Banaue, a town located in Ifugao Province in Northern Philippines, is famous for its 2,000-year old rice terraces, which are sometimes dubbed a “stairway” to heaven because they look like a flight of stairs from the base of the mountains to its highest point. The Banaue Rice Terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it demonstrates the rich indigenous knowledge of the Ifugaos, who built the terraces without the aid of modern equipment and tools. Come and discover the rich culture that can be experienced beyond the rice terraces.
1. Admire the Banaue Rice Terraces from Viewpoint Village
One of the best views of the majestic Banaue Rice Terraces can be found a few kilometers away from the town center at the Barangay (Village) Viewpoint. It is named as such because visitors can see the rice terraces in all its splendor. From the town center, ask a tricycle to bring you to the viewpoint. Some visitors choose to walk from town; Barangay Viewpoint is about 4 to 5 kilometers (~2.5 mi to 3.1 mi) from the center. After taking a few choice snapshots, you can also check out the local souvenir shops in the area.
Banaue Rice Terraces
Address: Barangay Viewpoint, Km. 5 Bontoc-Banaue Highway
Price: Using the viewpoint is free
Opening Hours: 6 am - 4 pm (recommended viewing times)
Duration: 1 hour is enough, including souvenir shopping
Access: Via tricycle or walking
2. Dance to the sound of gongs: watch an Ifugao cultural show
The Ifugaos use brass gongs in celebrations and rituals. Locally called the “gangsa”, their distinct clanging sound provides the rhythm for traditional Ifugao dances. Visitors can arrange for a cultural show, which includes gong playing, dances, and chanting. A traditional ritual called a “baki” can also be performed, which involves the sacrifice of a native chicken. These can be done at the Banaue Ethnic Village and Pine Forest Resort, near Barangay Viewpoint for a fee of 4,500 to 6,500 PHP or approximately 91 to 130 USD, depending on how elaborate and long the cultural presentation will be.
Banaue Ethnic Village and Pine Forest Resort
Address: Aparnga-o, Barangay Viewpoint, Banaue, Ifugao
Price: from 13 USD to 72 USD per night, depending on the type of accommodation
Access: Take a tricycle from the Banaue town center; fare should be about 2 USD
Contact: 63 928 521 4522; or @BanaueEthnicVillage on Facebook
3. Appreciate local history: visit the Banaue Museum
The Banaue Museum has a very impressive collection of Cordilleran artifacts. Most of them are from Ifugao Province but other provinces are also represented. The fascinating collection is comprised of genuine items that were collected by the son of Otley Beyer (considered to be the father of Ifugao anthropology), in the early 1900’s, and the museum is operated by the Banaue View Inn. To gain access to the museum, you can walk or take a short tricycle ride from the town center, go to the inn and inquire about the museum.
Address: Banaue View Inn, Banaue, Ifugao
Price: The admission fee is about 2 USD per person
Opening Hours: 8 am - 4 pm
Duration: around 3 hours required.
Access: Take a tricycle from the town center, or you can also walk to Banaue View Inn
Contact: 63 917 730 7370
4. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site up close: Batad Rice Terraces
If you are not satisfied with snapshots of the terraces at Barangay Viewpoint Village and would like to walk among the terraces, then a trip to Batad Village is best for you. The terraces at Batad are the most well preserved terraces in the province. It is also the site that was granted the UNESCO World Heritage Site accolade. Several years back, visitors needed to hike for 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach it, but now vehicles can reach the entrance of the village. After 15 minutes, one can see the amphitheater-style terraces of Batad that are very different from the terraces at Viewpoint Village.
Batad Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Address: Batad Village, Banaue, Ifugao
Price: Environmental fee of 1 USD per person
Opening Hours: 7 am - 4 pm, recommended viewing times.
Duration: around 4 hours required, but a whole day trip is recommended.
Access: From Banaue town center, one can hire a jeepney for about 30 USD per way. This is best for groups of more than 10. Individuals can also try a public jeepney or a tricycle.
5. Take a cool dip at Tappiya Falls
Tappiya Falls is a one-hour trek from Batad Village. If you want to go to the falls, it is recommended that you stay overnight in Batad. You can arrive in the village in the morning, grab a quick lunch, and find a local guide to bring you to Tappiya. The trek takes you through the rice terraces along a mildly dangerous trail and uneven steps. Guides also recommend that you bring a walking stick. You can take a dip at the falls and enjoy the very cool water. Guests are also advised not to stay beyond 3:00 or 4:00 pm as the trek back may be doubly hard if it gets dark.
Rita's Mount View Inn
Address: Batad Village, Banaue, Ifugao
Price: please check as prices may differ during peak and non-peak seasons
Contact: 63 910 842 3076 or @Ritamountviewinn on Facebook
6. Take a hike: Awan-Igid-Pula-Cambulo Trek
This all-day hike, with an overnight stay in Cambulo, offers some of the most breathtaking views in Ifugao. On day one, take a tricycle or jeepney to the Awan-Igid drop off. The first leg of the trail will take you through the jungle to the terraced village of Pula. Then it’s on to Cambulo, where along the way, you will view impressive vistas where valleys converge and the mountains are stepped with massive rice terraces. Upon reaching the village of Cambulo, stay at the Lapawan Guest House for comfortable rooms and delicious food for very reasonable prices. On day two, you might be able to catch the Cambulo-Banaue Jeepney or you can return to Banaue hiking along a jungle road. It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that you hire a guide for this excursion.
7. Eat like the Ifugaos: try local cuisine
A traditional Ifugao dish, pinikpikan is made using free-range, native chickens. To achieve the thick and dark soup, the live chicken is beaten with a stick before it is cooked. The cooking process is part of local tradition. It supposedly improves the flavor of the dish. If you prefer less controversial dishes, try the local sausage called pinuneg, which is made of pork intestines and blood. For drinks, the Ifugaos also have their own version of rice wine called baya.
8. Join the celebration: catch the local "Imbayah" Festival every April
Like most towns in the country, Banaue also has its own festival. Every April, the town comes alive for the Imbayah Festival, which is said to be a celebration of the harvest and wishing for better harvests to come. Towards the end of April, the three-day festival brings people from the surrounding villages together to the town center to compete in traditional games and activities. These games include rice-pounding, rice transport on foot, and other traditional sports. Villages also organize cultural presentations during the festivities.
9. Ride An Ifugao Wooden Bike
During the Imbayah Festival, you will witness very unique wooden scooter race from Viewpoint Village down to the center of town. The scooters rely on nothing but gravity and the rider’s racing instincts. If you cannot catch them during the festival, you may seek them out at Viewpoint Village, where you can rent one to ride or simply taking a photo. Marvel at the ingenious construction of these scooters.
10. Souvenir shopping: buy local
Ifugaos are the best woodcarvers in the Cordillera region. You can choose to shop for wood carvings, but if you do not want to be lugging around wood carvings, the alternative is hand-woven cloth. In Viewpoint Village, most shops carry different types of Ifugao weaving, mostly made into purses, handbags, and other items. In the town center, check out the local market for bigger pieces such as the traditional tapis, a wrap around skirt.
Travel tips to remember for a pleasant trip
The best time to go to Banaue is from March to May, which is the summer or dry season in the Philippines. If you are doing a lot of outdoor activities, this would be the best time to visit. Since it is the peak season, travelers are advised to confirm their hotel reservations early. The other time of the year to visit is November to January, which can be a little bit wet and much cooler. From Manila, Banaue is an 8 to 10-hour bus ride. Trips are usually at night so it is best you bring a blanket and warm clothing so you can sleep through the trip.
Most hotels have access to local guides, so you can arrange your hikes as soon as you arrive in Banaue. The town does not have an ATM or a cash machine, so be sure to bring along enough cash. Always remember to plan ahead if you can, but it is also best to keep an open mind for other things that can happen.
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