Ilocos Norte greeted me with beautiful weather. I was a bit worried going there because there was a typhoon, and it was raining hard the day before our trip. Thankfully, the weather stopped being gloomy and moved on to welcome us warmly on the day of our tour.
We were invited to Ilocos by Metro Vigan Fiesta Garden Hotel, where we also spent our nights. This upscale hotel in Bantay (Ilocos Sur) is known for offering a variety of accommodation options for tourists and business travelers alike, but they are also now offering day tours of Ilocos. These tours are: Vigan Tour, Laoag Tour, and Pagudpud Tour. This post covers our tours of Laoag (and neighboring towns) and Pagudpud.
Check rates or book this hotel here: Metro Vigan Fiesta Garden Hotel
I had no idea how it is during peak season because I visited on a weekday. I was feeling a bit nostalgic while in transit, passing by slow-paced daily barrio scenes like a lady sweeping the the front yard, an elderly woman watering plants, a farmer feeding the carabaos, or an elderly man just enjoying the early morning coffee in front of his house.
While on the way to the first destination, my companions and I were treated to breathtaking views of the sea. It is better to bring or rent private vehicles when going around Ilocos Norte because you and your group can have much control on the itinerary. You can also stop by the roadside and eat your packed lunch while enjoying the view of the sea or try the the roadside “carinderias”.
During my day-long trip, I was able to explore a few of the many places Ilocos Norte has to offer. I brought extra clothes with me in case: (a) I decide to go for a swim; (b) I get sweaty and need to change clothes; and/or (c) there’s OOTD-worthy landscape (a little vanity won’t hurt, right?). All set. Lock and load!
1. Patapat Viaduct, Pagudpud
The bridge is located in the municipality of Pagudpud. The Patapat Viaduct is the fourth longest bridge in the Philippines, stretching 1.3 km long and connecting the Maharlika Highway from Laoag to the Cagayan Valley. It’s a concrete bridge at 31 meters above sea level. This is worth a stop before heading to the Blue Lagoon. The view will not disappoint.
2. Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud
A few kilometers away from Patapat Viaduct is the Blue Lagoon Cove. Although the white sand is not as powdery and fine as that of Boracay, its turquoise blue water attracts visitors and beachgoers. There are a number of resorts and hotels lining the coastline of Maira-ira Beach, popularly known as the Blue Lagoon. It really depends on you and your group which resort caters to your needs and interests.
3. Bangui Windfarm
Also known as the Northwind Bangui Bay Project, the wind farm is located in the municipality of Bangui. It presently has 20 units of wind turbines standing 326 meters from each other, lining along Bangui Bay, facing the West Philippine Sea. All 20 wind turbines combined can supply electricity for a total capacity of 33 MW; furthermore, this venture contributes around 40% of Ilocos Norte’s power supply. They were the first in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.
And here, ladies and gentlemen, was where I had my OOTD photo session.
4. Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Burgos
The Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is located in the municipality of Burgos, facing the waves of Bangui Bay. It’s just minutes away from the Bangui Wind Farm.
The name is derived from the Ilocano word “puraw”, which means white. The rock formation, which looks like a sculptural masterpiece, is caused by weathering. Yes, that’s nature at work.
The bleached appearance of the rocks makes it blinding when the sun is high and bright. It’s better to bring sunglasses and a hat if you happen to visit during those times.
5. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
Also known as Burgos Lighthouse, this cultural heritage structure was established during the Spanish Colonial period in the Philippines. Perched on Vigia de Nagpartian Hill in Burgos, it has been a welcoming guide to the international ships entering the Philippine archipelago since 1892. This 20-meter tall tower also serves as the landmark for the northwestern most point in Luzon. It was declared a National Historical Landmark on August 13, 2004.
The renovation was almost complete when we visited. I only noticed two men doing minor construction and repair. I was actually surprised to learn that the lighthouse also serves as a museum. It was a treat for me, because I am really into museums and history.
Visitors have to leave their vehicles at the designated parking area not too far away from where the lighthouse is located. You can either walk or ride a tricycle going to the lighthouse. If you are the outdoor-type of traveler and you are not pressed for time, you may walk. If you don’t want to walk, a tricycle can take you there at Php10 per head (the price when we visited in September 2016).
6. Malacanang of the North, Paoay
It is also known in the local dialect as “Malacanang ti Amianan”. It was built in a 5-hectare property in Suba, Paoay as the official (holiday) residence in Ilocos of the then president Ferdinand Marcos and his family. The spacious living room and receiving area, the veranda, the capiz-shell windows, and the wide backyard reflect the family’s famous lifestyle. Presently, it has been transformed into a museum. My tip: Appreciate the relaxing view of the Paoay Lake from the veranda.
It was late afternoon when we arrived, just a few minutes before closing for the day. For those of you who want to include this in your itinerary, it is open from Tuesday to Sunday (9am – 4pm) with Php30 admission fee per head.
7. Paoay Sand Dunes
There are two popular sand dunes sites in Ilocos Norte – the Paoay Sand Dunes in Barangay Suba, Paoay, and the La Paz Sand Dunes in Barangay La Paz, Laoag. We went to the former. The Paoay Sand Dunes is nature’s work of art encompassing 88 sq km of landscape molded by the strong northern winds.
We specifically planned to go to Paoay Sand Dunes late afternoon, before sunset. For me, the best time to go there is either before sunrise or before sunset because not only is the view wonderfully cinematic, you can also avoid getting sunburned. As planned, we arrived there just before sunset, and boy was it the best experience! I love outdoor activities, and this place did not disappoint. It became the highlight of my Ilocos Norte trip – from the 4×4 ride to group jump shots to the sand boarding activity to appreciating the beauty of sunset by the sea.
The package rate for the 4×4 and sand boarding ride is Php2500 (good for 4-5 persons). Since five of us participated, we paid 500 each. Not bad.
8. Paoay Church
Saint Augustine Church is most commonly known as Paoay Church. Completed in 1710, the church is recognized as a National Cultural Treasure (declared by the Philippine Government in 1973) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective group of Baroque Churches of the Philippines (1993).
Famous for its enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the church building, which not only serve as visual delight but also function as countermeasure against earthquakes, the church is the Philippine’s primary example of a Spanish colonial earthquake baroque architecture. Its walls are made of large coral stones on the lower part and bricks at the upper portions.
HOW TO GET TO ILOCOS NORTE
BY AIR: This is the most convenient and fastest way to go to Ilocos Norte. It will take you around 45 minutes from Manila to Laoag International Airport. Check your preferred airline for the flight schedule and airfare.
BY LAND: This is a much cheaper option. There are several bus companies along Cubao and Pasay offering the Manila-Laoag route. It will take you 8-10 hours to get to Laoag via these air-conditioned buses. Check your preferred bus company for the schedule and fare.
Like what I mentioned previously, it is better to rent your own vehicle if you are a big group – convenient, time-saving, and (would turn out to be) cheaper most of the time. If you are going solo or with a friend or two, you can do a DIY tour but take note of the public transport terminal schedule and plan your itinerary well to avoid unnecessary shelling out of money and save yourself from spending more than what you’ve initially planned.