Batanes is one of those majestic places that can transport you across time and space.
Despite being one of the country's most typhoon-prone areas, this peaceful town is home to strong and resilient locals (known as Ivatans). It is embedded in their way of life, such as the lime and stone houses and the famous vakul.
Get ready for lush mountain slopes, surreal seascapes, and so much more at the country's smallest province!
Valugan Boulder Beach, Batan Island
This boulder-hemmed shore lies at the eastern edge of Batan Island, although it is not recommended for swimming. Many photographers come here to capture the Batanes sunset.
Marlboro Country or Racuh A Payaman, Mahatao
This is where you'll get a front-row seat to green rolling hills, random cattle grazing, and the vast blue sea. Bask in this natural splendor that is this communal pastureland. While you're there, spot Tayid Lighthouse and Diura Beach as well!
Fundacion Pacita, Basco
Inspired by the Ivatan stone houses, Fundacion Pacita is a landmark boutique hotel that boasts of stunning 270-degree views of sea, sky, and mountains. Whether you're staying in or having breakfast at Café du Tukon, don't miss the artworks by Filipino artists and Ivatan talents that bring the place to life.
Basco Lighthouse, Basco
Perched on the historic Naidi Hills, the Basco Lighthouse is a 20-meter tower with a secret gallery on its fifth floor. There lies a sweeping view of the West Philippine Sea to the west, Mt. Iraya to the north, and the Basco Town Proper to the south. Grab a cuppa or have a sit-down meal at the nearby Bunker's Cafe!
Uyugan Town, Batan Island
The quaint town of Uguyan might be the smallest in terms of population, but it is rich with remembrances of yesteryear. Pass by the lime and stone house ruins of Song-Song, an abandoned terrestrial navigation system Long-Range Aid to Navigation (LORAN), and San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel in Imnajbu.
Homoron Blue Lagoon, Mahatao
This hidden gem is a gorgeous natural pool without the gigantic waves. A short walk will take you to the White Beach, where you can swim in shallow waters and enjoy the soothing sound of the sea.
A natural wonder barely touched by modernization, Itbayat Island is dominated by towering forests, cliffs, and hills. Hike up the Rapang Cliffs overlooking the island. Or, trek down to the foot of the cliffs of Paganaman Port and take a refreshing dip in the swimming holes at the small lagoon.
Mavulis (Y’Ami) Island and Siayan Island
Besides the undulating hills that serve as grazing grounds to roaming goats and cows, Mavulis is also helmed by the Philippines' northernmost beach! From Pagganaman Port, travel by boat to the volcanic island of Mavulis. There is no potable water at Mavulis, so it's best to spend the night at the nearby Siayan Island.
House of Dakay
This UNESCO heritage building is widely known as the oldest stone house in Batanes. Built in 1887, it used to be housed by the late Lola Ida (who was the most photographed person in Batanes). When she passed away in 2014, it was bestowed upon her favorite nephew. A cultural and historical treasure, the House of Dakay is a reflection of the Ivatan's enduring culture and tradition.
Yaru Nu Artes Ivatan (Bayanihan of Ivatan Artists)
This cooperative and gallery center is where yaru (which means bayanihan in Ivatan) and arts meet. Drop by and check out the thriving modern Ivatan literature, arts, and music scene today.
Dibang (Flying Fish), Barrio Chavayan in Sabtang
Locally known as dibang, the flying fishes are migratory fishes that come in abundance during summer. You can enjoy it grilled or sun-dried, paired with fresh lettuce and tomatoes!
Oh, and yes. They are called as such because they leap out of the ocean waters! How cool is that?
Bukayo, Da Insulares Souvenir Shop
One cannot simply go to Batanes without sampling bukayo. It's a sweet symphony of gelatinous coconut and sugar with soft yet crunchy texture. This is a staple in many souvenir stores!
Uved, Octagon Restaurant
For the cherry on top of your Ivatan cuisine experience, try the savory and slightly sour uved balls (Tabtab in Sabtang Island). This local delicacy is usually made of banana corn, ground pork or minced flying fish, and local spices.
Honesty Cafe, Ivana
A perfect example of the Ivatan's honesty, this café has become a popular tourist destination for being a self-service store (not a single staff in sight)! Just get what you want, leave your payment, and off you go.
A 30-minute ride via the faluwa will take you to Sabtang Island. You can spend a night or join a day tour to visit Thomas Aquinas Chapel, the Old Beatario, and the stone houses in Savidug Village. Or, take a stroll (and some photos) at the grass-covered slopes of Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint.
The best way to see the photographic beauty of Batanes is by bike. Rent one or a motorcycle through your hotel and go on a DIY tour to Basco, Mahatao, Ivana, Uyugan, Itbud, Marlboro, and back. Start early in the morning so you can return by nightfall!
For a surge of adrenaline, hop aboard the faluwa. This large boat carries tourists and locals from Ivana Port to Sabtang Island on one exhilarating ride. Like a true "boat cruise from hell", the faluwa is built to withstand bullying waves.
Wear a Vakul
Made from vuyavuy, a tree endemic to Batanes, the vakul is the quintessential headdress of Ivatans that protect them from the sun and rain. In fact, it's so big and thick that farmers are said to hide in small items such as matches! You can purchase one at the local women's cooperative in Chavayan for ₱200-₱500, depending on the size.
First celebrated in April 2016, the Vakul-Kanayi festival celebrates the joyful and vibrant culture of Batanes through cultural performances This includes street dances and laji or Ivatan oral poetry. Stick around for the sagala, a narration of the life of San Vicente Ferrer, Sabtang's patron saint.
The peak season to visit Batanes is during summer season (March-June). If you prefer the cold, plan your trip in February when the weather is cooler. However, there is a higher probability of flight and boat tour cancellations due to seasonal typhoons.
The accommodations in Batanes vary. For those who are more budget-conscious, there are plenty of homestays and small inns to choose from that start at ₱250/per night. If you are willing to splurge, Fundacion Pacita and Bernardo's Hotel are the places to stay.
There are not a lot of ATM machines in Batanes so make sure to bring enough cash with you.
Bring a camera (or a fully charged phone) wherever you go! From majestic landscapes to stone houses, every nook and cranny in Batanes is photo-worthy.
Naturally, you'll encounter poor phone reception in a place as serene as this. Why not take this time to actually disconnect and reconnect with nature?
Most tours include arranged transportation (air-conditioned vans). To get around on your own, you can rent a motorbike or bicycle. There are also jeepneys and trikes available.
Batanes has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. There is also no nightlife, so you're in for a very peaceful and quiet vacation!
WHAT TO WEAR
It's best to wear loose and light clothes such as cotton shirts and pants. Bring light sneakers or trekking shoes (flip-flops might not be advisable if you're going to ride the faluwa or walking uphill).
During summer, don't forget to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, umbrella, and a hat since it can get quite hot. If you're visiting during the rainy season, bring a waterproof jacket or a windbreaker.
HOW TO GET THERE
Illustrations by Ce Manalang
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