Ilocos Norte is approximately 10-12 hours far from Metro Manila by land. You would probably start thinking, who’s crazy enough to take a long bus ride up north? Apparently, us! So, was the long haul worth it?
It’s inevitable if you’re travelling on a budget. Long bus rides don’t have to suck especially if you do it with friends. In our case, it didn’t, not only we are travelling with good friends but because we slept right through the land trip. Haha! But, seriously. Just think about what awaits you up rich Ilocano culture, beautiful Ilocos Norte tourist spots interesting pieces of history, well-preserved Colonial buildings, variety of Ilocano flavors, and your unique experience.
TIP: Take a night bus to maximize your time especially if you only have a few days to spend. We rode Farinas bus around 11 pm and we arrived in Ilocos Norte around 10 am the following day.
How to Get to Ilocos Norte
By Plane: Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have daily trips bound to Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
By Bus: Bus companies like Partas, Florida and Fariñas have bus trips going Laoag, Ilocos Norte everyday. We took the 11 pm First Class bus from Fariñas terminal bound for Laoag and paid PHP 750/pax. There will be 2-3 stopovers the whole trip so you can stretch your legs or grab something to eat.
How to Go Around Ilocos Norte
By Tricycle: Tricycle tour around Laoag, Paoay and Batac costs around Php 600.
By Van: Tour around Laoag, Paoay, Batac and Pagudpud costs around Php2,500.
Tip: It’s best to hire a van if you’re travelling in a big group. We arranged a van that will tour us around beautiful and must-visit places in Ilocos Norte the whole day and paid PHP 2,500. The driver can also serve as your tour guide. Don’t be shy to ask questions or recommendations. There are a lot of things you can learn straight from Ilocanos.
What to See in Ilocos Norte
Taoid Museum also known as Taoid: A Museum of the Cordilleras in Ilocos Norte is located in La Tabacalera Ilocano Lifestyle Center and just a few steps away from the Laoag Provincial Capitol.
Taoid is an Iloko word that means shared heritage. A fitting name for a museum that showcases the shared heritage between Ilocanos and Cordillerans. It is a two-story museum that showcases their unique way of life, intricate arts, trade patterns, rituals, beliefs and their interesting culture as a whole.
It’s an intimate exhibition that perfectly captured the life of these tribes and used to educate everyone, young ones, arts and culture enthusiasts, and tourists. Don’t forget to drop by if you have a thirst for history and to know the deep connection between llocanos and the Cordillera tribes.
Entrance Fee: PhP40 for adults and PhP30 for children aged 7-12 years old.
Open daily: 8 AM – 5 PM.
Museo Ilocos Norte
Museo Ilocos Norte also known as Gameng Museum is located beside Taoid Museum. It is set in a building that was used as a Tabacalera warehouse during the Spanish colonial period. It got it’s name from the Iloko word Gameng, which means treasure and symbolizes Ilocos Norte’s wealth.
The museum is like a gateway to the rich history of Ilocos. It houses a big collection of Itneg, Igorot and Ilocano old agricultural tools, hunting tools, woven handicrafts, traditional clothing, household tools, ceremonial tools and a regal replica of a 19th century Ilustrado ancestral house.
For an entrance fee of P50 per person, this is definitely a worthwhile attraction that both the old and the young will appreciate. Visiting this museum first, will set a reminiscent tone for your whole trip and will give you a glimpse of other prominent sights and treasures sheltered by Laoag.
Entrance Fee: PhP 50/person
Open from 9am-noon & 1-5pm Mon-Sat, from 10am Sun
The Sinking Bell Tower
The Sinking Bell Tower has etched its way into becoming one of the top Laoag tourist attractions. The Augustinians constructed it in 1612 as the bell tower of St. Williams Cathedral but they are apart by 85 meters, the farthest among other churches and their belfries.
It earned its moniker “the sinking tower bell” because it stands over soft and sandy foundations, and it has been sinking below the ground at a rate of one inch every year. If you’ll look closer, you will notice that the bell tower leans slightly to the North.
It has lost its luster over the years and was replaced with old and rustic ambiance. But despite that, The Sinking Bell Tower will not sink in everyone’s memories but will remain as a stalwart treasure of Laoag.
Entrance Fee: Free
Open: Mondays through Saturdays.
La Paz Sand Dunes
The La Paz Sand Dunes is 85 km stretch of protected beach and coastal desert in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. This open expanse serves as a playground for thrill seekers. If rugged terrain ride piques your interest and you want to try a different kind of surfing, then Lapaz Sand Dunes is the place to be.
We were lucky to have the entire place just to ourselves when we arrived. The long stretch of sand dunes, biting air and neatly lined up 4×4 jeeps greeted us. We signed the waiver forms right away, paid the fee, hopped on the jeep and braved the 4×4 ride. The sand dunes looked low from afar but it looked a tad scary when you’re already on top. But don’t worry because your guide will remind you to hold on tight before each and exciting drop.
There will be a few stops in between the 4×4 ride. Make the most of this time soaking up the beauty of this nature’s masterpiece up North.
Tip: You can ask your guide’s companion to take your photos or video while enjoying the 4×4 ride. We did, and it may not be the most flattering video but it’s definitely something for keeps.
Sandboarding was up next. You can do this in two ways. First is by placing your feet on the hooks, and then sliding down the slope. Second is by sliding down the sandy slope while sitting on the board. Third is by doing it flat on your stomach and sliding down headfirst.
Our hearts may have skipped a beat while doing these activities but our experience is definitely one for the books.
Tip: Sand boarding is unlimited according to our tour guide, so make the most of this. Not sure if this is possible during peak season but there’s no harm in asking, right?
Entrance Fee: Php 2,500 for 4 pax for 4×4 and sand boarding
Open: 6 AM to 5 PM
Malacañang of the North
Our third stop is the Malacanang of the North or Malacanan ti Amianan as referred to by locals, which is located in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. It is a gift from the former first lady Imelda Marcos to his husband’s 60th birthday, former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Combining the Spanish and Ilocano architecture worked well for the 2-storey mansion. It highlighted its similarities with the “bahay na bato”, which was prevalent in the Spanish era.
What’s the best part of the palace of the North?
A wide stretch of open space on the second floor accented with antique furniture filled by a friendly gust of wind and a balcony overlooking the Paoay Lake.
Serene, Beautiful and Calming.
Entrance Fee: PhP 20/person
Open from 9:00AM to 4:00PM, Tuesday to Sunday.
Paoay Church popularly known as St. Augustine Church is the source of pride of Laoag. It is famous for its distinct Baroque architecture – 24 huge buttresses at sides and back of the church, walls made of huge large coral stones, and its massive façade made of brick and corals.
If you’re into old churches with rustic and intricate features, a visit to this National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines and UNESCO World Heritage site will not disappoint you.
Entrance Fee: Free
Marcos Museum also referred to as Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center is located in Batac, Ilocos Norte. This museum is dedicated in giving visitors a glimpse of his childhood and in showcasing all the accomplishments of the late President from his time of service in the AFP to his presidency.
Dropping by this museum is a must if you want to have a quick look at the life of Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda Marcos, and a rich part of Philippine history.
Entrance fee: Php 50
Open from 9:00AM–12:00NN and 1:00PM–4:30PM daily.
Juan Luna Shrine
Juan Luna Shrine is located in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. It is a reconstructed two-storey ancestral home of Juan Luna, is a Filipino painter, sculptor and political activist during the late 19th century.
This ancestral home turned museum houses replicas of his award-winning works like Spoliarium, The Blood Compact, and The Battle of Lepanto to name a few.
If you appreciate art and history, then dropping by this museum is a must.
Unfortunately, we just passed by this hidden gem on our way to Vigan. Our driver asked us if we want to check out the shrine but we were already too hammered to go down. We make bad decisions on trips once in awhile and this was ours. We hope we can go back to Ilocos Norte again and swing by Juan Luna Shrine.
Entrance Fee: None
Open from 8 am -5pm (Tuesday to Sunday)
Tip: It’s best to avail either the Laoag City tour or Vigan City tour if you want to visit Badoc’s hidden treasure. DIY is a challenge since it is an hour away from Laoag City and buses passing Badoc will not pass by this shrine.
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
This seashell-white rock formation stands beautifully on the rocky coast of Burgos, an hour away from Laoag city. It got it’s name from the Ilocano word “puraw”, which translates to “white”, thus the name Kapurpurawan rock formation.
Natural elements like wind, air, heat and erosion sculpted this rock formation for millions of years. Luckily for us, nature nature is a very patient artist and has a knack in creating breathtaking masterpieces.
This is one of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte’s centerpieces that you shouldn’t miss.
Entrance Fee: Php 20
Open From: 6 am – 6 pm
Bangui Windmills is located in a wind farm in Bangui Bay, Ilocos Norte. It is considered as one of a kind structure in the Philippines and the biggest in Southeast Asia, having 20 wind turbines that are 70 meters in height with 41 meters motor blade and 326 meters apart.
There is nothing much to do here but marvel at this magnificent structures and appreciate the project that helps Filipinos sustain renewable energy. Over the years, these windmills have evolved and became one of the top Pagudpud tourist attractions.
Entrance Fee: Free
Where to Eat in Ilocos Norte
Herencia Restaurant is just across Paoay Church. We loved everything about this cafe from its unique accents like sewing machine table down to its homey ambience. Their menu is teeming with classic Ilocano favorites like Bagnet and Pinakbet, and something new to everyone’s palate, the Pinakbet Pizza. We decided to order what’s familiar so we chose Ilocano dishes.
We’ll definitely try Pinakbet pizza and other Ilocano dishes with a twist, when we go back.
Where to Stay in Ilocos Norte?
Here are TripAdvisor’s 5 Best Hotels in Ilocos Norte:
Address: Bgy. Pancian, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Contact Number: (0920) 952 0662
2. Java Hotel
Address: Gen. Segundo Avenue, Bgy. 55-B Salet, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
Contact Numbers: +63917-500-5282 / +63922-803-5282 / +63939-916-5800
Address: Rizal St., cor. Guerrero St., Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
Contact Number: +63 (077) 770-4898
Address: Bgy. 37 Calayab, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
Contact Number: (+63) 917-599-4863
Barangay Victoria, Currimao, Ilocos Norte , Philippines
Contact Number: (02) 404-4784
Here’s a roundup of our tips in case you missed them plus additional information:
- Take the night bus from Manila to Laoag to save time and money.
- Hire a van that will tour you around Laoag City, Paoay and etc.
- Ask your guide to take your photos and videos during the 4×4 ride and sandboarding.
- 4×4 ride and sandboarding costs Php 2,500 for a group of four.
- Sandboarding is unlimited according to our guide. But ask first if this is possible even during peak season.
- Visit the La Paz Sand Dunes in the afternoon so it will not be that hot and to witness the sunset.
- Avail the Laoag City tour or Vigan City Tour in order to visit Juan Luna Shrine.
We hope we were able to inspire you to go out, start off your own adventure, and see Ilocos Norte with your own eyes. Feel free to drop by our comments section and share your travel experience with us.
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