Breathtaking, awe-inspiring, spectacular, magnificent? No adjective can ever describe the beauty of Batanes!
Batanes is located in the northernmost part of the Philippines. The province is not very popular to foreigners unlike El Nido, Coron and Boracay, but it is a dream to us Filipinos to be able to visit Batanes once in our lifetime.
Batanes offers heart-stirring landscapes and seascapes that will make your heart swell with pride and joy. It is heartwarming to witness this majestic creation of our magnificent God . It makes you pause and offer a thanksgiving prayer to Him.
Batanes is a peaceful and laid-back place. It will take you back in times where modern civilization doesn’t seem to exist. It will literally put you in a moment where you just want to sit atop the grassy hills, feel the cold breeze and warm heat of the sun, and just appreciate life.
And what it most amazing about Batanes is that they were able to preserve many historical sites and landmarks that allows you to journey back to the Spanish era and World War II. Most of the places are still untouched and old structures originally preserved. Batanes is the only province in the country with protected landscape and seascape. Kudos to Batanes LGU! Great job!
How To Get There
There are only two airlines that have daily flights to Batanes – Skyjet and PAL. Flights usually arrive and leave by morning.
Airfare to Batanes is quite expensive. This is probably one of the reasons why few tourists are able to visit Batanes. In our case, we were lucky to snag a promo with Skyjet Vacations for Php 8,600 per head for a group of 4. This is a 3 Days – 2 Nights package inclusive of round-trip airfare, hotel accommodation with breakfast, and tour package to North and South Batan, and Sabtang Island. This promo is a win-win! You better check this out! We got this promo on a Travel Expo last 2016.
Just a heads up, Batanes is usually visited by storm, and the wind can be harsh even in ordinary sunny weather, so there is about a 50% chance that your flight may be cancelled.
Best time to visit Batanes is during Summer. Visiting them during rainy season may cause flight delays or cancellation, but if you’re lucky you will be able to enjoy Batanes alone. Our tour guide said most of the tourists flock during summer, and tourist spots can be very crowded.
Getting Around Batanes
Public transportation is limited. If you prefer a Do-It-Yourself itinerary, there are tricycles that can tour you around for Php1,000-1,500. You can also rent a bicycle or a motorbike to explore the island. Just make sure you have the endurance, trails can be uphill and rugged. But if you’re travelling with a big group, you can contact a local travel agency. Ours is Northern Adventure Travel and Tours. I strongly suggest you book with this agency, because Skyjet trusted their services, and also they provide a free T-shirt as souvenir! For the rates, you may reach them:
Northern Adventure Travel and Tours
Tour Coordinator: Philip Tapucol
Mobile No. (Smart): 0908-442-4042
Mobile No. (Globe): 0936-954-8471
If you choose Northern Adventure as we suggested, you can request for Kuya Louie to be your tour guide. He is an excellent tour guide, and a funny one at that. He is also very knowledgeable about Batanes and you can learn a lot from him. Most of the information in this article are the things we learned from Kuya Louie.
Other Means of Transportation
SkyPasada offers chartered flights from Tuguegarao to Batanes. You may refer to other blog sites for more information.
Places to Visit
I believe every inch of Batanes is a place to visit. As you travel along the road on the cliff side, you already want to stop the vehicle. The amazing landscape will just take your breath away.
On our first day, we headed to Batan South with our tour guide Kuya Louie and our driver, Sir Dave.
Chawa “Cliff” View Deck
The first stop in Batan South Tour is Chawa View Deck. It has a magnificent view of the Batan Island, ideal for sunset watching. You can climb down the staircase with 150 steps where you can access the bottom of the cliff, and have a closer look of the giant waves smashing against the rock.
Mahatao-Hatao Island or Mahatao Boat Shelter
This place is once used by the native tribes of Batan to defend their village. The area is strategical for defense, since the small island has a hill which serves as an advantage for archers against water invaders. Now, small fishing vessels and boats dock here during bad weather to protect it from giant waves.
San Carlos Borromeo Parish
This church was built during the Spanish Era. It is made of pure rocks, and dead corals brought together by melted limestone. Due to lack of supply and the government implementing a law which prohibits the harvest of limestone, the church’s structure outer layer wall has already a touch of modern engineering, but the skeleton remains intact.
This church has two lampposts that serves as the only light in the village during the Spanish Era. The local fishermen used this light to locate Mahatao Village.
Inside San Carlos Borromeo Parish is the Blank Book Library. Here you can grab one of the hundred blank books on the shelves to write and immortalize your experience in Batanes.
The name speaks for itself. This is called the Spanish Lagoon, for the reason that only the Spanish Friars were allowed to swim in the area. Near the lagoon is a small cave, which leads to a beach at the other side of the cliff.
Nowadays, locals and tourists alike are free to swim and have picnics in this lagoon.
Ivana Town – Spanish Bridge
A bridge built during the Spanish Era also made of dead corals and rocks. The river already dried up due to modern waterway project built around the village. This bridge has never been renovated and can still hold big vehicles.
Ivana Town – Dakay House
The surviving heritage of ancient architecture. Dakay House is the original model house of Batan. Dakay House is built of pure rock, dead corals and limestone, with almost a meter thick walls. It’s roof is several layers of cogon grass tied together, that lasts up to 25-30 years. This house is designed to withstand storms and earthquakes.
In 1918, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck the island of Batan, which destroyed almost all of their houses. Only five Dakay Houses remained standing. The other four houses were renovated, but this house has never undergone renovation.
We also had a chance to meet the current owner of this house, and pictures of his ancestors.
San Jose De Ivana Church
Built as a chapel in 1787 by the Dominicans. The church was partially destroyed when an earthquake hit the island in 2000 and was later renovated in 2001. The highlight of this church is the view of the ocean and the Arios Trees planted around the area. Arios fruit tastes like wild berries!
Honesty Coffee Shop
This store became popular to tourists because it has been featured in a Coco Martin’s movie. This is called Honesty Shop, because there are no store personnel, or CCTV on this shop. Prices are already indicated in each items, and you only need to log your order, and place your payment into the money vault. It’s a store to test your honesty.
They say honesty is so rare nowadays, that it became a tourist attraction.
Alapad Hill and Rock Formation
Alapad Rock Formation is a slanting Rock at the side of the road carved by natural ocean wind. The hill atop has a great view of a very long beach and the vast ocean.
Ivatans call this as Racuh a Payaman. But tourists came up with another name for it: Marlboro Hills or Marlboro Country. You can see the wide grasslands and hills that serves as home of the farmers’ livestock such as horses, cows, and goats. In Batanes, they have a unique way to create boundaries of lands from one owner to another. They use tall grasses. From the top, you can see these lands divided by tall grasses, that looks like a wide maze garden.
Mahatao Lighthouse or Tayid Lighthouse
Once the main lighthouse of Batanes, but is currently under renovation and is not open for tourists. You can only view it from a distance. To date, the only functioning lighthouse is the one located in Basco.
Sabtang Island is known as the Sleeping Beauty of the Ivatans. From Batan, you can see this island in a shape of a sleeping lady.
The boat from Ivatan Port to Sabtang leaves at 7:30 AM and returns at 12:30 PM. These are the time of day when the sea is most calm.
Note that Sabtang Island is only accessible when the weather is fair. Although their boats were designed to handle giant waves, Kuya Louie said that a sign of rain will cancel the trip.
Morong Beach and Zipline
First stop will be at a hill away from Morong Beach. At the top of the hill is a jump-off of a 650 meter zipline towards Morong Beach. Fee is Php 500 per head.
At the end of the zipline is the Morong Beach, white sand beach with an arch-like rock formation. This beach is a good spot for swimming, picnics, and even for wedding proposals due to its natural romantic setting.
Chamantad View Point
Chamantad is probably my favorite place in Sabtang Island. It is like climbing the mountains of Benguet, but instead of mountain ranges and wide forests, you’ll be seeing the wide blue ocean, a white sand beach cove, and cliffs. I can only dream of building a house at the peak of this view point. I could literally die there just staring at the majestic view.
By the road, there’s a woman selling refreshing coconuts for only Php 35 each. We stayed in Chamantad for more than 30 minutes, and we just can’t get enough of its beauty.
Walking along the streets of Chavayan will take you back to the Spanish Era, where all you can see are stone houses.
In Chavayan, you can rent their local farmers’ Vakul Headdress for women, and Kanayi Vests for men. Vakul is made of Vuyavuy leaves, a tree endemic in Batanes. Vakul is protection from both sun and rain. It’s thick layers of Vuyavuy leaves makes it waterproof and heatproof.
The so called ‘Bayanihan’ – a Filipino tradition where villagers help each other in goodwill – is still being practiced in Chavayan Village. We actually witnessed the villagers working together in painting the streets, and the village chapel in preparation for the upcoming fiesta. Nobody forced them to do so, or promised with any monetized compensation for their labor, they just volunteered.
We also had a chance to visit the ancestral house of our tour guide – Kuya Louie.
Unlike Chavayan, Savidug already has several modernized establishment. But, you can still feel the ambiance of old Batanes way of living. We made a short visit at the Savidug Village Chapel – St. Thomas Aquinas. Beside the chapel is an old stone house where Yeng Constantino shoot her music video for “IKAW”. Come on, we all know that song!
Our tour in Sabtang Island ended at exactly 12:00 NN. The boat from Sabtang bound for Batan Island is scheduled to leave at 12:30 PM. Upon arriving at Ivana Port, we headed to Batan North for the last tour in our itinerary. <insert sad face>
Mt. Carmel Chapel
This chapel is famous for its intricate exterior and interior design. It is also a perfect spot for wedding celebrations because of its beautiful view of the mountain and the ocean. When we visited there, the chapel is still under renovation due to a storm that hit Batanes recently.
PAG-ASA Weather Station
PAG-ASA Weather Station in Batanes is one of the country’s main functioning weather station. This is a very important station, because Batanes is usually visited by storm, and this station is capable of seeing storms coming from both the Pacific Ocean and West Philippine Sea.
Unfortunately, it was not functional when we visited because two of its satellite receptors were destroyed by the same storm that damaged Mt. Carmel Chapel. One satellite was uprooted from the ground, while the other was flown away and nowhere to be found. Probably already sunk into the ocean.
Batanes also did not escape the wrath of World War II. One of the tallest hills of North Batan was a Japanese Stronghold during World War II. They dug a deep tunnel with a 32-steps set of stairs, with more than 5 chambers and armory storage, and a solid 1-meter thick stone bunker. This very site was one of the most difficult encounters of American soldiers in taking over Batanes, because of its strategic location. Now, the place has been preserved as a tourist attraction.
Valugan Boulder Beach
If you’ve been to a rocky beach, you probably haven’t seen this kind of very rocky beach! Valugan Boulder Beach is covered with giant rocks and boulders due to the eruption of Mt. Irayat many many years ago. These rocks rolled down from the volcano to this very beach. What was once a dreadful site, has become an unprecedented beauty.
Don’t worry, the volcano is already dormant for many years.
Vayang Rolling Hills
If Chamantad View Point is my favorite in Sabtang, Vayang Rolling Hills is my best spot in North Batan. The name says for itself. This is another high place in Batanes with picturisque landscapes, perfect for photoshoots. At hilltop, witness the mountains meeting the sea.
Vayang Rolling hills is a wide view of green meadows, mostly tall cogon grass, and is widely used by Batan farmers for herding livestock.
Basco Lighthouse is currently the only functioning lighthouse in Batanes. It is also open for tourists for sight seeing. Atop the lighthouse, you can see the entirety of Basco Town – the Capital of Batanes, and the ocean on the other side.
Santo Domingo Cathedral
Santo Domingo Cathedral is located in the heart of Basco Town. This cathedral was built way back the 1700’s. Santo Domingo Cathedral was originally made of only cogon grass and wood. This has been renovated several times and the structure was modernized to be able to accommodate the growing number of locals.
Tourists are only allowed to visit during the visiting hours – 8:00 AM – 12:00 NN and 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Regular daily mass are being held in between and after these hours. They also encourage the tourists to wear proper church attires when visiting Santo Domingo Cathedral.
Place to Stay
There are several hotels in Batanes. Feel free to look around or ask the locals. They are willing to guide you to a hotel best suited for your needs.
As I mentioned above, we were able to secure a package with Skyjet inclusive of hotel accommodation. We stayed in Vatan Inn for 2 nights with free breakfast. Vatan Inn is just walking distance from Basco Airport.
The place is small, and has only a common CR located at the ground floor and the 2nd floor. The green interior painting is very relaxing and the staff are very accommodating. They serve breakfast on time so you won’t be late in your tour, or your flight home.
Please refer to other websites for the rates.
Place to Eat
This is a famous pizza place in Batanes! I know, we went to Batanes to experience nature, but we’re still craving for PIZZA! We were actually surprised that Casa Napoli’s Pizza is the kind of pizza than can compete with other pizza places in Metro Manila. This homemade pizza exceeds our expectations! BRAVO!
Basco Plaza Food Park
Just across Basco Capitol Building is a Plaza with small theater and food parks around it. You should check this place out and see the various meals and snacks they offer. There is also a coffee shop at the food park, and their lemonade juice is a must try!
Option 1 (Northern Adventure Itinerary)
6:00 AM – ETD NAIA
7:00 AM – ETA Basco Airport
7:30 AM – Check-In Vatan Inn and Breakfast
9:00 AM – Start of South Batan Tour
1:00 PM – Lunch
Here you have to option to visit Fountain of Youth for an additional fee of Php 2,000 (Php 1,500 Van Rental and Php 500 for the guide). We were not able to visit Fountain of Youth.
5:00 PM – Sunset watching at Basco Port (or Basco Lighthouse)
7:00 PM – Dinner and Socials
10:00 PM – Lights off
5:00 AM – Wakey Wakey!
5:30 AM – Breakfast
6:30 AM – ETD to Mahatao Port
7:00 AM – ETD to Sabtang
7:45 AM – ETA Sabtang Island (Start of Tour)
12:00 NN – Lunch at Savidug Beach
12:30 PM – ETD back to Batan Island
1:15 PM – ETA Mahatao Port (Start of Norht Batan Tour)
4:30 PM – End of North Batan Tour
5:00 PM – Food Trip! Tour around Basco Town
7:00 PM – Socials
11:00 PM – Lights Off
7:00 AM – ETD back to Manila 🙁
Option 2 (Northern Adventure)
Morning – Same as Option 1
Afternoon – Instead of visiting Fountain of Youth, you can proceed directly to North Batan Tour
Morning – Sabtang Island
Afternoon – Fountain of Youth
Same as Option 1
Option 3 (DIY or other Travel Agency)
Our tour guide, Kuya Louie, said that this is the common itinerary of other Travel Agencies. That, in my personal opinion, is not advisable because you’ll crowd with a number of tourists in every tourist attraction. The difference with Northern Adventure is they switched South and North Batan Schedules.
Morning – North Batan Tour
Afternoon – Same as Option 1
Morning – Sabtang Island
Afternoon – South Batan Tour
Same as Option 1
Note: BATANES can make you fall in love, but it can also break your heart. Stepping out of Batanes Airport was one of my poignant moments. It felt like I was leaving a part of me behind. I’m melodramatic? Nah, you’ll know this feeling when you get there!
Ichaddaw ku, Batanes!