilet break, grab a food or drink a hot coffee on the chilly early morning trip and stretch our legs from sitting too long.
Ilocos adventure: DAY 1
Vigan Heritage Village (CALLE CRISOLOGO)
This was our first stop and as one of the top tourist destination, it is a must visit when in ilocos. Though everyone still looks sleepy upon our arrival, we were all delighted to arrived earlier than our schedule. Excited to take our pictures, we hop out of the van and walk on the famous Calle Crisologo. It was still dark and shops are closed but you can see that the spanish architectures of century-old houses are well preserved.
This 100-hectare zoo opens at 7:00 AM. We had a great time walking around and watching the different animals do their morning routines. One thing we missed here was the safari gallery which was still close by the time we went there.
Burnayan (Pottery making)
From the entrance to its backyard there are pots of different shapes and sizes. It looks very easy as we watched them mold the clay into a pot but seriously it isn't. Herbert tried the pottery making in our trip to Sagada last 2015 but it didn't turn out well. It sure takes a lot of skills to create a good simple pot.
A century-old family mansion of the Crisologos turned into a museum to preserve the rich history. The museum is free, full of antiques and memorabilia of the family.
Bantay Belfry tower and Sta. Maria Church
Established in 1590, the church and the tower is one of the oldest in the Ilocos Region and was used as a watchtower for invading enemy forces during World War II.
We weren't able to climb to the tower but we had fun with the creative poses as suggested by the site personnels around the tower to maintain order. They offer their service and do not demand the amount. It is up to you on how much you want to hand them.
Passing through the narrow street and stopped by a small parking lot, you can't tell where the garden is from the houses along the road. It really was a hidden garden! Inside we were curious to look closely at bamboo trees, pots, sculptures, and other plants. During our lunch, the restaurant was full and it took us some time to figure out how to order our meal. Most of us tried the bagnet and longganisa. We think it was overrated.
The structure of the church is very unique. It has a very thick stone walls and distinct shape.
Malakanyang ti Amianan and Paoay Lake
The malacanang of the north is a two-story mansion that consists of seven rooms, with each room having a theme of historical events from the Marcos era. A lot of tourist are also interested of visiting the place making it crowded especially on this season. From the malakanyang is an overlooking view of the Paoay Lake known as Dacquel a Danum or "big water".
You can also find a few ice cream and ice scramble vendors outside.
La Paz Sand Dunes
It is an 85-square-kilometre (33 sq mi) protected sandy coastal desert and beach located in Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
We did both the the 4x4 ride and sand boarding. The 4x4 ride was unexpectedly fun for me because I expected it to just be scary all throughout the ride.
Sand boarding is one on top of my bucket list. With a lot of courage, not too comfy white pants and a pair of sandals I tried sitting and standing on the board. Sitting on the board was easier but standing on the board, though more difficult, was more fun for me. I fell halfway to the bottom but it was still a proud moment for a scaredy-cat like me.
Ilocos adventure: DAY2
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
It is a National Treasure heritage listed by the National Museum as one of the last Philippine Spanish Lighthouses. It was a great place to start our 2nd day tour. We were off to quite a long walk going up to the top of Vigia de Nagparitan hill where the lighthouse was perfectly situated. For as early as 8:00 AM there were already lines of tourists at the entrance. The rustic look of the place makes a classic vintage background for portraits and itself as a dramatic image. During the tour it creeps me out a bit seeing the old beds and chairs and thinking what story it holds. Then at the top, I believe I could say for all of us that we were in awe on what we've seen. The landscape was incredible with the overlooking South China sea. I can't remember the reason why we weren't able to climb up to the lantern room on top of the lighthouse but even so we enjoyed visiting the place.
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
This another famous tourist destination can be expected to be crowded and is accessible only by walking or horseback riding. It will take a long walk on the hot weather to get to the rock formation but it was worth it. Although tourist are not allowed to get near the rock to prevent any damage to the formation that the nature sculpted a million years ago, we were still fascinated of the view from afar. We enjoyed taking our pictures on the side rock formation with the equivalent white limestones texture.
This wind farm is recognized as the largest in Southeast Asia and the towers are 60 meters high located just 10 meters from the sea edge. It was mid day when we arrived here therefore it was not ideal to walk on the shore. But the real challenge was on how we take our picture on these giant blades. With some fun creative jump shots, it turns out good because we enjoyed while taking it. If you'd like some souvenir, there are shops around the area.
The concrete coastal bridge is 1.3 km long and is elevated 31 meters over sea level connects the Ilocos Region to Cagayan Valley. The bridge itself is an amazing architecture and the scenic landscape was worthy of time to be appreciated.
As it is the best time to visit ilocos and a lot of tourist are here. There was traffic on the road and we had a difficult time finding a place to park. Because of the crowd, the beach wasn't so inviting for a swim. We walked a bit on the shore, bought snacks and get back on the road. We think it would be lovely to stay a bit more to experience the nightlife in the boracay of the north.
On our day 2 itinerary we missed a few destinations because as a large group we need to consider each ones pace. We were supposed to stop at an empanadahan which ilocos is famous for, the Bantay abot cave but we opt not to stop due to the limited time and Kabigan Falls but the last entry to trek was 3:00 and we arrived at 3:30 PM. Maybe next time we will be able to visit these places. We went back to Laoag but got a little lost on the way because some part of the roads were closed for procession, and another creepy story because we end up on a cemetery road. These situations that you only see in movies is much more scarier when experienced personally. Fortunately our guide got us back to the main road after an hour of driving on dark roads. At the end of the day we were all tired but happy with the experience and the memories we made.
On our 3rd day, we went back to Calle Crisologo to experience what it is in the daylight and bought souvenirs and pasalubong. Also stopped at Laoag rotonda and take our group picture.
Overall, if you're in for a bit laid-back trip of visiting old houses, museums and churches that gives you a glimpse of history, this ilocos adventure is for you. Group tours may have disadvantages but it is definitely more fun to share the experience and exchange stories with more people that you enjoyed being with.
Here is a sample itinerary sent to us by the travel tour agency.
NOTE: This Itinerary is just a guide for the tour participants and may change due to weather conditions, travelling pace, etc
- Day 0 - Thursday
- 08:00pm Assembly/Departure
- Day 1 - Friday
- 06:00am Estimated time of arrival at Vigan
- Breakfast (OWN ACCOUNT)
- 07:00am Proceed Vigan Heritage Village (CALLE CRISOLOGO) and Baluarte
- 09:00am Visit Crisologo Museum and Burnayan (Pottery making)
- 11:00am Bantay Belfry tower and Sta. Maria Church
- 11:30am Estimated time of departure Vigan to batac
- 01:00pm Estimated time of arrival at Batac. Lunch at Batac food plaza
- 02:20pm Proceed to Paoay Church
- OPTIONAL: HERENCIA Café (Pakbet Pizza - own account)
- Malakanyang ti Amianan and Paoay Lake
- 03:00pm La Paz Sand Dunes
- OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Sand Boarding and 4x4 Ride in La Paz Sand Dunes
- PhP 2,500 per 4x4 ride with sand boarding for a minimum of 4 person
- 04:00pm Sidetrip at Shrinking Bell Tower and Ilocos Norte Capitol Building
- 04:30pm CHECK IN
- Free time/own leisure
- 07:00pm Dinner (own account)
- 06:00am Estimated time of arrival at Vigan
- Day 2 - Saturday
- 06:00am Breakfast
- 06:30am Departure
- 08:00am Proceed To Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
- 08:40am Visit Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
- 10:00am Proceed to Bangui Windmills ,Picture Taking.
- EARLY LUNCH at AMIANAN CAFE
- 11:30am Depart from Bangui to ARKO ng PAGUDPUD picture taking (5 minutes)
- 12:15pm Arrival and Picture Taking at Patapat Viaduct
- 12:35pm Visit BANTAY ABOT CAVE and BLUE LAGOON.
- Free time to Explore the Beach, Swimming (cottages, and other expenses: own account)
- 02:40pm Wash Up and Change Clothes, Departure
- 03:00pm Stop Over at EMPANADAHAN
- 03:15pm Depart to Kabigan Falls
- 03:45pm Arrive at Kabigan Falls jump off (20-30 min trek to the falls)
- 05:00pm Travel Back to Laoag
- 08:30pm Arrival at Laoag , Dinner (own Account) Check IN (free time/own leisure)
- Day 3 - Sunday
- 06:00am Wake up Call
- 06:30am BREAKFAST
- 08:00am Departure resort to Vigan
- 10:30am Estimated time of arrival at Vigan
- Free time for Souvenir hunting at CALLE CRISOLOGO and buy pasalubong
- Lunch at Vigan(on account)
- 01:00pm Departure Vigan to Manila
- 10:00pm ETA Manila. End of Tour
Tips and Reminders
- Dry season are the best time to go here.
- Bring sunblock, hat and/or umbrella
- Wear comfortable clothes. It can get really really hot on summer.
- Follow the guide's schedule, they know the best time to go to places. Or go earlier.
- Follow and respect the rules and regulations of the city
- Do not leave any trash wherever you go.
We would like to hear from you too
- What region have you been to and will recommend?
- Did you find this post helpful?
- What other aspects would you like to know more about?