our primary area of operations,
can be broken down into a number of sectors.
Tours can be designed to link these sections
in a large range of options.
Largely composed of places we pass through to access the mountainous Luzon Cordillera, the southern section does offer its own attractions. Baguio City offers great food, colonial history, and one of the county’s largest and most interesting markets, all close enough for walking tours. The Baguio area also has some of the best Mountain Biking in the country, with an abundance of all-day single track riding. Guides familiar with the history and with Baguio’s role as interface between the tribal cultures of the mountains and the lowlanders fill in the knowledge needed to make this town more than it initially seems. Baguio is the primary road link from the lowlands to the central mountain sector. San Juan, La Union, is one of the country’s favorite surf destinations. Easily accessible and well developed, it offers quality beginner/intermediate breaks with lots of rental and instruction options, and is running well during Oct-Jan NE monsoon, when the east and north coast breaks may be blown out or just too intimidating for less adept surfers. From San Juan we can easily access Sagada via the seldom traveled but spectacular Bessang Pass route. Both Baguio and San Juan are linked to Manila by a newly opened expressway that has dramatically reduced travel times.
Central Mountain Sector
This is the core of the Cordillera, a paradise for adventure sports enthusiasts and cultural explorers alike. The Kankanaey, Bontoc, and Kalinga tribes were never fully subjugated, and retain full control over their resources, land, politics, and culture to this day. The Central Cordillera is characterized by steep, high mountains, deep gorges, mixed pine and mossy forest with close-clustered villages surrounded by banks of rice terraces. Sagada is the core of the region and the best-developed tourist destination, retaining a quaint charm despite rising tourist volume. The town is noted for quality education and fluency in English, along with deep attachment to traditional culture. It’s a haven for seekers of adventure, culture, and scenery, offering spelunking, canyon exploration, rafting, rock climbing and a wide variety of treks, along with art and culture activities and sights. Sagada is linked by roads to Baguio in the south, to Kalinga in the north, and to the eastern sector. Bontoc is a bustling market town 18 km from Sagada. It is primarily a road junction and a point passed through, but features a small museum with an excellent collection of local artifacts. The village of Malegcong, just north of Bontoc, has some of the region’s most spectacular and least visited rice terraces. Kalinga Province is known for its rugged mountains, spectacular scenery, and traditional tribal culture. Most of our Kalinga trips feature trekking in the upland villages of Tinglayan, which offer rustic village home stays, a close look at a living indigenous culture, and visits to waterfalls, hot springs, and the last surviving Kalinga traditional tattoo artist. Tabuk, at the northern edge of Kalinga, offers quality accommodation often a relief after a few days of village home stays) and easy access to the airport at Tuguegarao, which has multiple daily flights to and from Manila.
The Northern Coast
Tabuk links by road to the north coast of Luzon, which offers great beaches and often rough seas, along with mountains draped in lowland jungle.
Pagudpud is the main beach destination, known for its golden sand and spectacular sunsets. Then on to Pagudpud that offers a wide range of accommodation and surfing. Plus windsurfing, and kite surfing that are all popular, particularly from November through February, when strong, steady wind comes out of the northeast.
Adams is a small town inland from Pagudpud, set among forest-draped mountains. Close enough for a day trip from Pagudpud, the town offers jungle and waterfall treks and river tubing. Both Pagudpud and Adams enjoy easy access to and from Laoag airport, which has multiple daily flights to and from Manila.
Eastern Mountain Sector
The Eastern Cordillera is dominated by montane mossy forest, a dense, lush, and extremely beautiful ecosystem. Traditional culture is strong, and many villages have extensive terracing. Large areas of the eastern Cordillera are just opening up to travel as roads are improved. Banaue and Batad are the most famous and popular destinations, and have suffered a bit from commercialization and heavy tourist traffic, though Batad still has some of the most impressive terraces in the Cordillera. The nearby towns of Hungduan and Mayoyao offer a glimpse of a less visited part of Ifugao Province. North of Banaue a single road passes through the towns of eastern Mt Province, linking the towns of Barlic, Kadaclan, and Natonin to the eastern valley. This area has little development and poor infrastructure, but if you’re looking for mountain forest treks that are way off the beaten track, this is one place to find them. It is possible to hike from Barlig to Batad via Mt Amuyao.
Eastern Coastal Sector
Improved roads have opened up a range of new tourism opportunities along the Sierra Madre, the jungle-draped mountain range that runs down the east coast of Luzon, and the eastern coast, a beautiful, rugged, and seldom-visited coastal area. The Eastern Coastal Sector is easy reached from the Eastern Mountain sector via the Santiago – Maddela – Dinadiawan road. Nagtipunan, Quirino is an emerging destination conveniently located halfway between the Central Cordillera and the east coast. Nagtipunan is located in the Sierra Madre, and offers jungle treks, waterfalls, caving, rock climbing, and river float trips. Dinadiawan is a small coastal town that features a spectacular set of beaches, protected from the rough Pacific waves by a peninsula that drops down from the north. The water is clear and calm, the sand is white, and there are only rarely other visitors Towns north of Dinadiawan offer the opportunity to explore a wide range of rugged and deserted beaches. Baler, an hour south of Dinadiawan, is a well-developed beach destination and one of the Philippines most popular surfing destinations (the surf scenes from Apocalypse Now were shot here). The inland mountains offer jungle and waterfalls, and the town is linked to Manila by regular deluxe express buses and good roads.
Tour 1: 12 days, Cordillera Mountains and North Luzon Coast
Day 1- Start in Manila and then on to Baguio. Baguio is often written off as a way station on the road to the mountains, but it has a fascinating history and its own points of interest, as is worth a look around. The sprawling market, in particular, is an interesting point of interface between highland producer and lowland consumer, and sometimes the other way around. Dependent on schedules, we try to make enough time to explore Burnham Park, laid out in the colonial days by Daniel Burnham, who also designed urban plans for Chicago and Washington DC, Session Road, and to visit the market and at least a few of the city’s excellent restaurants… with a knowledgeable local guide, of course.
Day 2:- We travel from Baguio to Sagada, up the Halsema highway, two lanes of concrete etched into the mountains, carrying, though pine forest, vegetable terraces, and rice terraces, moving into the heart of the Igorot tribal territory as we go. Sagada is a complicated place: a small town in the mountains noted for a high level of education, fluency in English, strong connection to traditional tribal couture, spectacular mountain scenery, and a huge variety of activities and adventure sports. We’ll be here for 2 ½ days, and you’ll choose from a menu of activities including spelunking, canyon exploration, rock climbing, rafting, and mountain biking for the hardcore adventurers, along with scenic treks along ridgelines and to waterfalls or viewpoints and more culturally oriented visits to pottery, rattan weaving, and traditional backstrap loom weaving workshops and exposure to traditional villages and rice terraces. The food is excellent, so keep yourself active to make up for what you’ll eat! Day 3:- Sagada activities
Day 4:- Sagada activities
Day 5:- Travel Sagada-Bontoc (45 minutes), see the Bontoc museum, an excellent collection of tribal antiquities and a good introduction to traditional culture. We proceed through the magnificent scenery of the Upper Chico River Gorge (in season you’ll have the option of doing this section on a raft) to Kalinga Province, and to the traditional tribal village of Buscalan, where you’ll meet Whang-od, the last surviving practitioner of the traditional Kalinga tattoo style.
Day 6:- Morning in Buscalan (catch the sunrise for great photo ops), afternoon hike toTulgao, that is a traditional village set among sprawling rice terraces.
Day 7:- Hike to Dananao, another traditional village, with a stopover at a stunning combination of waterfall and hot spring, set only a few meters apart in a deep mountain gorge. Day 8:- Hike down to Tinglayan. Drive to Tabuk (this section can also be done by raft in season). Relax and recover from all of those tribal homestays at the Grand Zion Garden Resort… a bit of well-deserved comfort!
Day 9:- Drive up to the scenic north coast of Luzon, where mountains reach the sea, and the beach destination of Pagudpud, known for golden sand and spectacular sunsets.
Day 10:- Start the day with a Beach Day in Pagudpud. Relax and soak up the sand, sun, and sea… or try surfing, windsurfing , or kite surfing!
Day 11:- Day trip to Adams, a small town set in the midst of a tropical rain forest, inland over the first mountain range, jungle waterfall treks and river tubing await!
Day 12:- Drive to Laoag City (1 hr), fly out for Manila. More beach days can be added if desired. A stopover at the Mt Pinatubo Caldera can be added between Manila and Baguio if desired