It is bliss beyond description to see a panorama of the rolling hills, rugged coastlines, undulating terrain, and the overwhelming pristine beauty and cool and green surroundings. That’s how I felt when I set foot in Batanes. Dubbed as “Nature’s Playground”, this island province located in the northernmost part of the country affords a natural endowment that will torment you once you bid good-bye to her.
However, it’s not only the beauty of this place that captured my heart but the honest and welcoming people-the Ivatans, as they seemed to smile more when greeted and take pride in their rich cultural heritage. And another, Batanes is known for its low crime rate, indeed, a very safe destination even for solo female travelers. Well, let me take you to this island province and be awed for what it has to offer.
- Batanes is the country’s northernmost and smallest province by land area (219.01 km2) in the country.
- Batanes came from the word Batan, the local word for the Ivatan people.
- Basco, the capital of Batanes was derived from Don Jose Basco Y Vargas, the 53rd Governor of the Philippines.
- It is nearer to Taiwan, which is 190 kilometers north, wherein it is 280 kilometers away from Appari, the northernmost tip of mainland Luzon.
- Composed of 11 islands where Batan, Itbayat, and Sabtang are only inhabited.
Batanes is a dream destination for every travel junkie. But the expensive airfare which shoot up to Php15,000 or more hinder them from visiting the province. Good thing, me and my office mates Joyce and Shiela chanced to book a two-way cheap fare of Php7,186 only via Philippine Airlines from and to Clark International Airport.
In Getting There:
Batanes is primarily reached by air and travel time may take 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on the airline and weather condition. Two airports serving this province are Basco Airport and Itbayat Airport. Both runways are small. Airlines servicing these airports are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Skyjet (from Manila), and Sky Pasada (from Tuguegarao).
Where to stay?
There are several homestays and inns in Batanes ranging from Php350 to Php5,000. We are a budget traveler so we chose Nanay Cita’s Homestay, a cheap homestay but near the airport. We reserved a fan room for two nights (Php350/head/night). It was just fine since January is still a cold month in Batanes. It has no free breakfast but they can cook for a certain fee. They offer free water (hot/cold) to guests.
Nanay Cita’s Homestay (fan room-Php350/aircon-Php500, private bathroom) +639399193616
Wakay Homestay (fan room-Php400/aircon-Php600) +639466174612
Shanedel’s Inn and Cafe (fan room-Php650/night, shared bathroom, breakfast included) +639281941910
Tawsen’s Palace Inn – (aircon-from Php2,500 to Php5,000, private bathroom, free breakfast): 0921-639-8509/0995-728-8193
Casa Domingo (aircon-from Php2,800 to Php4,500, private bathroom, free breakfast) – 0956-264-5045/0929-209-1113
Hi-end: Fundacion Pacita (family room-5 pax, airconditioned, with breakfast and airport transfers-P21,235.50/night)
There are at least five famous restaurants in Batanes. If you have time, do visit them and try their foods that are authentic to the province. Unfortunately, we did not chance to eat in any restaurant there because we opted to take a rest after our tour. There are eateries in the town proper where they offer the usual meal of adobo, singing, and nilaga ranging from Php70 to Php120. In Nanay Cita, there is a store fronting the homestay that sells basic meals.
Do It Yourself Tours (DIY) are no longer allowed by the local government because they want to monitor and control the number of visitors. There are two options in touring Batanes: the tricycle tour and the package/group tour run by travel agencies. Since we were only three, we chose the tricycle tour so we can manage our time without being rushed by an organizer as well as fellow travelers with different characters and moods.
The maximum passengers for the tricycle are only three. Right now their basic standard rate for this tour is:
- North Batan tour – Php1,500
- South Batan tour – Php2,000
- Sabtang Island tour – Php1,000
Our recommended Tour Guide is Betina Dando - she has knowledge of places we visited and has skills in awrahan photoshoot. Her Contact number is +639178061514.
We only have three days in Batanes, so we will be exploring only the North Batan, South Batan, and Sabtang Island. Maybe in our next visit, we will explore Itbayat Island to experience the thrilling water ride in getting there.
Our trip from Manila
We boarded the P2P bus from Trinoma in Quezon City and departed at 6:00 am. Fare is Php280.00. The first trip is at 3:00 am whereas the last is 11:00 pm. It took us around 1 & 1/2 hours only in getting to Clark International Airport. We ate our breakfast in Tapa King and boarded the plane. By the way, we paid Php150.00 for the terminal fee.
We arrived at Basco Airport by 11:42 am (1 hour and 45 mins travel time). Beth fetched us at the airport and brought us at Nanay Cita’s Homestay. Travel time was 5 minutes only.
Our room is a fan room with one double bed, one single bed, and a private bathroom. After a brief introduction to our stay, we rested a bit and ate our packed lunch. By 12:30 pm Beth fetched us and brought us to the Provincial Capitol for the registration and paid the environmental fee of Php350/head. We were handed the brochure as our ticket for our tour.
These are the tourist spots we visited in three days:
Day 1. NORTH BATAN TOUR
Coming from Basco, North Batan is the nearest among the three to explore and will cover about half of the day only. For more of these tourist attractions, please read: North Batan Tour in Batanes: Stunning Places to Explore.
1. Welcome to Basco Arch - Our first stop is in this Arch which is located beside the main highway facing the West Philippine Sea. We initially saw the beauty of Batanes from its viewpoint.
2. Tukon Church – also known as Mt. Carmel Church has a structure built with stone and is adorned with plants.
3. PAG ASA Weather Station - the establishment was temporarily closed because it was destroyed by typhoon Ferdie.
4. Fundacion Pacita – A lodging house and restaurant located atop of a flourishing hill. The most expensive in Batanes but promises a breathtaking view and complete relaxation.
5. Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel - this five-door tunnel was used by the Japanese soldiers as their shelter during World War II.
6. Valugan Boulder Beach – this beach which means “East” has no wide stretch of fine sand but big boulders and gravels, not ideal for swimming but is a good subject for IG worthy photography.
7. Sto. Domingo de Guzman Chapel or Basco Cathedral has undergone reconstructions and renovations but was rebuilt and was completed in 2011. It was made of Baroque style.
8. Vayang Rolling Hills - the combination of beautiful landscape and mesmerizing sea view make this rolling hills an incomparable sight to behold.
9. Naidi Hills with Basco Lighthouse – next to Mt. Iraya, Basco Lighthouse is a popular landmark in Basco. It stands at 66-feet and is the first lighthouse built in the island province.
Day 2. SABTANG ISLAND TOUR
Sabtang is a neighboring island that can be accessed via a motorized boat known as faluwa. This boat has no lateral support floats known as an outrigger. Its design was uniquely created to dance with the notorious waves. The boat was being manned by the captain using his feet while his upper part was exposed to the air to have a keen watch of the sea condition. For more of this tour, please read Sabtang Island, Batanes: Exploring its Captivating Beauty.
There are two schedules in Radiwan Port in Ivana in getting to Sabtang Island, one is 6:00 am and the other is 12:00 noon. We made it early as 5:50 am to catch the first trip. Boat fare (two-way) of Php200 and an environmental fee of Php200 are not included in the tour.
As of our water trip, the waves were a bit bumpy, maybe because it was still early morning. Travel time was twenty minutes only. This is the first highlight of our Batanes tour and I was so excited for another worthy experience in getting to this island.
These are the places we visited in our Sabtang Island tour:
1. The “I Love Sabtang” Marker - This is where we had our first picture-taking upon reaching Sabtang Island. This is located near the Sabtang Port.
2. Sleeping Beauty Hills - a hill resembling a profile of a sleeping woman where it had a forehead, nose, and lips.
3. Chamantad-tinyan View Point – The undulating terrain was huge and it was so wonderful to explore the whole area while feeling the cool breeze amidst the morning heat. Indeed, our God created this stretch of land so magnificently!
4. Chavayan Village – I felt I was back in t distant past as we walked in the small streets of this village. The time seems so unhurried and the people-the Ivatans are so friendly.
5. Savidug Village - is another traditional village in Barangay Malakdang with narrow streets dotted with old stone houses too.
5. Sabtang Lighthouse - is the first attraction that will first greet you. It stands imposingly as if a guard tower on a cliff overlooking the sea.
6. Morong Beach – is beside the Nakabuang Arch, is a long stretch of creamy white sand that is good for swimming and walking.
7. Nakabuang Arch - Geologic forces by the wind and the sea naturally carved this arch together
Pananayan Canteen & Catering Service - had our sumptuous lunch here.
When we went back to Ivana Port, we were greeted by strong waves. We were told that it was an ordinary wave so we should not panic. While the locals were sleeping comfortably in their seats, Joyce and I got busy swapping funny stories. Shiela slept as she was lulled by the waves. The water ride took us about 30 minutes.
Day 2. SOUTH BATAN TOUR
This is our second most anticipated tour and another worthy journey to “Breathtaking Batanes”. This tour covers the three municipalities of Batanes-Ivana, Uyugan, and Mahatao. We will be squeezing 19 scenic spots on our half-day tour. Thanks to Beth, our tour guide for this happy trip. For more of this tour, please read South Batan Tour in Batanes: Awesome Places to Explore.
1. San Jose de Ivana Church – also known as Ivana Church is located in Ivana fronting the Radiwan Port.
2. House of Dakay – or the House of Estrella is built in 1887 and is one of the five existing old stone houses in Batanes.
3. “I Love Batanes” Marker – this is situated few distances away from House of Dakay.
4. Honesty Coffee Shop - is owned by a retired teacher named Elena Castano-Gabilo. It has no storekeeper. Guests will log the items bought in the logbook and will drop the money in a cash box.
5. Old Spanish Bridge (Tuhel Spanish Bridge) – building the bridge was a brilliant feat of the Spanish technology considering it is still in good condition and is being used by people and vehicles to this day.
6.San Antonino Parish - is a small church located in Uyugan.
7. Mochong Viewpoint - It is a mini rolling hill situated just beside the main road.
8. Ruins of Songsong - this barangay was devastated by a tsunami that hit the island in the 1950s. What remain are the roofless old stone houses located near the beach.
9. Old Stone House in Uyugan – we stopped by this cute and clean old stone house in Uyugan for a short viewing and for picture taking as well.
10. Alapad Rock Formation – this magnificent rock formation that overlooked the Pacific Ocean was naturally carved by the wind and the sea.
11. Alapad Hill - a popular area where the movie “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit” was filmed. It starred Richard Gomez and my favorite beauty icon, Dawn Zulueta.
12. Old Loran Station – the US coastguard for 20 years. It is now converted to museum-the National Museum which is set to open soon.
13.San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel in Barangay Imnajbu - Barangay Imnajbu was the first place of Christianity in Batanes and where the holy mass was first celebrated and the first baptism was administered.
14. Marlboro Hills/Racuh A Payaman - this is one of the most beautiful natural wonders that I have seen in my travel around the country. It was like a postcard picture view. So stunning! Everything is verdant and green.
15. Mahatao Viewdeck - In getting to Tayid Lighthouse, you will first marvel on the verdant hills and hedgerows, locally known as liveng, tall tows of trees and grass that serve as a crop protection against wind and typhoons.
16. Tayid Lighthouse - is often called Mahatao Lighthouse. This is one of the three lighthouses in Batanes and resembled in appearance, only that Tayid Lighthouse has a hexagonal shape from its base up to the tower.
17. San Carlos Borromeo Church - The church together with the convent were colored white. Its outside structure was captivating no wonder it was designated as a National Cultural Heritage Treasure.
18. Mahatao Port and Boat Shelter - this is a small port built to protect the small-inland vessels and boats against the inclement weather.
19. Chewa Viewdeck - This is our last stop in our tour so aside from picture taking we sat for a moment on stone benches to admire the view. From the view deck, one can overlooked the cliff that meets the sea.
What we missed:
- Homoron Blue Lagoon and White Beach
- Diura Fishing Village
That ends up our South Batan Tour. This tour is recommended for one whole day so you will not hurry moving from one place to the other.
Day 3. BIKING
This is our last day in Batanes but Joyce and I can’t stop the feeling so went for a bike to make the most of our trip. Shiela was left for she preferred to rest. We went to a bike rental store in the town proper and hired two single bikes for Php25/per hour.
The bicycle is already old so we can’t pedal fast. We toured around the peaceful bay of Basco and went to the lighthouse. The road was uphill and funny, we easily get tired. Anyway, the view was so wonderful for our last photo ops of Batanes. We went to souvenir store and bought pasalubong for our loved ones after this activity.
1) I suggest, if you want to fully enjoy your Batanes tour, make it 5 to 6 days. North Batan and South Batan tours should be visited on one whole day separately so there is no pressure moving from one place to the other.
2) Stay overnight in Sabtang Island to bask more on its charm.
3) Visit Itbayat Island and stay for the night too.
4) You may opt to bike some tourist spots in one day, sit down and savor the moment looking at the picturesque sights.
5) Land Bank and PNB have ATM machines in Basco.
6) Cold months to visit are from December to February so bring weather clothes.
7) Smart has a strong connection.
8) Stargaze at the lighthouse.
Though our stay was short and we have limited time to fully enjoy the beauty of each spot, I was still thankful for the opportunity. Batanes is all about the wonders of getting away from all of the modern comfort of posh facilities, maddening crowd, and pesky noise. If it wasn’t for this story, I would not prioritize taking pictures of the view but just feast my eyes in the beauty of Batanes. Truly breathtaking.
For a nature lover like me, leaving this island province is tormenting. I haven’t had my fill of all the places we visited. It was a short journey. But nonetheless, it was fulfilling.
As per advice by Beth, to fully enjoy the road trip is to stop minding the cellphone and focus on feasting the eyes to the refreshing scenery. This is once in a lifetime memorable experience in Batanes so I did what she told us. And woah! The cool breeze and the wonderful view rejuvenated all my senses!
I would really love to go back. And I hope, it would be with my family.
Airfare – round ticket coming from Clark to Basco-vice versa – Php7,186
P2P Bus (Trinoma-Clark-Trinoma) – two-way fare – Php560.00
Terminal Fee – Php150.00
Fare/transpo – P7,896
Day 1: Arrival/North Batan tour
Breakfast at Tapa King – Php151.20
Packed lunch – Tapa King – Php109.00
Tour of Php1,500 – P500/head
Environmental Fee – Php350.00
Dinner – Php100
Homestay – Php350.00
Total – P1,560.20
Day 2: Sabtang Island Tour – Morning
Tricycle tour of Php1,000 – Php350/head
Breakfast – Php70
Terminal fee at Ivana Port – Php15
Boat (two-way) – Php200
Environmental fee – Php200
Hire of Vakul – Php20
Lunch – Php350
Buko juice – Php35
Souvenirs – Php750
Tip to tour Guide – Php100/each
Day 2: South Batan tour – Afternoon
Tricycle tour of Php2,000 – P667/head
Snack – Php70
Dinner – Php100
Homestay – Php350
Tip to tour Guide – Php200/each
Day 3: Biking/Departure
Breakfast – Php90
Rent of bike for 2 hours – Php50
Pasalubong – P1,750 (I bought so much for my self and loved ones! hahaha!)
Lunch at the airport – P60
Total – P1,950
Total of P14,883.20 – a bit pricey for me but still, I saved a lot for it covered all my expenses.