Last year, my mom’s side of the family went to Ilocos for our annual summer trip and IT WAS THE BEST. My cousins and I have never been there and everyone’s raving about how beautiful it is, and of course, we just had to go there. It was a break from our usual overnight trips because it was the first time that we got to spend three whole days away from home! It took us 12 hours by land from where we lived to get to Ilocos. But no car ride is ever boring when you’re loaded with food and you’re with your cousins. If you’re not the roadtrip kind of person though, you can always take the plane. Our trip was divided into two: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.
In my opinion, tourists coming from Manila should start their itenerary at Ilocos Norte and end it with Ilocos Sur. It has always been my travel motto: visit the farthest spot/s first and make your way back. Now I’m no expert but I do think that you should do these when you find yourself in Ilocos:
1. Watch the sun set at Pagudpud. While having a drink by the beach. Or reading a book. Basically, while relaxing. Pagudpud is a beautiful beach that has fine and golden white sand. Sand-wise, I can say it is like Boracay’s but the ambiance is even better. It’s not too crowded (we went during the last week of March) and the shores are clean! Yup, the shores are not covered in moss. I didn’t get to check out if there are surfing lessons or shops that rents out surf boards but the waves were pretty big and strong then that I think surfers would really have a good time. Anyway, the golden hour is beautiful while you’re at this beach.
2. Check out the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation at Burgos. The rocks are pristine white and it’s really just beautiful to look at! (Plus points for those whose Instagram feeds are aimed at being black and white, lol). There are also windmills around the area so you can check that out too.
3. Visit the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum at Batac. It houses all Marcos memorabilias as well as the late president, Ferdinand Marcos’ current resting place. It was really crowded when we visited which was too bad because there are facts posted on the wall that I wanted to read but can’t. The museum has all the random replicas related to the former president’s life. Love life included. If you’re up for it, you can view Marcos’ body at the Mausoleum but you can’t take pictures of it.
4. Take the best pictures of the Bangui Windmills at Bangui. It’s much better than the windmills at Burgos because you can see these up close! It’s also more scenic because it stands at Bangui Bay facing the West Philippine Sea (hear that, China? West PHILIPPINE Sea). It’s also said to be the biggest in Southeat Asia! Awesome, right? It would feel even more awesome because once you’re there, you’ll be standing on the northwestern tip of Luzon.
5. Ride a 4×4 or go sand boarding at Paoay Sand Dunes. For the adrenaline junkies, you will have the time of your life at this 52 square miles of sand with ridges as high as 20ft. Get ready to scream your hearts out because you’re going to be in for the ride of your life.
6. Admire the beauty of Paoay Church. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best churches that I have ever been to. It boasts of a Baroque architecture with its walls made of large coral stones and its courtyard filled with white bougainvillea. Even if you’re not so religious, it’s still very much double tap worthy.
7. Drop by Baluarte at Vigan. This zoo houses animals from abroad as well as those endemic to the Philippines. You can interact with some of the animals and there are also scheduled shows for people to meet other animals. If you’re a zoo lover, you’d love it here.
8. Walk the vintage streets of Vigan. Listed as one of the World Heritage Sites and Monuments by UNESCO in 1999 and declared as one of the New7Wonders Cities along with Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and La Paz, walking the streets of Vigan feels like you’re walking in a living antique museum! It’s so amazing how they were able to preserve the old buildings and maintain the cobble stoned walkway. This, for me, was the cherry on top of our wonderful trip. Every establishment keeps up with the vintage-ness of the existing establishments.
9. Eat Ilocos empanada and bagnet. Sure, they may be available in Manila but nothing will ever beat eating these while you’re in the place where they originally came from. As the old saying goes, do as the locals do.
10. See Vigan in the morning and ride a kalesa. Wake up really early and walk the streets minus the wave of tourists. It’s a refreshing feeling and it would make you want to just settle down on a chair with a cup of coffee in your hand and watch the world go by. To see more of the city, try out riding a kalesa. You’d really feel like you’re thrown back to the 16th century.
Ilocos is a very beautiful and culture-rich region that it really won’t matter how long it took you to get there. There’s so much to see and a lot to experience! You will certainly leave with a happy heart. What did you do while you were in Ilocos? 🙂
Disclaimer: All photos belong to Jelai Sisante it may not be reproduced and/or copied without prior notice to her.