Fleeing Manila

Fleeing Manila

We opened the door and stepped into the first McDonalds we saw, chest’s heaving and breathless we exchanged a smile as the cool air conditioning sent waves of relief over our bodies.  We were grateful to find a place to sit and take off our bags until we could get the next bus out of town.  You would think someone was on our tail the way were fleeing Manila, but the truth was we just didn’t like the place.

Maybe we just didn’t find the right neighborhood or meet the right people because instead of advice on what to see we were always cautioned about safety.  Never on our scouting missions in the streets of Manila did we find anything that particularly grabbed us.  The poverty was overwhelming with small shanty towns everywhere, the heat unbearable and the list of things to do short.  The first chance we got we took our hostel owners recommendation and headed north to Sagada and Banaue.

The stunning valley of rice terraces that makes up the small town of Banaue.

The long overnight bus ride made us wish we hadn’t come, but the views immediately once we stepped off the bus in Banaue made our sleepless night worth it.  The vibrant green rice terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage site and the small town is a little dirty, but charming nonetheless.  Even further north is Sagada, which is sure to capture your heart with it’s small town charm and delicious cafes that invite you to stay and linger over your tea or coffee all day.

The small town of Banaue is the perfect place to escape the city and disconnect.

If you are looking for a short get away and are sick of beaches being the only suggestion when it comes to a place to relax in the Philippines than northern Luzon is for you.  With only a week you can easily split your time between Banaue and Sagada for a laid back vacation.  If you are a more active holiday-maker than you can easily add side trips to your itinerary to take in Bontoc, Batad and even do some hiking.  The best part of heading north is taking the time to relax, so I don’t even want to create an itinerary or list the “must-sees”, instead I will share our highlights and encourage you to discover your own.

The hanging coffins and a hike through Echo Valley were among the highlights in Sagada, Philippines.

The beautiful scenery in Sagada makes it a great place to further explore the central Cordillera. The Bokong Waterfalls are particularly stunning.

The highlights of our time in northern Luzon included taking in the stunning rice terrace views from our balcony at the Greenview Lodge. We loved riding on the roof of a jeepney, an oversized jeep with benches in the back to accommodate a crowd, to Sagada with new found friends.  Exploring Echo Valley, hanging coffins and burial caves of Sagada along with doing some cave spelunking.  The yogurt at The Yogurt House, the lemon pie at the Lemon Pie House and the pork chops at The Log Cabin in Sagada were all delicious and come highly recommended.  The All Souls Day festivities were definitely a highlight, you can read more here.

The sunsets in northern Luzon were sublime and the setting even better.

While the cooler weather and smaller towns drew us northward all the highlights I just mentioned made our time in Luzon some of the best in the Philippines.  The hiking, panoramic views, historical features such as the burial caves and deep cultural heritage in northern Luzon have us singing it’s praises.  Maybe it’s good that Manila had us running for the hills.  You don’t want to miss these two gems if you are headed to the Philippines.


Check out our Philippines Guide for more information on what to see and do in the Philippines.

You can fly into Manila or the Clark airport. Buses are easy to get from Manila to take you up north.  Buses take you directly to Banaue and from there you can plan your northern Luzon itinerary.  The most consistant bus company from Manila to Banaue is Ohayami Trans.  Buses from Banaue to Sagada are not as frequent and depend on road conditions, so plan ahead or charter a private jeepney.

Jeepneys are one of the main forms of transportation in the central Cordillera.

Be ready for a bone rattling ride between Banaue and Sagada. If you are looking for a little bit smoother journey hire a driver with a 4 WD truck, this will cost more but it will also expand your options in the north.

Don’t miss the Bokong Waterfalls Hike, the Lumiang burial caves or Echo Valley where the hanging coffins are in Sagada.

To see more photos of the beautiful Philippines click here.

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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