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A First-Timer’s Guide to Sagada

by Angel C. Aquino

Several years ago, my mountaineering friends invited me to go to Sagada for the first time. I had no idea what to expect—all I knew was that it was going to be a very long bus ride.

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The plan was to start our hike in Tadian, Mountain Province, spend the night in the mountains, and then end our trek in the town of Sagada.

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It was the end of November and we were blessed with good weather during the hike. It was a long time ago but I can still remember the smell of pine trees, the crunching sound my shoes made as I stepped on dried pine needles, and the way the cool wind blew all my worries away. In the late afternoon to early evening, a heavy fog descended on our camp, and in the morning, the majestic sun rose over a sea of clouds.

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From the peak of Mt. Ampacao, I caught my first glimpse of Sagada—its colorful rooftops seemed to be carved into the mountain itself. Little did I know, a smorgasbord of food and adventure awaited me in that small town. We would explore the caves, swim in the waterfalls, drink several bottles of strawberry wine, and eat and dance around a campfire.

If it’s your first time to visit, all I can say is this: leave your fears behind and be open to new experiences. If sitting in a bus for several hours, crawling inside a dark, damp cave, or hiking along the edge of a cliff seem daunting, tell yourself that it’s okay—you’ll survive. I’ve gone back to Sagada a few more times since that first visit and I’ve always returned to the city stronger, more peaceful, and more fully alive. I believe you will, too.

HOW TO GET THERE

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Coda Lines buses travel daily from Quezon City to Sagada. Get your tickets in advance by visiting their terminal in Cubao or booking online. (Cost is ₱760 for a semi deluxe bus.) Travel time is 12 hours so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! If the weather is good, the bus stops at Dyanara View Point where you can see the Banaue Rice Terraces.

You can also drive to Sagada via a private vehicle, which is advisable if you’re staying at a hotel that’s not in the town proper. The best time to visit is in late October to February when the weather is coolest and there is less chance of rain.

Coda Lines
HM Transport Inc.
Monte de Piedad corner Maryland Street
Cubao, Quezon City
(0927) 559 2197 / (0929) 521 3229

WHERE TO STAY

There are numerous hotels and guest lodges in Sagada. Here are a few you might want to check out.

Masferré Inn and Restaurant

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Located just a few steps away from the bus terminal and the tourism center, Masferré Inn has simple yet cozy rooms, as well as a restaurant that offers good food and a great view of the town. Named after photographer Eduardo Masferré, the place also showcases his stunning photographs of the Cordilleran culture and people.

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Masferré Inn and Restaurant
Poblacion
(0917) 431 5225 / (0939) 462 8775
Open daily, 6:00 AM - 9:00 PM

Rock Inn and Café

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If you prefer a more secluded location, check out Rock Inn, which is a few hundred meters away from the main road. The place is surrounded by beautiful gardens and an orange orchard, where you can meditate, walk around, and pick oranges for a small fee. In the evening, you and your friends can gather around a campfire to drink and tell stories till the wee hours of the night.

Rock Inn and Café
Orange Drive, Rock Farm, Batalao
(0905) 554 5950

Coffee Heritage House

INSTAGRAM: coffeeheritagehouse

Imagine waking up to watch the sunrise and breathing in the scent of pine trees while sipping a hot cup of native coffee. That’s what you can look forward to at the Coffee Heritage House. As an added bonus, you can tour the coffee farms and go picking for coffee berries—an experience that will give you a better understanding and appreciation for locally grown artisanal coffee.

Coffee Heritage House
Sitio Nadatngan, Brgy. Madongo
(0‎917) 837 3835

WHAT TO DO

As soon as you arrive in Sagada, register at the tourism office and pay the tourism fee of ₱70. You can also book all your activities and tours here. If you plan to go hiking or caving, you’ll need to hire a local guide. Here are a few activities to try:

1. Go spelunking at Sumaguing Cave

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Conquer your fear of enclosed spaces and marvel at the beautiful rock formations inside Sumaguing Cave. Ideal for beginners, this tour will have you crawling under rocks, squeezing between boulders, and dipping your feet in the cold water.

2. Watch the sunrise at Kiltepan viewpoint

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Get up at 4:30 AM and start your trek toward the Kiltepan viewpoint. Watch and wait as the sun peeks from behind the mountains and illuminates the clouds and the valley below.

3. Hike to Bomod-ok Falls

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Walk along rice paddies, see the locals tending their farms, and get a glimpse of everyday life in Sagada. At the end of a tiring, two-hour trek, a view of the towering Bomod-ok Falls awaits you. Go ahead and jump in the pool to reward yourself!

4. See the hanging coffins in Echo Valley

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A leisurely 30-minute walk from the town center will take you to Echo Valley, where you will see the hanging coffins. Locals believe that when the dead are buried above ground, the closer they will be to heaven.

5. Climb Mt. Ampacao

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Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy a half-day hike up to Sagada’s highest peak, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the town and the surrounding mountains. From there, you can take the trail to Lake Danum and see the sunset.

6. Shop for souvenirs at Sagada Weaving

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Support the local economy by shopping for traditional woven goods at Sagada Weaving. Watch the workers weave colorful threads together using wooden looms, and buy some scarves, bags, or wallets to give your friends back home.

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

1. Yoghurt House

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You can’t leave Sagada without trying this iconic restaurant’s freshly made yoghurt. Fuel up with the banana granola yoghurt, the mushroom cheese pasta, or beef tapa with rice before heading out to hike.

Yoghurt House
South Road
(0908) 112 8430
Open daily, 8:00 AM - 8:30 PM

2. Gaia Café and Crafts

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As seen in the movie That Thing Called Tadhana, Gaia Café is a tree-house-inspired, vegetarian restaurant with a great view of the Sagada Rice Terraces. Try the hummus sandwich, vegetarian adobo, camote fries, and other healthy offerings.

Gaia Café and Crafts
Ambasing
(0929) 597 9451
Open daily, 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM

3. Sagada Cellar Door

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Wine and beer drinkers will appreciate this cozy cabin-turned-restaurant. Its wine cellar features both international and locally made wines, while the Sagada craft beers are made from native ingredients, such as arabica coffee, heirloom rice, and sunflower honey. Get the sampler so you can try all their signature ales. To get a taste of the local dishes, check out the Igorot Buffet, where you can have your fill of organic vegetables, etag (smoked pork cured with salt), and pinikpikan (also known as the “beaten chicken stew” because a live chicken is beaten with a stick prior to cooking to improve the soup’s flavor).

Sagada Cellar Door
Lallalai, Poblacion
(0918) 942 8506 / (0917) 554 1345 (reservations required for the buffet)
Open daily, 2:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Planning a side trip to Baguio? Check out our Travel Guide here.

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About Angel C.
Angel C. Aquino is a freelance writer, editor, and fiction author based in Manila. She believes she can make her tiny corner of the world just a little bit brighter by writing stories filled with positivity, hope, and love. Check out her tips on writing, traveling, and healthy living at angelcaquino.com.

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