Batanes, the smallest province of the Philippines, lies at the northernmost tip of the country about 190 kilometers south of Taiwan. Out of the 10 islands included in the Batanes group of islands, only 3 are inhabited, Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat. The smaller islets are Dequey, Siayan, Mabudis, Ibuhos, Diogo, North Island, and Y’ami. Because of its cool and windy weather, Batanes is also referred to as the Home of the Winds. It is also the place where the Pacific Ocean meets the West Philippine Sea so the water current is usually rough.
Below is a 5 days and 4 nights Travel Guide to the island of Batanes, the closest place you can get to whisper to God.
Note: My first trip to Batanes was in 2008 and my last trip was in 2016 so I already updated this travel guide because we know an 8-year interval is such a long time already. ^_^
GETTING TO BATANES
Fly from Manila to Batanes. Currently, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and Skyjet Airlines fly to Batanes. Best time to visit this beautiful island is during summer, like April, to enjoy the green rolling hills, clear, blue sky, and…well, water can still be rough, but not the same of course during rainy season.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Accommodation: Before heading to Batanes, be sure you have booked your reservations in advance to avoid hassles, especially during peak seasons. Lodgings, hotels and resorts are only few in Basco or more or less, fully booked, so it’s better to spend the day touring or resting instead of looking for a place to stay during your vacation.
Bernardo’s Hotel– 0917-1257619 and 0999-8839493
Residencia du Basco – 0969 417 0829
Dive Batanes Resort – 0998 0434910
Villa Hontomin – 0927 871 2157
Amboy Hometel– 0917-8717631, 0949-5784710, 0917-8717633 and 0920-9103492
Ichehan Lodge – 0919 004 7975
Batanes Resort- 0999-9907554
Batanes Seaside Lodge– 0927-7885508 and 0999-9924977
Meal: Food is very scarce in Batanes, especially during typhoon season. However, there are still plenty of sari-sari stores and restaurants that you can try unless you can cook your own food in your hostel. Some dining options are Casa Napoli in Bernardo’s Hotel (their Margherita Pizza is superb), the restaurant inside Amboy Hometel, Jino’s Homemade Pizza, and the diner inside Octagon Bed & Dine.
Tour: It is best to travel Batan by foot or by bike and motorcycle. However, if you are pressed for time, it is better to hire a vehicle and guide to tour you around Basco. Before going to Batanes, you can always book your tour in advance from the hostel where you are checked in, or you can also opt to arrange for that once you have arrived in Basco. However, when touring Sabtang, one really needs a tour guide so make sure to make an arrangement with your hostel. Bisumi Tours and Services is also a great option. I booked them for my parents when they went to Batanes last 2015.
IMPORTANT THINGS YOU NEED
Insect repellent lotions. In case you’re a mosquito magnet.
Sunblock. It may be cold and windy in Batanes but it doesn’t mean the sun can’t burn you.
Shades. Protect your eyes.
Camera or Smart Phone with nice camera. Leave everything but your money and this one
Bring more than enough cash because there are no ATM machines in Batanes, especially credit cards.
* Good for one person only
Airfare: Php 10,000- Php 12,000 (roundtrip/without promo)
Accommodation: Php 13,600 (4 nights)
Food: Php 2000
Tour: Php 7,000-8,000 (Basco and Sabtang private tour)
Miscellaneous: Php500- Php 1,000
Pasalubong: Php 1,000
You need to have: Php 38,000/person is the safest budget if one will follow the itinerary below. Please note that prices computed above is based on the maximum price already and is subject to change if you travel in big group, if there’s an airline promo, or if you stay in a more affordable hostel.
BATANES DAILY ITINERARY
Travel time from Manila to Basco, Batanes’ capital, is 1 hour and 15 minutes, so with flights usually in the morning, it is expected that you’d be in Basco as early as 7:30AM-8:00AM.
After arriving in your hotel, eat first your breakfast and do whatever you wish to do for the whole day. You may recharge and sleep to prep for a long day of touring the next day or just chill. Reading a good book by the sea, while waiting for the sunset, would be a great idea as well. If you want an accommodation that has easy access to the beach, then Bernardo’s Hotel is your best choice, the hostel is literally very near Chanarian Beach, like 20 meters away.
Make sure you have arranged or confirmed your tour with the hotel’s receptionist or your tour operator a day before the actual tour. Bring snacks (you will have a very long trip), lots of H2o, extra money, and of course, your camera. Touring Batan Island will be like circling the whole island so steal the chance to take a picture of the view that amazes you because you will not pass again on that same spot on your way back.
1st stop: Mahatao View Deck. Mahatao View Deck is a perfect site for picture taking as it offers a great view of the sea. It has many stone benches suitable for resting and taking nice photos.
2nd stop: San Carlos Borromeo Church. San Carlos Borromeo Church is the first church in Mahatao that was built during the 19th century. Near the church is the oldest and smallest light house in Basco. Lamp was being used then to light the said light house, which served as a guide for offshore fishermen on their way home. The church is considered as one of the National Cultural Treasures by NCCA because of its cultural significance and architecture.
3rd stop: Honesty Café. In the Honesty Cafe, the honesty of the Ivatans and the tourists are tested because no one actually mans the store. If you want to buy something, you just have to get and list down the item/s you bought and drop the payment on a drop box provided by the store owner. Every item has a corresponding tag price so you would know how much each costs.
On the way to your next spot, you will be able to pass by several sites that might interest to you like the Ghost town or the Ruins of Songsong and the abandoned US Coast Guard Station. The town of Songsong was hit by a tsunami in 1953, the houses were destroyed and the people abandoned this seaside community, thus earning the nickname Ghost Town. Don’t fret, there were actually no casualties from the said disaster so there are no ghosts. The residents of Songsong were said to be evacuated to the provinces of Mindanao.
4th stop: Marlboro Country. The Payaman, also known as Marlboro Country, offers a breathtaking view of farm fields and the Pacific Ocean. The Mahatao Lighthouse and Mt. Iraya can also be seen from Marlboro Country. The hills got its name because it looks so much like the setting of the commercial of the Marlboro Cigarette. If you are a young millenial or Gen Z, better google or check on YouTube if the said commercial was uploaded.
5th stop: Mahatao Lighthouse. The Mahatao Lighthouse is not that popular as compared to the lighthouse of Basco but it has its own beauty that attracts the tourist. This octagonal lighthouse is located in the town of Mahatao, near the Marlboro Country.
6th stop: Tukon Church. The Tukon Church, a project of the Fundacion Pacita Abad, is a small chapel in the hills of Tukon. It has life-size paintings of saints in its ceilings, all made by Ivatan artists who were all scholars of the Pacita Abad Center for Arts.
7th stop: Fundacion Pacita. Fundacion Pacita is the former house of the late Pacita Abad, an international painter known for her modern and colorful work of arts. A true blooded Ivatan, Pacita studied in the United States and was able to hone her craft by traveling and working in different countries. Right after she passed away, her house on the hill of Tukon now serves as a gallery where her works are displayed. Fundacion Pacita is the most famous (and pricey) hotel in Batanes, it’s a private property so you can’t really go inside unless you’re a guest. But you can inquire if you want to check out the place.
While you’re in Tukon, take time to lounge in Cafe du Tukon, which is just across Fundacion Pacita. I haven’t tried any of their food yet (though they look really delish) but their cold drinks are superb. Anyway, the nice ambience and great view are just some of the reasons why you should not miss this dining place. If I were to stay for a good 1-2 months in Batanes, I wouldn’t mind lounging and bringing my laptop here to work everyday.
8th stop: Valugan Bay. Valugan or east in the local language of the Ivatan, is where the bay got its name because is located on the east side of Batanes. Valugan Bay is a boulder beach perfect for picture taking and resting while watching the waves touch the big rocks.
9th stop: Rolling Hills. The Rolling Hills in Batan is also an alternative spot for taking pictures of the sunset. The lush green hills overlooking the vast ocean is mesmerizing. The climb is a bit steep but very worth it.
10th stop: Basco Lighthouse. Located in Naidi Hills, the Basco Lighthouse is a favorite spot in taking photos the sunset. One can actually go up the lighthouse for a more scenic view of Basco town. If you have seen the indie film “Sakaling Hindi Makarating”, the house with the blue window is actually located in Naidi Hills, just few steps away from the lighthouse.
After the sunset, go back to your hostel, take your dinner and make sure that your pre-arranged tour to Sabtang Island the next day is confirmed. If you still want to go out, you may rent or borrow a bike or ask your hotel receptionist to call a tricycle for you. Mind you, tricycle in Batanes is scarce so you really need the help of the hotel and restaurant’s staff to contact trike drivers for you.
Wake up early to catch the Falowa ride to Sabtang Island. Make sure you ask your service to pick you up before 6:00 a.m to catch the 6:30 or 7:00am trip to Sabtang Island, and that there is a ready guide and service for you once you reached Sabtang.
The 30 minute Falowa ride to Sabtang is quite extreme so be ready to secure your personal belongings, especially your cameras because they might get wet as the water is rough. You will be sailing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and West Philippine Sea so expect waves from different directions crashing into each other.
Upon arrival at Sabtang Island, you might want to have a breakfast first at the mini eatery in the port then pay the Php 200.00 per head for the environmental fee at the Tourism Office of Sabtang, few steps from the port. The first site that will welcome you to Sabtang is their very famous lighthouse. It’s like a giant marker and host that welcomes each and every tourist that visits the island.
1st stop: Savidug Stone Houses. 95% of the houses in Sabtang Island are still made out of coral and lime stones. The first town in Sabtang that you will visit is Savidug. It has a long row of stone houses situated in a very quiet and friendly community. Your service will drop you off the very first house in Savidug and will wait for you at the end of the street so you will have plenty of time to check out the houses and take some pictures for souvenirs. If you have watched the indie film ‘Kadin’, you will notice a very familiar house along the street where sugarcanes are extracted. It is the house of Angel Aquino from the said movie and you can also take a picture with the wooden sugarcane extractor.
2nd stop: Savidug Church. Savidug Church is the only church in the town of Savidug. Like the ones in Basco, it is also a Dominican church. After paying a visit to the church you will pass by a beach where limestones are being cooked for building Ivatan house. From the beach you will notice a mountain resembling a woman in slumber, thus earning it the name “Sleeping Beauty” for the Ivatans.
3rd stop: Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio Views. This is probably one of the best places in Sabtang to take pictures. The stunning view of the Pacific Ocean is a perfect backdrop for any picture. To fully enjoy the view, you need to go down the not-so-steep mountain and discover the secret paradise hiding behind it.
4th stop: Town of Chavayan. One of the highlights of the tour is your visit to the town of Chavayan where you will see the community of Ivatans and actually see them making Vakuls. Vakuls are Ivatan women’s headgear that are used to protect them from rain, wind and sun, it’s counterpart for men are called Talugong.
Vakuls are made out of Palm dates’ leaves. Vakul usually costs Php400 plus but cheaper depending on its size, while Talugong ranges from Php500-Php800. They also sell very unique Ivatan slippers used in fishing which costs Php 150.00, and Kanayi or vest, made out of Date’s leaves.
Again, if you have watched ‘Kadin’, the house where Peping lives in the movie, might interest you. Just ask the townsfolk if where’s the house where the movie was shot and they will gladly give you the direction. However, since the town of Chavayan is just small, you will surely spot the house if you roam around the town, including the old church of Chavayan. Rico Cardona, the one who played Peping, is not from Sabtang though but from Batan, however, the girl who played as her little sister, is the one who lives in Sabtang.
5th stop: Nakabuang Arc. Like what I mentioned, you need to have a pre-arranged lunch at Nakabuang arch for you to enjoy the beach, the sceneries and the food at the breathtaking sceneries of Nakabuang beach. Just ask your friendly tour guide where you need to arrange your lunch. The famous Nakabuang Arch is a natural sculptured rock along Nakabuang Beach, the place is perfect for lunch and swimming because of its great view and white sand.
2:00 pm: Leave Sabtang Island for Batan. The boat that dropped you off Sabtang Island will also be the one to take you back to Batan Island.
Since the fourth day is your last full day in Batanes, mark it as your ‘Free Day’. You may also borrow or rent a bike and tour the island of Batan on your own.
I was not really aware of the existence of Homoron White Beach in Batanes, but not until last December 2016. And I must say that it’s really beautiful and very tempting to take a dip and just lounge in the fine, white sand. If only I was not wearing rubber shoes during the tour. Thus, on your free time, head to this pristine beach, which is just 8km away from the city center of Batan. I’m sure you’ll also fall in love with this somewhat secret beach.
Art lover? Then Yaru Gallery, which is located in the town of Basco, just beside Shanedel’s Inn, would definitely pique your interest. They also sell post cards just in case you want to send one to your friends or even to yourself.
End your day by hanging out in the port of Basco while waiting for the sunset, or at the Chanarian Beach, if your hotel is just located in Barangay Chanarian.