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The Philippine's "Shangri-La": Top 10 Things To Do In Sagada

The Philippine's "Shangri-La": Top 10 Things To Do In Sagada
Liezl
Liezl
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Sagada, a town in Mountain Province, Philippines is dubbed by many as the “Shangri-La” of the Philippines, perhaps because of its remoteness. Find out what else makes this town so special. Maybe because it is home to a rich history and cultural heritage, while its cool climate offers a respite from the sweltering heat of the city. Here are the top 10 things to do in Sagada that will convince you that this may just be your “Shangri-La.”

1. Take a stroll through history: Visit Calvary Hill and St. Mary's Church

Because of the town’s remoteness, Spanish conquistadores were not able to set foot in the town up until 1882. While the rest of the country have been baptized in the Roman Catholic faith, Anglican missionaries from abroad made their way to Sagada. In 1904, they established their presence here and since then, have gained a foothold among citizens. According to the local census, the population is mainly Anglican. The Church of St. Mary the Virgin was established in 1904, making it one the oldest churches in the Cordillera region. Stepping into its halls is like stepping into history. Near the church, a trail leads you to Calvary Hill, which is actually a graveyard on top of a hill. The place lends itself to an eerie vibe especially when fog envelops the hill completely. During All Saint’s Day, the hill comes alive with bonfires when relatives come to pay respects to their departed.

The Church of St. Mary the Virgin

Address: Town center, Sagada, Mountain Province

Price: no admission fee

Opening Hours: If you want to catch a mass, there is a Daily Mass at 6:30 am, while Sunday Mass is at 6:30 am. Sung Mass at 8:30 am and Sunday School (for children) is also at 8:30 am.

Duration: around 2 hours required

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2. Appreciate local culture and traditions: Visit The Hanging Coffins at Echo Valley

After Calvary Hill, you can proceed to Echo Valley, named because of the echo it creates. This is the site of the famous hanging coffins, coffins made of wood, perched on the side of the mountain. According to local tradition, the reason why locals prefer to be buried this way is their belief that the higher your grave is, the closer you are to the gods. Some of the coffins carry the names of the departed but most do not, because these may have been placed there much earlier. The last coffin placed here was in 2010. Like all tourist sites in Sagada, the services of a tour guide are required when visiting Echo Valley.

Hanging Coffins, Echo Valley

Address: Sagada, Mountain Province

Price: no admission fee, but a guide is required for every 10 persons, 4 USD per guide

Opening Hours: none indicated

Duration: around 1.5 hours required.

Access: The trail to Echo Valley starts after you pass through Calvary Hill

Contact: For guides, please ask the Sagada Tourism Office in town.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Sagada and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Sagada

3. View above the clouds: Kiltepan Peak

For a breathtaking view of the sunrise, you must wake up early and make your way up to Kiltepan Peak. You can ride in a car for four kilometres (2.5 miles) in the eastern part of Sagada, or for the more adventurous, you can hike the distance in the dark and in very cold weather. It is best you arrive at the viewpoint right before sunrise, so you can slowly see the sun rising over the horizon and above the clouds. Kiltepan gets its name from the three villages that make up its boundaries: Kilong, Tetep-an and Antadao.

Kiltepan Peak

Address: Sagada, Mountain Province

Price: van rental around 10 USD; fees for services for guide

Opening Hours: best viewing times are between 5:00am to 8:00am

Duration: around 3 hours required.

Access: Via van or a 45-minute hike

Contact: +63 923 101 0084

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Sagada and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Sagada

4. Marvel at an agricultural feat: Kiltepan Rice Terraces

After enjoying the sunrise on Kiltepan Peak, don’t leave just yet. Look down and you will see an agricultural marvel - the Kiltepan Rice Terraces. Although not as majestic and as old as the Banaue Rice Terraces, the rice terraces still serve an important purpose in the community. To this day, these terraces are still farmed by the locals, ensuring their preservation.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Sagada and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Sagada

5. Cordillera weaving at its best: Sagada weaving

Sagada Weaving was established in 1968 and for almost 50 years, it represented the best weaving in the Cordillera region. The souvenir shop not only houses a store but also the work area for weavers and other workers. Visitors can witness how loom weaving is done, and even have their photo taken with the looms. The shop is located near the town center and on display are different types of woven products, from backpacks to pouches.

Sagada Weaving

Address: Sagada, Mountain Province

Opening Hours: 7am - 6pm. Closed on public holidays.

Duration: around 1 hour required.

Access: Located near the town center, the shop can be accessed by walking.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Sagada and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Sagada

6. Watch the sunset at Lake Danum

Most visitors to Sagada swear that while Kiltepan Peak is the best place to see the sunrise, Lake Danum is the best place to watch the sunset. Lake Danum is a body of water found in the western part of Sagada. Visitors can hire a jeep to take them to the lake, but if you are on a budget, you can also hike all the way to the lake. The jeepney ride will take you there pretty quickly, but it is best you arrange this beforehand with the tourism office. If you want to trek, it is also strongly recommended that you get a guide. On a clear day, the water can be very still and you can see the clear reflection of the sky and the clouds. The lake is also a good spot for a picnic or better yet, a tent for camping out. Most trekkers to Mt. Ampucao also use this as a resting point or jump-off point.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Sagada and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Sagada

7. Trek among the Terraces and visit Bomod-ok Falls

“Bomod-ok” literally means “big,” thus this waterfall is also called the Big waterfall. It is the biggest waterfall found in Sagada, and is also the most popular among tourists. Located 6 kilometers (4 mi.) from the town center, it can be reached by taking a jeep to the jump-off point and hiking for an hour or so. The scenic hike takes you through some rice terraces and a village, as well as impressive mountain vistas. It is an easy hike as the trail is paved and well-maintained. Once there, visitors can take a dip, especially if you like very cold water.

Bomod-ok Falls or Big Falls

Address: Sagada, Mountain Province

Price: transport fee (two-ways) is 14 USD for a jeep that can accommodate up to 10 people; guide fee is 12 USD for a group of 10 or less

Opening Hours: best time to visit is between 8 am to 2 pm

Duration: around 4 hours required.

Access: Hire a jeep to Bangaan or Aguid, where jump-off points to the falls are found.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Sagada and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Sagada

8. Spelunking at Sumaguing Cave

If there is a Big Falls in Sagada, there is also a Big Cave, called Sumaguing Cave. If you are the adventurous (and not claustrophobic) type, try your hand at spelunking or cave exploration in Sagada. The cave that is a favorite among tourists is Sumaguing, so this also means you will not be alone in your spelunking adventure.The tourist center has a Short Course on Caving which takes you to the big cave. Since this involves moderate physical activity such as climbing and jumping from one rock to another, you must be moderately fit to do this. You would need about 1 to 2 hours to complete it. Visitors must get the services of a guide at the tourism center.

Sumaguing Cave

Address: Sagada, Mountain Province

Price: Guide fees: 10 USD (up to 4 pax) / 12 USD (up to 5 pax) / 20 USD (2 guides, 6-9 pax) / 25 USD (2 guides, 10 pax) / 30 USD (3 guides, 11-12 pax)

Opening Hours: Best times to visit is between 8am to 3pm. Last entry is allowed until 4pm only.

Duration: around 3 hours required.

Access: Walk to the cave’s entrance, about 1 hour from the town center.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Sagada and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Sagada

9. Spelunking (again!) at Lumiang Cave

Lumiang Cave is a smaller cave compared to Sumaguing. Unlike Sumaguing however, Lumiang is actually a burial cave that is being used by the locals as the final resting place for their dead. You will see hundreds of wooden coffins at the cave’s entrance. Because it is much smaller, exploring it is a bit more challenging as you have to go through small holes between rocks with only ropes to hold on to. The beautiful rock formations inside the cave will be reward enough for your effort. If you want an extra challenge, you can try the Cave Connect Course which allows you to explore Lumiang and then connect to Sumaguing inside the caves.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Sagada and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Sagada

10. Reward yourself with a good meal (or two!)

At Masferre Country Inn and Restaurant, you will not only enjoy good food, you will also take a trip back in time with its photo gallery of old photos of Cordillera. Named after Eduardo Masferre, who is known for his beautiful photos of Cordillera people and their lives, its gallery showcases some of Masferre’s works. Postcards of his photos are also available for sale. If you happen to be in Sagada during Christmas, Masferre offers a Christmas dinner buffet.

Another must-try restaurant in Sagada is the famous Yoghurt House, which serves up sandwiches, rice meals and of course, home-made strawberry yoghurt served with granola.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Sagada and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Sagada

In Sagada, "leave nothing but footprints"

While the town tries to keep up with the burgeoning tourism, its natural wonders may not be as lucky. Many visitors still find it appropriate to leave graffiti in the caves for example, while others leave garbage along the trails. If you wish to visit Sagada, please do your share in helping preserve this paradise up in the mountains: “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos.”

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I am a freelance writer living in the summer capital of the Philippines, Baguio City. I am passionate about writing and living and anything in between.

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