Occupying the northern part of the Philippines and location of the principal international gateways to the island nation, Luzon Island provides visitors with their first taste of the enchanting attractions here. The delights of Manila, pretty beaches such as those at Subic and the renowned Banaue rice terraces are only a few of the eclectic attractions awaiting visitors.

The North of Luzon features stunning mountain ranges including the Cordillera Central which is home to the famous Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras which were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995.

Luzon has two international airports. Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport is located four miles to the south of Manila and serves long-haul airlines while Clark International Airport is not far out of Angeles City and is a hub for budget carriers, with regional connections and a 90 minute transfer to Manila central.

Luzon has not witnessed any major natural disasters since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in July 1990. Baguio City was close to the epicenter and suffered extensive damage to buildings. It took several days to clear landslides in the locality.

The island has a tropical climate with wet and dry seasons. Heavy rain is common during the months between May and late October. Humidity is also higher then and it is typhoon season, although most of these tend to bypass Luzon. November to February is the optimum time to visit. From March until the onset of the rainy season, it is hot and the thermometer often hovers above the 95°F mark.

What to see

Way up on the northwest shores of Luzon, the town of Vigan is a delightful testament to Spanish colonial rule with cobblestoned streets and historic buildings. Riding a horse-drawn calesa carriage through the streets followed by a stroll around the late 18th century St Paul’s Cathedral are high on the itineraries of visitors. Vigan is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and South-East Asia.

Banaue is not the easiest place to get to and involves long bus journeys if not travelling on an organized tour. Filipinos claim the rice terraces climbing the sides of the Cordillera Mountains are the world’s eighth wonder. UNESCO seems to agree and the terraces are a designated heritage site. Walking the terraces or viewing them from one of the many vantage points is a cathartic experience.

 

What to do
North Luzon is really a destination for the adventurous. Trekking and whitewater rafting are two of the activities you can do here. Multiple day treks out of Banaue or Bontoc with overnights at Ifugao villages are very popular. The rice terraces are spectacular and the landscape is absolutely mesmerising. If you have time whitewater rafting on the Chico River is exhilarating. Vigan is for the more historically interested. The Paoay Church is another gem, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. Pagudpud offers beaches, lagoons, offshore islands and waterspouts. The remote Batanes island group is north of Luzon and has a distinctly different landscape and climate. Well worth visiting.

Local culture
Roughly 40,000-miles² in size, Luzon’s inhabitants originate from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and this is reflected in the languages spoken on the island. Although the common denominator is Tagalog, other Filipino dialects spoken include Pangasinan and Ilocano. English is widely spoken and it does not take too much effort to find a translator in even the most obscure locations.

Christianity is the predominant religion on Luzon and abundant churches are a testament to this and also the legacy of the Spanish. Filipinos celebrate a number of Christian festivals and these tend to vary in dates from locality to locality. There are also a number of festivals that pre-date the arrival of European settlers.

Two of the bigger annual events in Luzon are the Feast of the Black Nazarene and the Carabao Festival. Both of these are marked in locations easily accessible from Manila. The Black Nazarene is staged in Quiapo on January 9 and Good Friday. The Carabao Festival honors the national animal, the buffalo, and is held in mid-May.

Tribal villages inhabited by people wearing traditional dress and following time-honored traditions are fairly common in the mountain districts of the Cordilleras. In the environs of Banaue, the Ifugao built the rice terraces and in their free time they went in for head-hunting. The Ifugao have long given up head-hunting and now only practice the skills of weaving colorful cloth and carving wooden figures and artifacts.

Baguio is known as the summer capital of the Philippines because of its lovely climate. Located at an elevation of 1540 meters it has cool weather your round compared to the lowlands. Baguio boasts various botanic gardens and parks and is famous for its pine trees.

Baguio is the political center of the Cordillera Administrative Region which consist of six provinces, namely: Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province. The Cordillera Mountain Range is one of the most beautiful destinations of the Philippines.

We recommend staying in one of the country style hotels, which are located a little bit outside of the city. Enjoy the peace and freshness of nature. Walk to the city and enter the Baguio central market. You will discover a wide range of local products such as handicraft and food items. Relax in one of the numerous cafes and restaurant such as the Café at the ruins. They serve wonderful local coffee and pastries. In addition you can also get your learning experience about the history of Baguio. If you prefer relaxation you can get your wellness treatment such as body scrub in one of the old Spas around. If you are more active you take a short ride with one of the proud Jeepneys to La Trinidad. There you find the collection center for agricultural products. Don’t forget your camera, as it is amazing to watch the flow of goods, which will be distributed throughout the whole country. That might whet your appetite to pick the only upland strawberries of the countries. Hectares of gardens provide you the deep red fruit as its best.

Baguio is also where the famous Halsema Highway starts which winds its way through fantastic scenery to Bontoc and Sagada in Mountain province.

Signature Experiences

Baguio Immersion Tour

Join us on an immersive tour of the city’s highlights such as its markets, Burnham Park and the Philippine Military Academy. Meet the people of Baguio!

Trekking to the summit of Mount Pulag

Climb Mount Pulag, the 2nd highest mountain of the Philippines.

Highlights of the climb include the montane forests and the grassland summit from which the view at sunrise is breathtaking. Depending on the weather seas of clouds form beneath, covering everything but the highest points in the Central Cordilleras.

Banaue is a town in the Central Cordillera Mountain Range. This province is famous for the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras that were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995, the first-ever property to be included in the cultural landscape category of the World Heritage List. We offer great Banaue tours.

The terraces of Banaue town itself are not part of the UNESCO World Heritage site due to the presence of numerous modern structures.

This inscription has five sites: the Batad Rice Terraces, Bangaan Rice Terraces (both not far from Banaue), Mayoyao Rice Terraces (in Mayoyao), Hungduan Rice Terraces (in Hungduan) and Nagacadan Rice Terraces (in Kiangan). These terraces were built 2000 years ago and passed on from generation to generation. The Ifugao Rice Terraces reach a higher altitude and were built on steeper slopes than many other terraces.

Unfortunately the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras were on the List of World Heritage in Danger from 2001 until 2012.

Deforestation and climate change threatened to destroy the terraces and young Ifugao people opted to go to work in cities instead of tilling the land as their forefathers used to do.

Signature experiences

Ifugao trekking

Trekking to the rice terraces of the Ifugao villages of Batad and Cambulo and stay overnight there. Immerse in local village life and learn about the history of these unique rice terraces.

Hapao Rice Terraces

Visit these stunning rice terraces which are part of the Hungduan UNESCO World Heritage. Trek through the terraces, visit a hot spring as well as local communities.

Batad and Tapiyah Falls

Make a day trek to the famous Batad rice terraces and visit the thundering Tapiyah Waterfall.

Join us on our Banaue tours.

Bontoc is a small community in Mountain Province in the Central Cordillera Range at the end of the famous Halsema Highway that starts in Baguio. It is located on the Chico River amidst stunning scenery.

Bontoc is home to the Bontoc tribe, a feared war-like group of indigenous people who actively indulged in tribal wars with its neighbors up until the 1930s. They formerly practiced headhunting and had distinctive body tattoos. The Bontoc very much retain their traditional lifestyle although headhunting is a thing of the past fortunately.

On special occasions and during festivals the Bontoc perform a circular rhythmic dance always accompanied by bronze gongs. In the past the handles of these gongs were made of human jaws. Every year the Lang-Ay festival take place in Bontoc.

Bontoc is famous for the Maligcong Rice Terraces. The stone walls make the terraces more stable and stand erosion.

The Bontoc Museum was founded by a Belgian nun whose aim was to preserve the history and heritage of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera region particularly that of the Ifugao people. Hence, this museum houses an array of authentic artifacts and photos reflective of Ifugao’s culture.

Signature Experiences

Bontoc Experience

A day of immersion in Bontoc village life. You will learn about the history of the Bontoc, about their tribal wars, headhunting and their other, more pleasant , traditions. Hike on the walls of the Maligcong Rice Terraces and enjoy the great vistas.

Whitewater rafting on the Chico River

The Chico River is the longest river in the Cordillera Range. We will take you whitewater rafting on this spectacular river. The Chico River is the longest river in the Cordillera Range. We will take you whitewater rafting on this spectacular river. Local people prevented the construction of a dam in the Chico River in the 1980s because it threatened to inundate traditional villages.

Kalinga province in the Cordillera Mountain Range is home to the tribe of the same name. It is a rugged province with mountain peaks ranging from 1500 to 2500 meters in elevation. The mountains have extensive areas of tropical rainforest as well as the most intact pine forests of Luzon. The province has fantastic rice terraces at Balbalan, Lubuagan, Pasil, Pinukpuk, Tinglayan, and Tanudan. Kalinga is far less visited than Banaue, Bontoc and Sagada. Travel Authentic Philippines offers a couple of Kalinga Tours.

The province is drained mainly by the Chico River, with its headwaters in Mountain Province and emptying into the Cagayan River.

The Chico River has several tributaries.  It is referred to as a “river of life” for the Kalinga people who live on its banks, and is well known among development workers because of the Chico River Dam Project, an electric power generation project which local residents resisted for three decades before it was finally shelved in the 1980s – a landmark case study concerning ancestral domain issues in the Philippines. There are also several small lakes in Kalinga.

The Kalinga people are known as “the strong people of the Cordilleras”. They have a reputation of being fierce warriors and practiced headhunting in the past. They still retain very much their traditional lifestyle.

Signature Experiences

Trekking and immersion in tribal life

We will take you trekking for several days into Kalinga country. You will stay overnight in Kalinga villages and learn about the history and traditions of this fascination tribe. Admire centuries old riceterraces and visit the Palan-ah Falls and Hot Springs.

Visit the village Buscalan,  the home of Wang Od, known as the last tattoo artists of Kalinga.

A great adventure. This is a journey back in time and back to nature. Join us on our Kalinga tours.

Sagada is a small community in Mountain province in the Central Cordillera Mountain range. It is nestled in a valley at the upper end of the Malitep tributary of the Chico River at about 1500 meters elevation and boasts stunning scenery. Travel Authentic Philippines offers a number of Sagada Tours.

Sagada is famous for its caves, waterfalls and hanging coffins. The hanging coffins is a traditional way of burying people in coffins that hang from mountain cliffs that is still being practiced by tribal people. It’s being said that not everyone is allowed to be buried this way: among other things, one had to have been married and had grandchildren. Sagada has a unique setting and atmosphere that made it a very popular, if not the most popular, destination in North Luzon.

Sagada is also the home of Eduardo Masferré (1909 – 1995). He was a Filipino-Catalan photographer who made important documentary reports about the lifestyle of native people in the region of the Cordillera in the Philippines at the middle of 20th century. He is regarded as the Father of Philippine photography. In many hotels, guesthouses and restaurant you will see his pictures.

The purpose of suspending the casket from the mountain rocks is to bring the deceased closer to heaven. The hanging coffins can also prevent bodies from being taken by beasts and also bless the soul eternally.

Signature Experiences

Canyoning and Spelunking

We take you for a full day canyoning and spelunking with experienced guides. Visit the Lumbian Cave and the Sumaguing Cave.

Waterfalls and Hanging Coffins

Visit the most interesting sights of Sagada such as Echo Valley, the hanging coffins, Underground River and Bokong Falls.

Trekking to Mount Ampacao and Lake Danum

Trek to the top of Mount Ampacao from where you have great views over Sagada and environs.

Join us on one of our Sagada Tours.

Vigan, capital of the province IIocos Sur is one of the few Spanish towns from the colonial era left in the Philippines where its structures remain intact.

It is well known for its cobblestone streets and its architecture is the conglomeration of cultural elements from the Philippines, China, and Spain, making it unique in the world.

Vigan was established in the 16th century but it was a coastal trading post long before the Spaniards arrived. Chinese traders sailing from the South China Sea came to Isla de Vigan (Island of Vigan) via the Mestizo River that surrounded it. The river is no longer navigable owing to silting, as a result of which the town is no longer an island.

In 1999 UNESCO inscribed Vigan on the list of World Heritage Sites on the basis of these criteria:

Vigan represents a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning.

Vigan is an exceptionally intact and well-preserved example of a European trading town in East and South-East Asia.

Signature Experiences

Vigan City tour

Visit the highlights of Vigan with an experienced local guide such as Quema Mansion, Syquia Mansion (Pres. Quirino’s residence), Calle Mena Crisologo, Plaza Burgos, Burgos Museum, Vigan Cathedral and Pastoral Museum, Archbishop’s Palace and Museum, Bantay Bell Tower of St. Augustine Church, San Vicente Church and Plaza Salcedo.

Overnight in an ancestral home

Stay overnight in an ancestral home and enjoy the atmosphere of yesteryear.

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