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Ilocos Norte

Posted by on Jun 23rd, 2009
Filed Under: Featured, ilocos norte, Luzon

Ilocos Norte Map
Ilocos Norte

From the fair winds of the self-proclaimed True North, Ilocos Norte boasts of graceful, historic churches, deep aquamarine-colored seas, panoramic vistas of rugged mountains, hidden waterfalls and a multihued history that whispers of gold mines, bloody revolts and an interesting window to Philippine national politics.

Ilocos Norte, which is about 488 kilometers north of the Philippine capital of Manila, means two things to ordinary Filipinos – the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos who was born in the town of Sarrat and the sprawling 77-hectare Fort Ilocandia (http://www.fortilocandia.com.ph/hotel.htm) (one of the largest resorts in the entire Asia), which according to stories, were hastily built by the late President in time for his daughter, Imee’s wedding and primarily caters now to Chinese Mainlanders, Macanese, and Taiwanese high-rollers who fly in to gamble in its casino. So much so that the name Ilocos alone, is almost synonymous with the Marcoses, one of the most controversial Philippine political dynasties in recent memory. Undeserving or not, this hardy and sometimes misunderstood northern province is definitely more than the sum of its contributions to the political history of the country – and in recent years, a wave of change finally came to wake up one of the usually overlooked destinations in the Philippines from hiatus since the fall from grace of its beloved son as more and more Filipinos and the occasional foreigner discover one of the most interesting and beautiful northern frontiers of the Philippines.


Philippines Ilocos Norte
Paoay Church
Photo by Caloy and Myra

Like the other provinces in the region, which is usually collectively known as Ilocos, Ilocos Norte shares a deep history with its neighboring provinces. The extensive region was renowned for its gold mines and merchants from ancient China and Japan would visit and trade gold in exchange for beads, ceramics and silk with the early inhabitants of Samtoy, as the locals once called their place from “sao mi toy”, which meant “our language.” As the Spanish conquistadors solidified their control of Manila in 1571, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi’s grandson, Juan de Salcedo led an expedition to the North. After arriving and annexing Vigan in Ilocos Sur on 13 June 1572, Salcedo then marched onward towards Laoag, Currimao and Badoc towns (part of what is present day Ilocos Norte). This was when Salcedo found the natives lived in villages in small bays on coves called “looc” in the local dialect. The natives by the coast were referred to as “Ylocos” which meant “from the lowlands” (the “Igorots” of the Cordilleras on the other hand meant “from the highlands”). Subsequently, the Spaniards called the region “Ylocos” or “Ilocos” and its people “Ilocanos.”

Christianization grew and flourished under the watchful eyes of the Spaniards and this eventually transformed the landscape of the region as vast tracks of available land were appropriated and utilized for churches and belfries in the Spanish policy of reducciones, which are formation of communities to facilitate the Hispanicization and eventually the Christianization of the region. Then, communities were scattered and living in one was determined by bloodlines – these communities were moved to be in these new missions which were called bajo la campanas or within hearing distance of the church bells. Thus, it is not uncommon to find garrisons under church bells in town squares. The widespread building of churches in Ilocos resulted to stunning architectural marvels that we still see today, the most famous, and I reckon one of the most beautiful churches in the Philippines, is the gorgeous Paoay Church, built in 1704 (finished 90 years later) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a church of “Earthquake Baroque” style with 24 massive brick reinforcements running along its sides with walls made out of coral rocks, baked bricks, lumber, limestone mortar and sugarcane juice. Paoay Church is a unique fusion of Gothic, Baroque and Oriental touches as its façade has touches of Gothic familiarity, Chinese elements in its gables and a Javanese feel in its niches. It stands in all its beauty and splendor (pretty much how I imagined it to be when I first saw a picture of the church when I was in grade school) in front of a wide-open square, unlike the churches in other parts of the Philippines which are almost choked by houses and businesses.

Also in Paoay is a more modern structure with historical and political significance – the Malacañang Ti Amianan (Malacañang of the North- a reference to the Malacañang Palace in Manila which is the official residence of Philippine Presidents – makes you kind of wonder if indeed, Marcos intended to be a President for as long as he lived), a large, airy and colonial-inspired former residence of the Marcos family with sweeping views of the scenic Paoay Lake. Admission is PhP20. The building is not very well-kept and in various states of disrepair – peeling paint, discolored walls, and we saw a cow grazing right next to a grimy swimming pool t next to the house.

4 Kilometers East of Paoay Church is Batac whose main attraction is the Marcos Mansion and Mausoleum where the glass-encased, embalmed body of Ferdinand E. Marcos lies in state on a mattress in an air-conditioned, dark and somber room while visitors file and have a glance at the body. Entrance is free but photography is not allowed inside the mausoleum (one guy’s camera was confiscated as he tried to sneak shots of the body, the camera was returned after making sure the offending photos were deleted.) Apparently the body was covered in wax, to preserve it well and make the late President look a lot like he was in his younger years; although Filipino conspiracy theorists suspect that the body is fake and just another con to perpetuate the Marcoses dubious political legacy. Well, I am not an expert on cadavers; I’d just rather leave it to the experts this time. Other Marcos memorabilia is on hand is also on view as well as the dictator’s writings, one of which was inscribed on marble outside the mausoleum: which more or less were ramblings which attempt to impress the visitors of the strongman’s intellectual and literary prowess.


Philippines Ilocos Norte
Currimao Rock Formations

Southwest of Batac are the towns of Currimao and Badoc. Currimao is known for its rock formations (which pretty much looked like dried up coral beds that stretch along most of its coastline fronting the South China Sea and the spectacular sunsets at Pangil. Among the rock formations, there are little lagoons which are nice for swimming. There are almost no accommodations here save for 2-4 open-air huts scattered along the coastline. Most just drive to the area and then leave in the late afternoon. The island of Badoc (of Badoc town) meanwhile is a surfing destination secret and not much is known of the area except that a few intrepid Australians surf the area. The waves are inconsistent but it is apparently on fire from October to early March and of course when there are typhoons or tropical depressions out in the South China Sea. The famous breaks are the Badoc Island Lefts (waves can get higher than 3 meters), Badoc Point (breaks are powerful with surfing up to 2.5 meters), Star Tubes (1-2 meter left hander), Turtle Head Rights (waves consistent up to two meters and hits a shallow reef). The island is uninhabited and all accommodations are on the mainland.

Aside from surfing, Badoc is also known as the birthplace of foremost Filipino painter, Father of Philippine Romanticism, and Philippine revolutionary hero Juan Luna. Luna’s most famous painting is the Spoliarium, a painting demanded of him by the Ayuntamiento, which was then sent to Madrid’s Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes of 1884 which he won with three gold medals awarded in concourse. The painting depicts a chamber under a Roman arena where bodies of dead gladiators were being dragged into a shadowy area, possibly to be dumped in a bigger pile of dead bodies. The painting now hangs in the Main Gallery of the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila. His other works are the La Battala de Lepanto which was commissioned by the Spanish Senate and the El Pacto de Sangre which depicts the blood compact between Datu Sikatuna of Bohol and Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi which is now displayed in the Malacañang Palace, the Rendicion de Granada and Ecce Homo. You should be able to visit the Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc which is a reconstruction of the two-storey house in which he was born (original house was burned down in 1861) which features a family gallery with vintage photographs of the Luna family, reproductions of the Spoliarium and El Pacto de Sangre and period accessories and furniture which is pretty common in museums and shrines in the region.


Philippines Ilocos Norte
Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag
Photo by Dave Ryan Buaron

Going up further north is the city of Laoag, the provincial capital, which compared to Vigan in Ilocos Sur is a lot busier, and bustling with trade and commerce. Laoag City (which also has an international airport) serves as a jump off point and is the most convenient place to base yourselves if you plan to hop on to most of the destinations in the neighboring provinces of Ilocos Sur, Abra, Benguet and Cagayan. Laoag has a handful of attractions, the most intriguing of which is the Sinking Bell Tower, 85 meters away from the St. William’s Cathedral, which is one of the biggest cathedrals of the Philippines and concurrently the seat of the Diocese of Laoag. The Cathedral was then occupied by the Revolutionists of 1898 and by the American forces the succeeding year. The 45 meter high Sinking Bell Tower is considered to be one of, if not the tallest edifice built in the entire Ilocos Norte. Stories claim that when it was built, a person on a horseback could pass through its doors freely, but today, one has to stoop very low just to get inside the bell tower. Another Laoag attraction is the Museo Ilocos Norte (also known as “Gameng” – Ilocano for treasure) which is close to the Provincial Capitol and is the repository of Ilocano heritage and culture. The museum is housed in a former Tabacalera warehouse, a former factory for tobacco which the region is known for, and a throwback to the heydays of the Tobacco Monopoly during the Spanish period. The museum is open during weekdays (except during lunch) for a minimal fee.

On the outskirts of Laoag, one can find the 52 square miles of seemingly endless coastal sand dunes of La Paz (Suba), where scenes from Born of the Fourth of July and Mad Max along with many Filipino movies were filmed.


Philippines Ilocos Norte
La Paz Sand Dunes
Photo by storm-crypt

After Laoag going north is the town of Bacarra famous for its Church which was constructed in 1593 and inaugurated in 1782 (destroyed in the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake in August 1983 and reconstructed and inaugurated August of the following year. The main attraction however is its domeless belfry built in 1830, made up of coral and stucco whose original height was 50 meters with a wall five meters thick. The 1931 earthquake destroyed it, causing the top portions to tilt to the right (thus, it was once called the Leaning Tower of Bacarra). The tower was built away from the church similar to other churches in the region, to reduce the damage in case the tower comes crashing down in another major earthquake. This proved to be the case as the dome finally crumbled during the last big tremor as one can still see the pile of grass-covered brick debris strewn around the side of Bacarra Tower (a big cross is currently hanging from its top). Aside from the church and the bell-tower, we found the Bacarra town hall nearby quite charming with its Filipino-Spanish-Mexican architectural finishes as well as its deep blue paint which kind of reminded us something out of a vivid Dora The Explorer cartoon.

Further north are the towns of Pasuquin, Burgos, Bangui, Pagudpud, Dumalneg and Adams. Pasuquin is known for its salt-making and chunks and chunks of salt can be seen by the coast as well as the requisite rows and rows of tiny huts along the road selling the town’s famous produce. It was also in Pasuquin and Burgos that we noticed two quirky things, a hotel (Palalay Hotel) which has an ocean view but, and I am not kidding, is right next to a graveyard (now that’s what I call ambience) and a beach resort which is called Sexy Beach Resort – made us chuckle to see the sign: Sexy Beach Entrance.

The town of Burgos is also known for the oldest lighthouse, as well as the most visited lighthouse in the Philippines – the impressive Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Tagalog – Ang Parola ng Cape Bojeador) was completed on 30 March 1892 and sits majestically on top of the lush Vigia de Nagparitan hill which also makes it as the tallest lighthouse in the Philippines with its tower 20 meters high (total height is about 160-170 meters high) .The brick-made lighthouse tower stands like a graceful sentinel of the treacherous seas around and is still functioning to date. Entrance is free, but the aged tower can only comfortably accommodate up to 4-5 people and affords the visitor a spectacular view of the rugged mountains and the beautiful waters of South China Sea. The design and construction was initially supervised by Engineer Magin Pers Y Pers and finished by Engineer Guillermo Brockman. The lighthouse has a little museum housed in one of the two weather-beaten brick buildings which can make anyone wax romantic (as long as one is not trampled by crowds of tourists trying to queue up to get into this really nice building during weekends), and a small and lovely courtyard. On a clear day, the lighthouse can be seen as far away as the towns of Pasuquin and Bangui.


Philippines Ilocos Norte
Bangui Windmills
Photo by World Bank Philippines

After the town of Burgos is Bangui, which gained tourism fame when in 2005, the first wind farm in Southeast Asia started operations with 15 wind turbines of about 70 meters tall rose along the 9-kilometer stretch of the beach on Bangui Bay. The turbines supply the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative with about 25 Megawatts of power. Discussions are rife of putting up additional 40 wind turbines in the mountains of the area. Tourists started flocking to the turbines which look like giant white fans, which makes it as a lovely spot for great photography. According to one of the locals however, the windmills have caused an adverse effect on the fishing industry in the area as the sound of the windmills scare away the fish which are the primary livelihood of the area. On the other hand, Northwind Power, the company that operates the windmills remits one centavo (PhP 0.01) to the Department of Energy for every kilowatt sold, half of which goes to an electrification fund, watershed management, environmental enhancement and health fund – whether any of these funds go to the affected locals in the area is anybody’s guess – we found two stalls selling Bangui honey and Ilocos garlic in the area and the old man manning his rickety shop seemed to be quite happy about the tourists flocking in the area.

Being an inveterate beach bum myself, I could not resist a trip to the town of Pagudpud famous for its white sand beaches which consists of the beaches of Pansian (which is close to the border of the province of Cagayan and usually deserted), Maira-ira (also known as the Blue Lagoon but more like a cove than a lagoon), and Saud (its two kilometer arc was named by the Sunday Herald Sun as the number 1 of the best, but lesser known beaches in Asia). Maira-ira, we reckon has the best and the bluest waters and on an Independence Day weekend, we were surprised that there were not throngs of people there (although one of the locals told us that during Easter, the beach is clogged with a lot of tourists and the traffic of cars going to the lagoon can be pretty bad). The beach is considerably clean (though we saw a little bit of trash – it was fairly manageable), and the waters are nice and warm. The sand is not too shifty either and the idyllic scenery is occasionally punctured by the sound of whizzing of banana boat rides (which we think should be banned from the area soon).


Philippines Ilocos Norte
Saud Beach, Pagudpud
Photo by storm-crypt

Going to Saud from Maira-ira can be a little tricky. There are not a lot of tricycles nor vehicles ferrying people unless you hire one at the Pagudpud town proper yourself (PhP 600 for a trip around the area). We ended up leaving the tour group in Maira-ira and took a korong-korong, a tricycle without any cover at all and mostly used for deliveries rather than transporting people. It probably took us about 30 minutes to Saud, which was almost deserted. The waters are rougher in Saud in June but the beach is wider, cleaner and longer and the sand is a little finer (although Boracay still wins hands down when it comes to sand quality- although there are less people and zero touts in Pagudpud) than Maira-ira. Most of the accommodations in Pagudpud are in this area and a cold San Miguel is easy to get from any of the resorts’ restaurants. From Saud, one can see the windmills of Bangui in the distance. If you have to go back to Laoag the same day, you can take a tricycle from any of the resorts and head to the very sleepy Pagudpud town proper by about 4-4:30PM you should be able to catch an open-air bus to Laoag. An air-conditioned bus leaves for Manila via Laoag at 7PM, but when there is really nothing to do in the town proper, might as well take that non-air-conditioned one.

The other towns of Ilocos Norte have their own attractions as well – there is rock-climbing in Adams (which according to a friend, as the town has zero crime rate – one can rent the town jail for the night); the winding Patapat Viaduct which hugs coastline and the Agua Grande River Park at its end; beautiful waterfalls up the Karingking River in Solsona as well as the Kabigan Falls of Pagudpud; birdwatching in Marcos town and the red-bricked, Baroque and Neo-classical Style, controversial Santa Monica Church in Sarrat where Marcos’ daughter Irene had her fairytale wedding to Greg Araneta, where the entire town was converted in a Potemkin village – which included whitewashing of the antique altars and the entire stock of Colonial Filipino costumes at the Cultural Center of the Philippines brought to Sarrat to dress its townsfolk to complete the theme transforming the farming village into a Spanish-Filipino colonial town and a red carpet that stretched out for miles. The wedding cost roughly US$10 Million, not including the new hotel and airport. Two months later, a powerful earthquake destroyed the church’s belfry and the altar of Santa Monica. The church’s ruins has a torture room that features two brick-encrusted pillars which according to a Filipino historian were used to hang Filipinos accused of treason during the Spanish regime.

There is almost a festival happening every month in Ilocos Norte (except for the months of July, August and October) but the most famous is the Empanada Festival of Batac in June and the Pamulinawen Festival in Laoag City in February.

Several arranged tours go to Ilocos Norte (usually in conjunction with a trip to Ilocos Sur as well) and the one we went with Discover Asia International Travel and Tours (www.discoverpinas.multiply.com ), although some areas were not covered by the official itinerary, however, we left the group to see those places by ourselves.

Editor addon

*updated Ryan: 19/11/2009 – Discover Asia International Travel and Tours does not have their best guides anymore, and lately, it has been very difficult dealing with them. I could no longer vouch for the quality of their services.


Why Not Go


There is not a single megamall in Ilocos Norte for those missing the humungous malls of Manila, although Laoag has a quaint Friday Night Market by the river (we didn’t find anything interesting though with rows of second-hand clothes, pirated DVDs, books and some food stands – although the atmosphere is quite jovial if not quirky). We found Laoag generally safe and the people helpful and friendly, although as common sense dictates, stay away from areas that are not well-lit at night.


Why Go


Travelling Ilocos Norte gives a lot bang for your buck as the province is literally crammed with a lot of historical places, nooks for adventures, fine beaches and excellent cuisine that is indigenous to the region. It is perfect for the sportsman whether for surfing in Badoc, golfing in Fort Ilocandia, Rock-climbing in Adams, Trekking in Solsona and Nueva Era; excellent for families and people on the lookout for white sandy beaches; must-go for fans of architecture and history and a requirement for a traveling gourmand.


Best Time to Visit


The best time to go and check Ilocos Norte is during the drier months and during the summer months as the waves at the beaches of Pagudpud can get pretty rough during the wet season. For surfers, it is a different story, typhoons and tropical depressions can help fuel the waves off the Badoc Coast – requisite conditions for surfing. Otherwise, check the local weather with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration (
www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph ) for weather forecasts – when the weather in Ilocos is great, then it is time to pack your bags and head to Ilocos Norte!


Where to Stay


Philippines Hotels and Resorts

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There are a lot of places to stay in Ilocos Norte (mostly in Laoag) from the super-swanky Fort Ilocandia Resort & Casino (www.fortilocandia.com.ph) to Saud Beach Resort (www.saudbeachresort.com) and Villa del Mar (+63.919.899.5673/+63.920.553.4161) in Saud Beach, Pagudpud.


Philippines Ilocos Norte
Java Hotel
Photo by Dave Ryan Buaron

If you get past by the fact that directly in front of it is a gas station (the driveway IS the gas station itself), the Balinese-Moroccan inspired Java Hotel (www.javahotel.com.ph ) on G. Segundo Avenue (Bacarra Road), classified as a First Class Hotel is actually a very good place to stay and base yourself as it is right on the highway going to Pagudpud and Cagayan in the North and is just about 1 and ½ hours away from Vigan in Ilocos Sur. It has 46 rooms well-appointed rooms complete with Cable TV, IDD/NDD access, a mini-bar with a fridge, hot/cold shower and a bath tub in its suite. The area also has free Wi-Fi. The building was tastefully designed by the top architectural firm in the Philippines – Palafox Associates, whose founder hails from the nearby town of Bacarra. The staff are very attentive and friendly. For PhP1,800 which is a Standard Double – the room was big, clean and actually can put some of the Manila hotels to shame. The hotel is best for travelling families and groups of friends. During a talk with Mr. Nelson Abadilla, the Operations Manager, he said that the hotel is set to expand by 2010 adding a new building, establishing the hotel into another important Laoag landmark.


Where & What to Eat



Philippines Ilocos Norte
Bagnet
Photo by Dave Ryan Buaron

Like the rest of Ilocos region, Ilocos Norte is not an exception when it comes to gastronomic adventures. The best meals we ever had was at the Dap-ayan ti Ilocos Norte (Rizal Avenue corner Llanes Avenue, Laoag City) which is a small enclosed complex of open-air restaurants – the best place to satisfy your need to have some of that Laoag Empanada (Batac has its own version of Empanada) – egg, shredded vegetables and longganiza inside fried thin pastry pockets. Laoag Miki is also served here and was equally sumptuous as well- despite its unusually bright and orangey color. Meals range from PhP35 up which wasn’t bad as our tummies were pretty happy after eating at the Dap-ayan. The Ilocano trademark Bagnet, which is basically scrumptious cholesterol-clogging goodness of deep-fried pork is available but we suggest that you get your fix somewhere else (we got half a kilo of bagnet at the second floor of the Laoag City Wet Market for only PhP175). The tapas of Java Hotel’s Eagle’s Nest restaurant was very tasty especially when dipped with the local spiked sugarcane vinegar called Sukang Iloko (Get your stuff at legit looking shops instead off the highway; we were warned that some of the stuff sold by the highway is watered down).

Ilocano fare is quite diverse: For those craving for the exotic, one should never miss the “abu-os” or ant eggs to vegetable broths called Dinengdeng. Herencia de Paoay in Paoay is known for their Pinakbet Pizza and Dinuguan Pizza.

We also ate at the Chicken Ati-atihan (G. Segundo Avenue, Laoag) and ordered Sizzling Chicken with Potatoes and Vegetables and we were shocked to find the “potatoes” was a single thin slice of fried potato the size of nickel and the “vegetables” was a single string bean sliced in half. The chicken was tiny and sprinkled with barbeque sauce that obviously came from a packet.

Don’t forget to get a bottle of the local spirit- sugarcane wine named Basi (the expropriation of which sparked the Basi Revolt in Piddig town in 1807. The Spaniards banned the private manufacturing of the wine and mandated that Basi should be bought from government stores.) The wine has a bit of an acrid, dry, earthy taste with strong hints of sugarcane – not exactly my favorite, but was worth a try.


Nightlife


Ilocos Norte nightlife is virtually composed of unimpressive restaurant-bars in Laoag, especially in the shady Discolandia district which can be as camp as it gets (a police report online tells of an arrest in one of the bars in the area in an operation by the local police against unauthorized possession of firearms) . Other than that the resorts of Saud in Pagudpud have quite good places to dine and drink.


Philippines Ilocos Norte
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
Photo by Huno


My to do List


1. Climb up the dramatic Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.*
2. Visit the windmills of Bangui.*
3. Trek up the river of Karingking in Solsona and take a dip by the magnificent waterfalls.*
4. Chill out on the beaches of Pagudpud**
5. Check out the Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag and the Domeless Belfry of Bacarra.*
6. Sample yummy Ilocano chow at Dap-ayan ti Ilocos Norte – the Laoag Empanada is just uber-delicious.*
7. Catch the sunset at Pangil in Currimao.*
8. Walk around the sand dunes of La Paz.*
9. Stroll the lovely grounds in front of the majestic Paoay Church.**
10. Take the surfing challenge off Badoc Coast.*
11. Get a glimpse of Philippine History and visit the Malacañang Ti Amianan and the Marcos Mausoleum.**
12. Make your friends at home jealous and take pictures! Ilocos is a great place for photography*

* – Highly Recommended
**- Recommended by Locals


Stay Away From


1. Mosquitoes! – just bring bug repellent to be sure
2. Dust Mites. – bring Lysol with you, if you think the hotel room is oldish and not cleaned properly.
3. UV rays – Apply ample sun protection and sunglasses. Ilocos can be pretty humid and searing hot when the sun is out.


Getting There



Philippines Ilocos Norte
Buses plying the Laoag-Pagudpud route
Photo by Dave Ryan Buaron

Laoag City is 45 minutes away by plane from Manila (Through Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Airlines) and also serves as an international gateway with the Laoag City International Airport which receives chartered flights from China and Taiwan (Mandarin Airlines currently has suspended its flights from Kaohsiung).

If you are not coming with a tour group, Partas buses are the most reliable form of transport to Ilocos Norte from Manila as well as RCJ, Philippine Rabbit, Maria de Leon, Florida and Fariñas Trans.
Philippine Rabbit and Partas also do connecting trips to Baguio while GMW heads to Tuguegarao via Pagudpud.

Tricycles, calesas and rent-a-vans are the mode of transport within Ilocos Norte. Tricycles are PhP 10/head, If you are taking your own car and you are coming from Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and then connect through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), exit at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and follow the National Highway through Pangasinan, La Union and Ilocos Sur. You can get a more detailed map of Northern Luzon (Ilocos Norte included) at one of the bookstores in Manila before you embark on this trip.

Laoag City is about 9-12 hours away by land from Manila, 6 ½ hours from Tuguegarao and 5 hours away from Baguio City.

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71 Responses to “Ilocos Norte”

  1. Cecile says:

    hey david, anak. beautiful pictures. keep writing about our beautiful, beautiful country.

  2. Arnie Alain Hortal says:

    I really like this article it’s complete unlike other articles that you read from travel guide books. I used to travel a lot to Ilocos when I was studying at UP Baguio and I think Ryan has covered pretty much of Ilocos Norte. Spanish colonial architecture in Ilocos is one of the best in the country. Ilocos cuisine is also really delicious. I would recommend travellers, Filipinos and foreigners alike, to visit Ilocos Norte and as well as Ilocos Sur. Please also read the article on Ilocos sur, it’s really nice. Kudos.

    • Ryan says:

      Thanks Arnie, Ilocos is a beautiful and experience indeed. I cannot wait to come back and enjoy it again. We will feature Pagudpud really soon, possibly this weekend and I agree, the architecture in Ilocos is pretty impressive and the beaches are well, up there with Boracay and other top Philippine beaches. And the food man, don’t start on me – soooo yum the empanada!

  3. Nette Sumbillo says:

    The article covered all things. Anyone who’d read the article will be all set for his trip of a lifetime and enjoy Ilocos Norte to the fullest.

    Great and vivid pictures sure captivated my interest and made me put Ilocos Norte in my places-to-visit list. The Bagnet picture sure made me hungry. Another reason to visit Ilocandia is their sumptuous cuisine.

    Great work, Ryan. I can only ask for more of your stories, pictures and adventures. I’d be forwarding this site to my Korean friends and students. I’m sure they be captivated with the beauty of the Philippines as well.

    More! More! More!

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Nette,

      Definitely you will love Ilocos! We enjoyed our stay there very much.
      I barely covered the Philippines, please wait for the special feature on Pagudpud, as well as the upcoming features on Rizal, Guimaras, Laguna, Pangasinan, Camiguin, Batanes, Samar, Siquijor, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and the Bicol Region (among others) in the coming weeks and months that I will be writing. I will also add more Palawan-related articles as well as features on Manila.

  4. Cris Hernandez says:

    Ilocos’ main attraction for me will always be the food :D Shows my priorities. But I guess, like most of the Philippines, you really should take the time to take everything in slowly and make the best out of everything. If you want nightlife, stay close to the metro. But it defeats the whole experience anyway.
    Lovely pics!

    • Ryan says:

      Id have to agree. the food is good and very diverse. Just finished my Vigan longganiza dinner tonight and I really cant wait to get my hands on some bagnet and empanada. Haha, I never really saw any nightlife there except for the nightmarket and some restobars that are not really that appealing.

  5. desi says:

    Thanks,again on your very light but insightful sharing of philippines -i am a G.I.(genuine ilokano), and spent many summers in currimao and paoay.. feasting on my aunties’ and cousins meals of: “dinardaraan”(ilkano version of dinuguan which is dry not like the soupy tagalog version(which when prepared well is yummy).Then,ilokanos are crazy about “higado”,liver sauteed liver and other innards( i think), kapukan(grilled tender goat meat, cut in tiny slices then mixed mixed with spices (aka a pulutan dish), there’s papaitan(got meat) which uses the really bitter bile to flavour the soup.. so on and so forth.. and of course, the heavenly langgonisa which is distinct from the other pinoy sausages because of the absence of fat buy pure pork meat with lots of garlic and then the sukang iloko.. ilokanos love raw shrimps, (aka jumping salad).. you’ve mentioned bagnet, empanada.. the bibingka is also wonderful! Obvious ba haven’t had my dinner!!

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Desi,

      I know about the dinardaraan and higado, but I only have as much time to eat something Ilocano right? :P I am not a fan of goat meat though (personal preference) but I remember that my abuelo made jumping salad as well when he was still alive (he is not Ilocano though).But yeah, Aklan also has a pure meat longganisa (sans fat) but is sweet compared to the Longganiza of the north. :) But yeah, Bagnet and the empanada are my all time favorite. Glad that you liked my article on Ilocos Norte. :) Lovely place it is.

      Cheers,

      Ryan

  6. durianburg says:

    hi ryan, thank you for this very informative site. im from davao and i’ll be visiting laoag then vigan by first week of september 2009. apart from being a budget traveller, my sked is real tight right now since i have other works to attend to, so i only have one day each for laoag and vigan. im looking for transient houses to stay overnight only (laoag and vigan). also can you recommend some safe place to leave our bags so me and my partner can travel light. since we will be moving from one place to another (paoay church, burgos for the light house, bangi for the windmill, pagudpud for the beach, kaya ba to for one day? whats to prioritize?), what to recommend for transpo? thru bus? baka it will eat time. or probably rent motorcycle? pwede ba? we will also try some of the foods earlier mentioned. ano dapat pasalubong? dami kung tanong, my apology. dalawa lang kami. your help is really appreciated. thank you very much in advance. God bless

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Durianburg,

      If you on a really tight sked, I advise that you take the first flight out to Laoag and base yourself there. I prefer staying in Laoag because it is very convenient to go to most destinations. When you say budget- how much can you allocate for your fares and places to stay? I find the Java Hotel actually cheap and convenient, its on the road to Pagudpud and you can catch the bus to Vigan as well. If you plan to travel by bus, from Manila to Vigan will take you about 8 hours (at the best) to Vigan and 10 hours to Laoag.

      On your first day, you can do pretty much Vigan, Baluarte, Paoay (Lake, Malacañang of the North, Paoay Church), La Paz (Sand Dunes), Currimao on your first day.

      On the second day, you can go up to Burgos, Bangui, Pagudpud and then back to Laoag to fly back to Manila. Remember that if you all want to check this out, you better hurry fast. Within Pagudpud you can hire tricycles for PhP600 to take you to different sites in that area (check my Pagudpud article on this). From Pagudpud you can take the bus (last bus leaves from the town proper at 7PM but this changes) to Laoag or even to Manila. I haven’t tried doing the motorcycles yet, but I think tricycles and buses are the best ways to go around Ilocos. Be prepared though to really speed up, because some areas dont have any routes (you really have to hire a van or a car to go to Burgos- lighthouse or the windmills in Bangui).

      Pasalubong? If you are in Vigan- you may take a calesa ride to take you around the different sites – ask them to take you to the Abel Iloko weaving- where you can get a blanket at a cheaper price than on Crisologo street. Weavings are the best pasalubong or souvenir, its easy to take with you on the plane- just fold it in your luggage! There are a lot of souvenir stores in Vigan – from fridge magnets to shirts to bags to antique pieces. It is really up to you. :)

      Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

      Ryan

  7. durianburg says:

    Hi Ryan, thank you really for your reply. me and my wife will arrive laoag Sept 3, 9pm (plane leaves manila 6pm) so we can start tour early morning, Sept 4. which is more convenient to visit first, laoag then vigan? since we’ll leave for Baguio night of Sept 5 by bus. that’s why we only need few hours of night accommodations on Sept 3 (laoag) and Sept 4 (vigan). how far is Java Hotel from laoag proper? Is it safe to travel to Java considering we arrive laoag late in the evening. we prefer inn within downtown lang sana so we can start our tour early next day. to be honest, our accommodation budget is 1K max, kaya ok lang sa amin simple lang na matulugan basta secure and malinis lang po.

    we initially plan a laoag-vigan tour. what time is the last bus from laoag to vigan?, vigan to baguio? sa ipit ng sked namin baka next trip na lang further up north, burgos (light house), bangui (wind mill) and pagudpud (beach) considering its long travel from laoag. we will visit nearest to laoag like paoay and curimao etc. want to see old churches and other cultural landmarks since davao don’t have one. where are you based? what can you suggest based on our IT? marami pong salamat sa tulong.

    your other articles are all well written and very informative. nice work

    • Ryan says:

      Hi again Durianburg,

      I think in my opinion, it’s best to do Vigan on your first day, you can practically do Vigan in a day – hire a calesa instead that will take you all over – or if you want it faster, you can do tricycles (we did both) but make sure that you agree on the fare first before doing it (best way is to visit the Tourism Office near Plaza Burgos). Calesas are parked by the Vigan Cathedral but a lot of them go around as well and then head back to Laoag for the night. I still think it is more convenient to base yourselves in Laoag.

      Java Hotel is pretty convenient as it is near the city center and its on the road going to Pagudpud. There are bus stations out in the front – the Fariñas family owns the hotel and the buses nearby. You can just hail a passing bus going to Pagudpud. But if you would like to check other accommodations – you may try to email the Ilocos Norte Tourist Assistance at in.tourism@yahoo.com for other listings of other accommodations (I am not sure if they have the brochures of accommodations at the Laoag Airport). There are a couple of economy class and budget accommodations listed there – like the Laoag Renzo Hotel, Texicano Hotel & Restaurant, Balay da Blas Pension House, Parklane Hotel (Motel) and several inns. I, however, could not vouch for their services as I haven’t tried staying there aside from Java Hotel. Laoag from what I experienced is a pretty safe place. Although I would not recommend going into badly lighted areas. There were some arrests by Discolandia a few months ago, but overall I found the entire region extremely likable.

      Will you be going to Baguio for pleasure as well- because if Baguio isnt necessary, you may as well really keep it within Ilocos instead because seriously, you will be cutting it pretty close and by that I am concerned. The last bus that I know coming from Pagudpud to Manila is around 7 (Florida Bus) and I reckon they pass through Vigan as well on their way to Manila. but yeah I would not recommend traveling to Vigan pretty late because itd be really a waste of time as a lot of places are better seen at night. Vigan is just 2-3 hours away from Laoag, so you can just take the earliest trip going there from Laoag, and try to head back to Laoag in the afternoon.

      Bus schedules usually changes, be forewarned, so I could not give any definite answer to that question – it is best to ask the hotel where you will be staying the bus skeds and other essential stuff. I haven’t tried the Vigan-Baguio and I am not quite familiar with it, although I have seen buses going to that direction. I was underwhelmed with Baguio then, I was underwhelmed now. What we do is always ask the locals, the tourism office or the hotel concierge for information, and it does really work. If you want to see just the churches – please do not miss Paoay Church and if you can make it all the way to Santa Maria (Ilocos Sur), there is another UNESCO World Heritage Church there. Laoag has the Sinking Bell Tower (found on the city center), the little monument to the Tobacco Monopoly. Vigan Cathedral was where Floro Crisologo was shot (and you can visit the hefty number of museums and mansions at the Kasanglayan (mostly free, others – you pay very cheaply). Skip the Chavit Singson Zoo and do the weaving and the museum tours in Vigan.

      Eat where the locals eat and you will save money. In Laoag, the best place to eat there is at the Dap-ayan Ti Ilocos Norte, a small enclosed area with heaps of restos selling awesome Ilocano food. Wished you could spend more time Ilocos, I think you guys will love it.

      Let me know if there are more stuff I can help you with. By the way, I am based in Makati but I travel extensively, just came back from Malaysia and Brunei a couple of days ago and I am heading out again to other Philippine destinations next month.

      Cheers and thanks for the compliments!

      Ryam

  8. durianburg says:

    hi ryan, actually will just stop by baguio to buy some provisions then immediately proceed to sagada then banaue/batad after, hence the need to really budget :)

    will consider vigan (and sta maria) on the first day. how far is sta maria to vigan? siguro madami naman buses from vigan to sta maria and back. pwede kaya motorcycles? :) will consider also all your other suggestions.

    hopefully at the end of this travel, we only have palawan to complete the country’s world heritage sites. youre such a big help. thank you for making it all happen and being part of it. take care on your future trips and God bless.

    who takes care of your two cats when you’re travelling? :)

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Durianburg,

      Wow! That is some trip! I am really glad that you are seeing that part of the country all the way from Davao! I think there are jeepneys from Vigan to Santa Maria and I am not sure though but it is at least 1 hour drive south from Vigan. With motorcycles, I am not really familar whether you can rent any motorcycles anywhere in Vigan – your best bet is to check with the local tourism office in that regards.

      Regarding World Heritage Sites, make sure that you visit the San Agustin Church in Intramuros and Miagao Church in Iloilo. ;) I will probably do Puerto Princesa and El Nido for Christmas. I am heading to the Hundred Islands + Bolinao on the third weekend of August and then Caramoan Peninsula, Naga, Daet and parts of Quezon Province on the 4th weekend. By September, I will do my assault on Northern Mindanao – Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte. :) By October, I will see Baler, Sagada (again!) and Ifugao.

      I really hope to go to Tawi-Tawi but because of security reasons I could not make myself do that. Tsk. Maybe you know anyone from the Tawi-Tawi LGU?

      No need to thank me, the fact that I can help anyone travel and appreciate the beauty of this country is enough for me. Please do come back after your trip to tell us tips or changes or things that I may have missed in my articles. That would be extremely helpful to other travelers as well who may check on this site. :)

      Cheers, travel safe and hope you have a great trip!

      Ryan

      PS. Oh yeah, we just leave the cats at home, we cant take them to the vet because my Siamese hates cages and he was totally traumatised (we got him from a pet shop in Makati in a small cage surrounded by cages of barking dogs). We just leave them with heaps of food. ;) Do you have pets?

  9. mommygrace says:

    hi ryan:

    i really like your blog very informative and detailed. i came across your site coz i was looking for a place/beach near metro manila.My husband(who will be home this novenber from taiwan) and I plan for a weekend getaway sa beach. The last time kasi was in Camiguin(btw, if your planning to go camiguin dont hesitate to ask.)I’ve been there 4x :) my original plan was batangas or pueto galera,but when i saw pagudpud i felt in love with the places.its like camiguin…

    sir, your inputs are highly appreciated. We will be traveling with our daughter 16months old and her yaya. im looking for a place that’s not pricey.is it safe to travel with a baby? how much kaya ang magiging budget? hinde ba mahirap maghanap ng cheap food? accesible ba in term’s of transportation? is saud beach really nice? is it ok for kids to travel via bus?i have so many question but i really want to try to visit this place. this will be our first time traveling in NCR since i am from cebu and butuan.

    many thanks for the answer….

    • Ryan says:

      Hello Mommygrace,

      Thanks for your kind comments, It would be more convenient for you to base yourselves in Laoag. Java Hotel is not too pricey (I think), so I would highly recommend them (stayed with them and it’s fine..) I think your baby should be fine..you got a yaya to take care of her right? :) Ilocos has great, great, great food – check out the Dap-ayan ti Ilocos Norte in Laoag for cheap and excellent Ilocos food- you must try the empanada and bagnet and miki! Budget wise, it really depends with the things that you want to see and do. There is a lot of things to see and do in Ilocos, You can either hire a van and a driver to take you around if you are not going with a tour group. Are you planning to take with the baby with you everywhere? IMO, 16 months old is a little bit too young to take her everywhere especially if you just gonna commute. The aircon buses only go at certain times of the day and you cant really go to a lot of places if you just ride a bus (like the Cape Bojeador lighthouse or the Bangui Windmills).

      Saud is pretty, but I think during the rainy season, Maira-ira is better as there are lesser steep drops and the waters are pretty calm (because it is a cove) compared with Saud which can get pretty rough around this time of the year. There are no accommodations that we know of at Maira-ira, most of the resorts are concentrated in Saud but they can be a little expensive.

      Oh yeah, btw, Ilocos Norte is not part of NCR ha… its part of Region 1. :) And also I will be going to Camiguin, along with Iligan, CdO and Manolo Fortich (Bukidnon) end of this month – any suggestions for food that I should really try?

      Cheers!

      Ryan

  10. mommygrace says:

    thank you for the insights…with your info i think its not a good time to visit ilocos with us bringing the baby but will try next year. My main concern is their transportation in visiting some places.as much as possible i want to get away from hiring a private van it will cost alot.i heard quezon province is also known for their beaches,is that true?please suggest a white beach near manila. i mean 4 to 5 hours away from manila na type,any?

    by the way camiguin has a bit pricey food na rin compare before.our suki tour guide (mang chris)shared dahil eto sa dumadaming mga foreigner who live there kaya tumaas din ang cost of living nila.but in totality,very,very beautiful tlaga ang camiguin.try to stay in paguia or katabi nya na place.its clean,mura around 200-800 ang room.i forgot when is their lanzones festival.try mo to eat in j&a fishpen.

    • Ryan says:

      Quezon has gorgeous beaches – but the best ones are far and virtually has no tourist infrastructure – Polillo Island and Balesin which is very expensive but with stunning views of the Pacific, rock formations, bird watching and white sand beaches, There is another on Padre Burgos but it is a long way as well and it is almost close to Camarines Norte. Another is in Pagbilao (3-4 hours depending on traffic) near Tayabas/Lucena- it has some nice coves, but the main drawback is that there is a power plant on that island (Check my Lucban article). Another place you could check out would be on San Juan Laiya in Batangas (more family oriented I heard). If you do get a chance, please visit Ilocos, I would do come back in a heartbeat (if only I have an extra cash and time!).

      Re: Camiguin, unfortunately we wont be able to make it to the Lanzones Festival as we would be in Camiguin Sept 19-20. The Local Government of Camiguin offered to host us at their staffhouse and take us around! How nice! But we will check out your recommendations too, would certainly help us out. :)

  11. Victoria says:

    I found your site very informative. I posted the link in facebook. thanks so much and keep up the good work! Dios ti ag-ngina.

    • Ryan says:

      Victoria,

      Salamat po! Let’s support communities through tourism and show the world how diverse and beautiful the Philippines is.

      Cheers,

      Ryan

      • ellen says:

        Hi Ryan,
        yeah, I absolutely agree with your proposal to support tourism in the Philippines. I am US based but I travel to PI at least twice a year .I am quite envious of your travel portfolio .Ive visited a few places around the world but there is no place like our amazingly beautiful Philippines. On my next visit to P.I. ihave to visit the lovely hills of Bohol. incomparable beaches of Camarines sur, Cebu and a lot of places that ive seen in the internet. BTW , try Punta Azul when u visit Pagudpud again.Hope you will like it. Thanks for visiting Ilocos Norte and liking the place.

  12. Ivy says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I’ve checked out your entries for Pangasinan, Pagudpod and now, Ilocos Norte, and I have to say, kudos to you! The blog’s very informative and it really showcases the beauty of the Philippines. I’m an avid traveler myself (although I’m only a C+ in Lakbayan :P), and I love going to the different places here in the Philippines, and so far, I was never disappointed; from the breath-taking views to the delicious food that each place has to offer.

    I’m looking forward to checking out your blog on the places that I’ve been to (and see if I missed out on anything so I could do them once I visit again), as well as those that I’m looking forward to visiting. I’ve been looking for a good Philippine travel blog to help me out with my itinerary, and I finally found it here. :)

    • Ryan says:

      Hello Ivy!

      I am really glad that you found our entries very informative. You may also check my other posts under the Destinations page. This weekend, we are heading out to Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte. In October, we will be covering Aurora, Ifugao and other parts of Mt. Province. In November, we will be focusing on Batanes and December will be a feature on the different areas of Palawan (Puerto Princesa + Honda Bay; St.Paul’s Underground River in Sabang; Port Barton; and El Nido. So watch out for those features! And of course more places for 2010. (Actually I am C+ on Lakbayan as well. Sorsogon, Romblon, Albay, the Samar Provinces, Negros Oriental,Siquijor, Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan Province, Dinagat and Nueva Ecija is on our list. LOL)

      In the next two weeks meanwhile, we will be featuring Caramoan Peninsula and Camarines Norte. Hopefully we could satiate your need for more info on these places.:)

      Btw, what is the name of the other sand dune in Paoay? If I am not mistaken La Paz sand dunes and Suba are one and the same…Maybe I am wrong? Please share your travel information here as well..: It will also help our readers…

      Thanks for supporting Philippine tourism!

      Cheers

      Ryan

      • Ivy says:

        Oh wow! I am sooo jealous of you. I have a lot of places still lined up in my “to viosit” list. Camiguin is absolutely beautiful. I’d have to say, that would be my number 1 destination in the Philippines and next is Palawan. The only drawback there, is that food is quite expensive although maybe it was because we stayed near the white island, so the nearby places to eat are mostly restaurants catered to foreign tourists. Nonetheless, it is gorgeuos and I’m quite happily surprised that the roads around the island are already cemented (so no butt bruises for me in our habal-habal ride ;D). As for Bukidnon, while I only got to pass by quickly in that area, don’t forget to go to the Del Monte farm and get those “Sweet 16” pineapples. I’m not the biggest fan of pineapples, but they were really, really sweet and delicious without that scratchy feeling you get when eating them. :)

        I am definitely looking forward to reading about all those places, especially Batanes and the Camarines Islands. I’m targetting those areas (hopefully next year), along with Siquijor, Coron and Davao.

        The sand dunes is in Barangay Caligui, Paoay. To get there, take a trike from the Paoay Church for about 5-10 mins to Caligui. If the driver doesn’t know exactly where it is, he can ask the residents in the area (since you’ll be passing by one) where Panday was filmed. ;) I suggest going there a bit later in the afternoon, as the sand could get really hot. Otherwise, make sure to wear closed shoes. Hehe.

        I think the best itinerary (with costs) I have out of all my trips is that of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur (Vigan) and Pagudpud. So if any of the readers are interested, I’d be mopre than happy to share it here. :)

        • Ryan says:

          Wow, thanks for those information – really helpful. I am thinking we would probably be staying in Mambajao so I guess the food there is cheaper. We prefer to eat mostly in small eateries- because that is where you get the authentic feel of the cuisine. Regarding Ilocos, well, we would really come back there- even only for those mouthwatering empanadas! But yes, if you please, you may post your itineraries here – it would be extremely helpful for all our readers. Thanks in advance!

          If you happen to be on Facebook, please do not hesitate to add our fanpage – look for Tourism Paradise Philippines. :) And if you also please, you may also share these pages to other fellow travelers. The more people sharing information, the better for the destinations!

          Cheers!

          Ryan

        • ellen says:

          Hi Ivy,
          I also am jealous of Ryan and his travels. Having bitten by the travel bug myself, Ive been to quite a few places but outside P.I coz I am US based. But , I plan to visit more local places next time . I am familiar with Ilocos Norte and I agree with ryan that the places is really worth visiting. BTW, try Punta Azul in the Blue Lagoon area when you have a chance to visit Pagudpud again. I hope you will like the plce.Just a suggestion , for those who have time constraints they can take a domestic flight which is only 45 minutes to Laoag then pick up to Pagudpud Blue Lagoon. Enjoy your travels.

      • athena says:

        Hi, La Paz is the Laoag part and Suba is the one in Paoay. Actually, it’s the same area though. I think it’s just the name of the barangays were they’re located. It’s just like coming from either north or south something like that. Anyways, I’m an Ilocano based in Manila and I really appreciate you creating this very informative blog about our province.

  13. Ivy says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention, there’s another sand dune in Paoay, which I believe is bigger than that of La Paz and just as pretty. :)

  14. Ivy says:

    Really sorry for the late post as I had to look for my IT. ^__^ We were quite lucky that we went there during the Pamulinawen festival, so there were a lot of things to do around the city.

    Day 1/ Night 1: Via plane, arrive at Laoag International airport at 7:30 pm. Took a jeep to the town proper (P60) until Balay da Blas (1,350/ night for a Junior Suite for 1-2 people with bfast; really pretty!). Had dinner at Saramsam restaurant (about P150-200/ person), then went around the area to check out the different foodstalls (trikes cost around P7 to go around the city).

    Day 2/ Night 2: Woke up early, had breakfast at Balay, and took the Partas bus going to Vigan (P60/ way). There we took a Calesa (P100/hr I think) and went around — Calle Crisologo, Plaza Burgos, St. Paul Cathedral, Bell Tower (as was seen in Panday), Crisologo Museum, Burnayan and Baluarte. Took a trike back to Partas bus termnal (P50) and took the Partas bus going back to Laoag (P60). Had dinner at La Preciosa (P150-200/person).

    Day 3/ Night 3: Woke up early, breakfast at Balay. Took a bus to to Batac, then a jeep to Paoay (P30/ P7). Checked out Paoay church, then rented a trike nearby to go to the Caligui Sand Dunes, then back to Batac for the Marcos Musoleum (P150). Checked out then took a bus to Pagudpod Center (P70). There are 2 buses, one going to Pagudpud Center and another going to Cagayan (St. Joseph). If you’re staying at Saud beach, you can just take that Pagudpud bus. But if you’re staying at the Blue Lagoon (like we did), better take the St. Joseph bus, or else, once you’ve arrived at the center, you need to take another bus going to Balaoi.

    Stayed at Kapuluan Vista Resort (P1,600/ night with breakfast for the Standard Room) and had the welcome drink. There were a lot of tricycle drivers who offered tours around the area (P300-P500) and another including the Bangui Windmills and the Burgos Lighthouse (additional P300). However, we opted to rent a motorcycle (with driver) instead to go around Pagudpud – Patapat Viaduct, Agua Grande, Paraiso ni Anton (P200 for 2). Got back at Kapuluan at dusk and had dinner there (P200-P250/ person).

    Day 4: Woke up early and had dinner at Kapuluan. Checked out before lunch, took a bus to Barayan/ Bantoc (P25), went down and took a trike going to the Bangui Windmills and the Burgos Lighthouse (P100). Took a bus going back to Laoag (P50). Since we still had a couple hours to spare, we walked around to check out the Sinking Bell Tower, the Tobacco Monument and the Laoag Church. Took a trike going back to the airport (P100) and it was Goodbye, Ilocos! We’ll see you again!

    • Ryan says:

      Thanks Ivy! I am sure your post would be a big, big help to anyone visiting Ilocos Norte! Excellent job, I say, and seems you had a fantastic time over in Ilocos. :)

    • rhia says:

      this is really very helpful. as we will be going to Ilocos this friday. We’ll be staying with relatives of my bf (so it’s minus the lodging fee for us!) the itinerary is helpful so we’ll know the places to visit and where to start.

      Ryan, you’ve got a very informative blog. this is really helpful for wanderlusts, esp. to those who doesn’t really join group tours (like us, as we prefer to explore on our own) More power to you and your blog.

      Hopefully, we’ll be able to go to Bohol this Nov or Dec, do you have any articles of Bohol? will be looking it up. ^_^

  15. Mae says:

    Thank you so much for making this website. Me and my fiance are planning a trip to go to pagudpud (thanks to you… will be touring whole Ilocos as well), hundred islands , bohol next year April… This website has been my guide and it helped me a lot specially Ivy’s IT hehehehe I think we will be doing the same thing… makes my life easy..^_^ Its goin to be during Holy week and the week after. I am getting concerned if i have to wait a few months more to book accomodations or i should book now.. What do you suggest? same with flights and bus tickets and ferrys? I just want this trip to be memorable for my South African fiance… its his first visit… :)
    Thank you once again

    • Ryan says:

      Wow that is excellent news Mae! Ilocos is such a great destination – so much places to see and yeah, I do sound like a broken record – but never miss their empanada- that would be a sacrilege! Anyway, I am very glad that our site has helped you in many ways. More destinations are coming up so better watch out for it. Our current featured destination now is Camiguin.

      When it comes to booking for flights, it’s always better to book in advance – as the fares come cheaper. For ferries, however, you may have to book it weeks ahead. For small ferries, however, usually you just show up at the port!

      Please anticipate that Holy Week travel can be very hectic as there is a huge rush of travelers to popular destinations, and this is the time that prices significantly up. I think your South African fiance would love our beaches – and if you can also bring him up the Cordilleras around that time, I think he will be soo stunned by the sights there.

      Good luck in exploring our beautiful country!

      Ryan

  16. Rizzie says:

    LUSH info. Very useful. Thanks for sharing guys and girlies!

    Had it all printed cos I’ll be in Ilocos in about a week! Yay!

    Can’t wait,

    Rizzie ^_^

  17. sunnyfunny says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I’m so happy to see this blog of yours. My hubby and I, with some our friends are going on a road trip this April. My hubby and I are photo enthusiast. Our itenery so far is somewhat like this, Day 1 (early morning Thursday) Vigan then spend Thursday & Friday nights in Pagudupod (probably in apo idon). Can you suggest on how we can better go about this? Para naman masulit yung trip and of course to get the pics as well. Thanks. I’ll check on your articles from now on. :)

    • Ryan says:

      Hi sunnyfunny,

      I think your plan is pretty workable, but my question is, how are you suppose to go to Vigan? Over land as well? As you can see from the past posts here, it takes about a 2 hours to get from Vigan to Laoag and around another hour to get to Pagudpud. Most of the places that are described here are pretty easy to get to. :) I think you and your hubby will be fine. Just make sure that you get a road map. :) Locals are pretty friendly over there and they will be happy to help you out.

      Cheers!

      Ryan

  18. Joanne says:

    Hi everyone! I just want to update you all that we now have amall in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte (next town from Laoag). Robinson’s Ilocos Norte opened last December. Not as big as MEGA MALL or GREENBELT, or any malls in Manila but the place is just enough to cater the locals of the province. They also have a commrecial strip as you enter the development.. its called 365 Plza.. it opened last 2007. They have Shakey’s, David’s Tea House, Tribeca (A coffee shop), Red Ribbon, Non-food are Spa & a BAzar area. Beside 365 Plaza is a stand alone MC Donalds too. So, for those who are planning to visit Ilocos Norte.. Go & Enjoy our province!

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Joanne,

      Thanks for the tip, although for food – nothing beats your very own Dap-ayan ti Ilocos Norte. Ilocano food is scrumptious!

      Cheers!

      Ryan

  19. May C says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I came across your Ilocos Norte article on the web while doing research on our upcoming trip this holyweek with my 4 siblings (and their two little ones). I sooo love your article and it is in my opinion, the best and most informative I could find. I would definitely use your article in putting together our itinerary. :)

    We are thinking of covering Vigan, Laoag and Pagudpud in four days and we will be driving a honda civic from Manila. I just want to ask if the roads are smooth or should we except a bumpy ride, considering we will just be taking a sedan. I am most especially concerned with the roads leading to the coastal towns of curimao and the beaches in Pagudpud.

    Hope to hear from you soon and more power to you!

    • Ryan says:

      Hi May,

      Thanks for your kind comments, I am glad that my article (and some comments here too!) is going to help you in some ways. Regarding your question, the roads were okay coming from Laoag to Pagudpud. As far as I can remember, there was a short dirt road going to the Currimao rock formations but it is not as bad as I think it is (we went last June 2009 and this was before Typhoon Pepeng). Also I remember that going to into Maira-ira in Pagudpud, there were short patches of gravel roads as well. Overall, the road conditions in Ilocos are passable during the time when we traveled there. Pretty much we traveled mostly on a van while we were in Ilocos as well as a bus, tricycles and calesas.

      Hope that helps! Don’t forget to come back and share your experience and tips here as well! Enjoy Ilocos!

      Cheers!

      Ryan

      Ps. Please always keep a watchful eyes on the kids that will be coming with you especially when in Saud where the waves can be really rough and there are sudden drops.

  20. Nikki says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Was just reading through your blog, and really found all the information useful. Am planning to visit the Ilocos region this summer, and was wondering if I can do it all with no package tour? Was just planning on flying to Laoag, going to Vigan for a day, Pagudpod another day/overnight, then back to Laoag to catch my flight home to Manila.

    Found Ivy’s itinerary really useful, thanks! =D A question though, where do I catch all these buses Laoag-Vigan/Pagudpod-Bantoc-Laoag? Is there a “central bus station” or something?

    Also, am trying to decide between Java Hotel and Fort Ilocandia (price per night is almost the same with FIR promo rates) and between Kapuluan Vista Resort and Saud beach resort (just like to lie on the beach with a good book). Which ones would you recommend?

    Thanks again for all the help. Cheers!
    Nikki

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Nikki,

      I think you can do Ilocos (or with any other places in the country) with or without a package tour. Most of the trips we made for most of the destinations here were actually done without a package tour. I think instead of going on a package tour, you can just rent a van to take you around (if money isn’t much of an issue). I haven’t really noticed a Central Bus Terminal for trips to Vigan from Laoag, though I saw a lot of buses passing by the National Hwy passing through Vigan fro Laoag and vice-versa. Pagudpud-Bantoc-Laoag? I think you got that one confused. There are no towns by the name of Bantoc between Laoag and Pagudpud (not that I know of).

      Between the two – Fort Ilocandia and Java Hotel. I cant really say. Fort ilocandia’s reputation certainly precedes itself. I haven’t stayed there but from the looks of it, it looks like a nice hotel and bigger than Java Hotel. Java Hotel is closer to Laoag City downtown I think and more convenient going around (Please correct me if I am wrong) but by the looks of it, Fort Ilocandia looks classier (looking at their website, they seem to be a lot more expensive than Java Hotel. On its own, Java Hotel looks okay, the service was fine, choose a room away from the pool area as kids and teenagers can be really noisy.

      Honestly, I haven’t stayed the night in Saud so I can’t make proper recommendations. You may want to check our Pagudpud article to help you decide on this. There are many resorts to choose from in Saud, so you wont have trouble finding the resort for you.

      Don’t forget to come back on this site after your trip so you can share your experiences as well! Thanks in advance!

      Cheers,

      Ryan

  21. Nikki says:

    Thanks for the comment Ryan! Just one more question – would you or anyone else who reads this forum know where I can rent a car/van? Have been looking through the internet, and can’t seem to find any rent-a-car facility in Laoag city. The Ilocos Sur government website said their tourist center has a list of accredited and reputable rental car services, but the information wasn’t anywhere in the site. No one answered the phone when I tried calling them, and my message bounced back when I tried to email them. Ilocos Norte government website was down. *sigh* such is life here in our beautiful archipelago. =D

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Nikki,

      Hmmm. the Ilocos Norte government website is now back up, but Id suggest to book the van through the hotel (and since you will be getting service from them, try to haggle the price). I will try to post a shout out on Twitter and see if I can get any reply. :)

      Cheers,

      Ryan!

  22. athena says:

    I think you could include going to Kaangrian falls, i haven’t been there but by the look of it, visitors would be left breathless by it’s beauty. I also want to suggest BATAC Empanada esp those of Glory’s or Glomy’s they’re the original and simply unbeatable. You coul also go to Kapurpurawan.

  23. Mae says:

    hello,

    just got back to south africa after our trip from philippines will post our Itenerary on my next post hope it will help others and will learn from our mistakes…

    just for travellers flying to Laoag. there will be about Php200 or more to pay at the airport (tax) thats something I didnt know and for those people depating at terminal 3 (the new airport) there’s not a lot of restaurants on the 2nd floor when you check in. but inside once you’ve paid and going to the gates to board there are a lot mre restaurants…

    as soon as we arrived at Laoag airport we just approached the tourism desk and ask for list of accomodations. they have a list which tells you the prices as well.. if you booked your accomodation already ask them for pick up service from airport… we took a service jeep from airport to laoag town proper for Php50 per head ( it was late we dont want to wait for the normal jeeps to get full before we can leave).

    Fort Ilocandia like what was posted is more posh… they even have a casino but i met some locals who told me that you dont have to be booked to get inside you can just drive by.. ands its a bit far from town as well..

    will post some more soon…

  24. Nyni says:

    Hi!

    Nice site. And very useful too. I’m going to Ilocos 1st week of June with some office mates and your posts are a big help in planning our itinerary. Reading through, I guess there’s not much for me to ask, as most of my questions have already been answered.

    Looking forward to seeing Ilocos.

  25. josie says:

    thank you for your beautiful article about my home province of Ilocos Norte.just reading your article make me homesick and hungry.YES! THE BATAC EMPANADA IS THE BEST!AND THE “SITSARON” OR BAGNET.next time you visit try our famous pinacbet(which is popular at parties here in VA) and the “MIKI”. I have visited all the places in your article and i do highly recommend any tourist to visit them. Thank you and keep on writing about our beautiful country.

  26. sugar says:

    Hi! Thanks so much for the wonderful article! very complete and detailed! I finally made my decision to visit Ilocos,particularly Pagudpud with my family on January! I’m just not sure though if that’s the best time of the year to go to bec. you mentioned in your article that summer months is the best time to go. I hope the weather would be good!

    Will try to visit all the tourist spots you mentioned but will definitely try all the delicious and mouth watering ilocano dishes!! I think 3 days is not enough to stay hahaha!!

    The photos you took are so breathtaking and can’t believe that these places are actually in the Phils… There’s so much to see talaga in our beautiful country! = )

    Thank you and keep up the good work!

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Sugar,

      Ilocos is a special place and if you are a serious foodie, you will really like Ilocos. :) Goodluck on your travels!

      Ryan

  27. mitch says:

    Its is better if Ilocos Norte reached by a train services or a good and notable bus companies offering a cheap and more passengers choices depend on their budget. Some many problems in Ilocos Norte about transportation and delays specially peak seasons.and mis courteous of their bus crews of other companies.Modern Railways can also provide an alternative transportation more safer on time travel,Answer to toll hikes that makes fare in buses also hike too,Airfare hikes, Or takes longer time due to road conditions.In a nation have tourism haven like malaysia they have better railways. We need a better means of transportation to not compromise the safety and satisfaction of local and foreign visitors.

  28. Ronal Larson, PhD says:

    Nice article on Ilocos Norte. My only stay was in Adams, the (really) small eco-tourism town that you briefly mentioned for rock-climbing. My wife, grand-daughter and I didn’t try that (went to learn more about the marvelous forest preservation work going on), but did greatly enjoy four days in one of several home stay possibilities in Adams. I recommend Adams as a great way to see the natural beauty of some really rugged mountainous parts of the Philippines. Wonderful hospitality to go with locally made wines – at very reasonable prices. Better on your pocketbook to stay there and come down to the beautiful beaches – rather than the reverse.

  29. Cris says:

    i just have recently visited ilocos norte during our educational tour… i was really very amazed with the tourist destinations in norte… especially the windmills in Bangui and their churches… i was just very disappointed with pagudpud, though it is nice but my expectation was not met.. they say its the boracay of the north but when i came to see pagudpud, its just like of the ordinary beaches i have visited…

    but in general, ilocos was really one of my favorite destinations na…

    • athena says:

      Maybe you went to Saud beach resort which has a yellow sand. If you go further north, the last beach resort Blue Lagoon, that’s where you’ll find the white sand though not as fine as Boracay but almost the same. I hope you’ll have time to go back there.

  30. mark rudolph says:

    the visayas state university tourism students visited the ilocos region last august 26-29 2010….whao!!!!
    and it is really a great place…we enjoy the destinations we visited even all of us are exhausted in the travel..bravo ilocos tourism!!!!

    ” ilocos a history of the modern Philippines”

  31. trudee says:

    update: ilocos norte now has a mall: Robinson’s Mall located at San Nicolas town of ilocos norte. now you don’t have any reason not to go ^_^

  32. lesly says:

    my boyfriend is from ilocos norte.. Ive been there several times already and i really really love the place..so quite and peaceful..far from the all pollution u can get in manila, including noise pollution.:) you will really appreciate the historical places of our country when you get there. I have visited almost all of the places but i still want to visit again. Looking forward for my next vacation..:)

  33. desiree says:

    i fell in love with the place.. especially Vigan! <3
    we had our tour there recently and it was really memorable. =)

  34. gabby says:

    Hi there,

    Very helpful article.

    I’m planning a 5-day/4-night vacation in Ilocos Norte/Sur. Is it possible to see *all* the sights including those in Ilocos Sur if we are based in one hotel only? (the Java hotel for example) Or would you recommend that I transfer hotels at some point? (note: we’re not bringing a car)

    Like, what if I wanted to visit Pagudpud? Is it practical to do that while based from Laoag?

    There’s just so many places to see in Ilocos and I have no real idea of how far apart they are, which makes it hard to come up with an itinerary. =P Your help would be much appreciated.

    • ellen says:

      Hi Gabby,
      Yes of course you can go to all the places you are interested in and keep JAVA Hotel in Laoag as your base. I advise you to spend the night there to enjoy Blue Lagoon which ic a lot better than Saud. I recommend Punta Azul if you decide to spend the night. The resort is western style no mosquitoes , it has screened windows and individual A/C units in rooms. and bathrooms. it is just a few steps from the water. I wish you an amazing ,safe vacation.

    • athena says:

      Hi gabby,
      Yeah I think 5 days will do, you just have to organize your itinerary according to location, my friends and I did it for 3 days. 1 hotel will be ok esp if you have limited budget. My relatives are based in Batac and yes it’s possible to go to Pagudpud while you’re based in another town, transpo will not be a prob nowadays, unlike before. The important thing would be to have a transpo and stick to your schedule since “photo session” would obviously take much of your time (aside from traveling of course). Here’s the thing:
      Laoag to Pagudpud will be approx. 1.5-2.0 hrs fare: I’m not sure
      Laoag to Vigan would be 2 hrs fare: less than 100 pesos
      that would be by riding a bus.
      here’s the list of places (in descending order on the map):
      Pagudpud- Beaches, patapat bridge, falls
      Bangui-windmill
      Burgos- light house, white rock, falls, dragon fruit farm
      Pasuquin- just the famous biscocho
      Laoag-sinking bell tower, fort ilocandia, museo iloco, st williams church, sand dunes
      San Nicholas- San Nicholas church
      Paoay-church, malacañang, more sand dunes,
      Batac-Marcos museum, Empanada
      Currimao-rock formations, beaches
      Badoc-Juan Luna Shrine
      Vigan- just look for the “kutseros” near the church they’ll tour you around for 150/hr. Don’t worry max time will be 3.5 hrs (just don’t go thru all the museums coz they’re almost all the same). Oh yes, go to marsha’s for bibingka
      *Time management is all you need and some funds for transpo.

  35. monette says:

    watching the sunset from pangil beach resort is one of the best thing to do when you are in ilocos norte =) its also nice to eat miki while staring the beauty of paoay church
    =)

  36. sarah says:

    hi ryan,

    your site is very informative which i love. we plan to go to ilocos norte by land during the holy week, i just hope that it’ll be a dry weather, with family members – mostly adults. it’s my first time to go there and i am the one tasked to do the research on the activities for the clan and i am thankful to come across your site.

    actually my grandma is from ilocos norte but they fled to manila during the world war but she still have some siblings that are alive, so we are going to live in their ancestral house during our stay. but we want to make our stay there a memorable one.

    we’ll try go to the places that you suggested and see the amazing beauty of ilocos norte in our own eyes.

    i hope it’s fine with you if i post your site in my facebook page because i am documenting my travels, abroad and local, and would like to appreciate my sources of information.

  37. Dennis says:

    Two thumbs up Ryan, even I grew up in Ilocos Norte i don’t have the chance before to visit Ilocos Norte beautiful places due to financial issues. Ngayon may job nako, saka pa lang ako nakakapunta s beautiful places s Ilocos.i will post my photos one of this days. I personally recomend to visit Ilocos Norte.

    • Ryan says:

      I think rediscovering our country is one way to rediscover ourselves. So pack those bags. :) The Philippines is a very beautiful country. :)

  38. Vien says:

    I need help…We’re planning to go to Ilocos this holy week, I tried Java Hotel but they are already full :(. Can somebody recommend another hotel? I’m travelling with the kids and will be bringing our own transpo, the kids are looking forward to this trip and Id really like a nice place to stay in.

    Thanks!

    • erwin says:

      Hi Vien,

      search the ff Hotels/Inn in the Internet

      North View Hotel
      Pamulinawen Hotel
      Tiffany Hotel
      Balay da Blas
      Laoag Renzo Hotel
      Fort Ilocandia

      Enjoy your Ilocos Tour

  39. Paulyn May says:

    Wow! It’s really a dream come true to me! Ilocos province (including, Vigan in Ilocos Sur) is really a God’s perfect creation! there are so many things in Ilocos Norte that i believed other places doesn’t have. you will miss 3/4 of your life if will not be able to go these places ( Paoay chruch, Marcos’ museum, Malacañang in Paoay, Paoay lake, Fort Ilocandia, my ever wished wind mill in Bangui, Pagudpud, light house, dragon fruit plantation, kapurpurawan stone formation, Sarat, the birth place of Pres.Marcos, Bacarra (where i stayed with my friend’s family) church, centro of Laoag and never go home without a eating the giant Ilocano empanada! Go to Ilocos and surely when you go home you will go home with your head up high and that everybody would be envy of.

  40. zarah says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I’m planning our trip to Ilocos and this has been a great help! It’s complete and amazingly written. Thanks :D

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