A northern beauty of the Philippines, Batanes is a group of islands filled with vast pasture lands, rolling hills, towering volcanoes, dramatic cliffs, and crystal-clear waters — its untouched beauty, as some would say, is proof of the local people’s (Ivatan’s) respect for the laws of nture.
However… its far distance from the mainland, the extravagant flights and sudden weather changes can all make the trip an impossible task. In fact, these have made the islands an elusive paradise in itself; but like a challenge, a lot of people would always aim to unravel it for themselves.
For those who were fortunate enough to visit Batanes, it’s a common thing to hear them say that the terrain is akin to that of New Zealand, Ireland, or the Scottish Highlands. I’ve only been to New Zealand and I do see the resemblance. As a matter of fact, I would often beam with pride whenever I hear or read these compliments — after all, Batanes is my beloved hometown. I am really proud to be a pure-blooded Ivatan, and I absolutely feel lucky that I was brought up in these magnificent islands right from when I was born and up until high school.
FACT = One “downside” of growing up in such an amazing place like this: I’m very hard to please when it comes to natural terrain. Example: When I visited Austria, Croatia and the northern part of New Zealand (as examples), most of the people around me were crying out praises when they saw the beaches, mountains, cliffs, and/or hills.
Me? I just stood there and thought to myself, “This is nice.” And that was it.
This is NOT to say that those places weren’t great — because they were! It just so happens that scenes like that were ‘normal’ to me; so in order to get a more exuberant reaction from me, it has to be far more incredible (Faroe Islands would be an example).
Naturally, as a local, a lot of you have been asking me for tips and top things to do in Batanes. When this was first asked of me, I was at a complete loss because I left the islands when it wasn’t popular yet as a tourist destination; hence, as an example, I didn’t know much about existing logistics and hotels because they didn’t exist as much before! (It was only recently that the islands became well-known nationwide).
Nevertheless, as of this year, that has changed because I had the chance to revisit my hometown after 10 long years! I learned more about the new infrastructures, tours, and so much more — it actually surprised me to see that my little hometown wasn’t exactly the same old simple home that I knew. Still and the same, I can assure you that no matter the changes, Batanes’ beauty will forever remain.
Now without further ado, let me give you an idea on the activities that you can do when you’re in these islands for, let’s say, 5 days! With the help of Iraya Travel & Tours — a local DOT-accredited Batanes tour company that I recommend and trust — I have mapped out the itinerary below. Otherwise, with their assistance, you can tweak it around depending on the length of your stay. Enjoy!
*As Ive already mentioned, it’s a local tour operator, so I would highly recommend that you book with them in order to help the Ivatan community and economy.
5 Days Itinerary in Batanes
» PRE-TRAVEL GUIDE
Some quick and basic facts of Batanes before we go on…
- Small and nearer to Taiwan than the Philippines. It is comprised of 10 islands but with only 3 inhabited ones, namely: Batan, Sabtang, & Itbayat — with Batan being the main island and the most populated one given its 6 districts (one of which is Basco, the provincial ‘capital’ in which I grew up in.)
- Locals are called as “Ivatan”. Our exact origins are still untraced up till now and we have a total population of only about 17,000~, making us the smallest province in the country. Our language is also called as “Ivatan” which is regarded as unique to that of Tagalog, the main language in the Philippines; hence, Ivatan is not just merely a dialect but it’s now regarded as a unique language in itself.
- Very low crime rates. In fact, there’s almost no crime at all which can be attributed to the Ivatan’s good nature as well as the non-existent poverty in the islands. As a child, the only main ‘criminals’ that I ever saw in my hometown were Taiwanese fishermen who were often caught at sea when they cross the borders of the Philippines to do illegal fishing, etc. For sure, Ivatans might just be one of the nicest and most trustworthy people you’ll ever meet in your travels! To prove this point, we have a couple of ‘honesty shops’ in the islands wherein nobody is attending the store: as a customer, you get the things you want to buy and then handle the payment yourself.
- Experiences 4 seasons. It’s not an official thing, but technically, Batanes has very cold and chilly days from November to February, with the hottest months from March to May (with April as the driest). The rest of the months are often rainy and August is the month where we mostly experience typhoons — speaking of typhoons, we’re NOT really constantly battered by ill weather. Given our northernmost location, we’re just often used as a reference point for weather reports. Sure, we have our fair share of typhoons but unlike popular belief, it’s not too common.
When would be the best time to travel to Batanes?
Dry season which would be from December to May. It’s the safest time to go if you don’t want to get stranded or have your flight cancelled/delayed because of bad weather.
Wondering what Batanes food or Ivatan dishes that you must absolutely try?
Check out this blog post to find out: What & Where to Eat for the Best Ivatan Cuisine
Now, before I begin with the itinerary guide, if in case you’re more of a visual person, you can already watch my video below to get a ‘peek’ into the adventures that you can do when in Batanes!
» DAY #1 «
Below is what’s commonly referred to as “Batan North Tour” — as the name implies, you will venture through the top spots in the northern part of the main island of Batan.
I gotta say though… I couldn’t help giggling as Iraya Travel & Tours took me around because it was all a bit surreal — imagine, I was a true-blue local being toured around (where else but) in my own hometown! Anyhow, it was quite an experience and I surely saw Batan in a new light.
Do a Batan North Tour
◘◘ Mt. Carmel Chapel
Located at Sitio Tukon in Barangay Chanarian in Basco, this chapel is the most recently built worship house in Batanes and the only chapel adopted the stone house style. Its prime position above the hills has made it a popular spot not only for weddings but also for tourists who are looking for Instagram-worthy shots.
◘◘ Fundacion Pacita
This is Batanes’ only luxury hotel and rightly so as it is nestled above a picturesque hill that has a grand view over the sea and the surrounding Batan terrain. Rest assured, you’re free to wander inside its premises even if you’re not a hotel guest. You can also visit its indoor museum where Pacita Abad’s works are found. Who is Pacita? She is an internationally known artist who was a full-blooded Ivatan and Fundacion Pacita was her former home when she was still alive.
◘◘ PAG-ASA Radar Station
This used to be a USA weather station and climbing to the top of it will offer you great panoramic views over the island.
◘◘ Didawud Idjang (Fortress)
There are a total of 4 Idjangs in Batanes and this is one of them. In the olden times, the Ivatan people used it as fortifications (likened to castles) to protect themselves during times of war. originally, these are elevations that were formed by molten volcanic magma which acted as a plug on an extinct crater.
◘◘ Dipnaysuhuan Japanese Tunnel
Located in the hills of Tukon, this five-door tunnel that’s complete with a series of chambers, was a bunker that served as a lookout spot and a water reservoir during the Japanese occupation.
◘◘ Chanpan/Valugan Boulder Beach
This popularly known for its long stretch of boulders due to Mt. Iraya’s eruption in 400 AD. The rock formation, smoothed over time by the strong Pacific waves, presents a panoramic view over the horizon and of Mt. Iraya.
◘◘ Provincial Capitol area / Casa Real
Built between the 16th to 18th century, it’s a government building and commonly regarded as the center of the town (nearby, you will find a vast sports plaza where most of the island’s celebrations are usually held).
◘◘ Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral / Sto. Domingo Church
This is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Batanes and it is the first parish church to be built in the early 18th century in which it was originally made up of cogon grass roofing. It was also the first to have galvanized iron roofing in the 1890s. The feast of its patron saint, Sto. Domingo de Guzman, is celebrated by the Ivasays every August 8.
◘◘ Vayang Rolling Hills
These are seemingly endless waves of rolling hills that are perfectly backdropped by the seascape. It is best enjoyed from afar, but it is also best experienced when explored on foot; plus, this spot is the best vantage point for an unhampered view of the province’s three major islands.
◘◘ Naidi Hills and Basco Lighthouse
(One of my fave hang-out spots when I was young!) An old sitio derived from the Ivatan words “na” which means past, and “idi” which means settlement. Located here are old wireless telegraph facilities by the Americans which were bombed by Japan during World War II. One can also get a breathtaking view of the town atop the hilltop 66-feet lighthouse.
◘◘ Kural Marine Sanctuary
I remember visiting this place for picnics in the weekend with family, friends, and relatives! In 2005, it has been found that the marine life in this area is so rich and perfect for diving that it has been decided to properly protect it. After acquiring a pass, anyone can dive, swim, snorkel, and picnic here to enjoy its natural beauty.
If you’ve got the time, I highly recommend the following:
◘◘ Climb Mt. Iraya
Towering over Basco at approximately 1,009 meters above sea level, this dormant volcano is the first attraction you will see upon landing in the airport. To get a picture-perfect view, timing and patience are required since its peak is almost always covered by clouds. As for climbing this mountain, it can be quite challenging because of its abundant endemic flora and fauna, but it’s absolutely doable.
NOTE: It supplies the water in all households in Basco — so yes, when you’re in Batanes, you can drink from the tap! It’s safe and fresh spring water!
» DAY #2 «
Given that Batan is a huge island, this day will be spent on the southern parts as you go through the top highlights of the remaining areas: Mahatao, Uyugan, Ivana, Itbud, and Imnajbu.
*If you’re ever pressed on time, this Batan South Tour can be combined with the North Tour and can be done in a day. But of course, it’s always best to take it easy so that you can have more time (and photo ops!) in each location. Remember: you should make the most of your trip here!
Do a Batan South Tour
◘◘ Chawa Viewdeck
A perfect spot to enjoy Batanes sunsets! Via a nearby staircase, you can also descend more than a hundred steps down to the adjacent cliff to fish, take pictures, or frolic in the waters.
◘◘ Boat Shelter Port
Located in Mahatao, this supports the goals of the fishing industry of the province namely: fish sufficiency and generation of employment. It was constructed in October 2005 and as a 130-million pesos project, it is the biggest infrastructure project by the Provincial Government at that time. The area was chosen because of its cove-like structure that gives good protection to the boats during inclement weather.
◘◘ San Carlos Borromeo Church
Its beauty and excellent state of preservation made it a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2001. Outside the church, you will also find a typical olden Spanish lamp post — two vertical structures about 30 meters apart that were used to be manually lighted with fire so that the local fishermen could identify how far the shore is.
◘◘ Homoron Blue Lagoon (or Spanish Lagoon)
Located between Ivana and Mahatao, it’s an interesting spot because back in the Spanish era only the Spanish were allowed to take a dip there.
◘◘ Maydangeb White Beach
A cove with multi-colored rocks and white-colored sand, this spot can easily rival the beauty of Boracay! It is located along the national highway about 9 kilometers from Basco and is being maintained by both Mahatao and Ivana Local Government Units (LGU’s).
◘◘ Spanish Bridge
This was constructed and formed as part of the main road of Ivana during the Spanish period as the road leads to the doorstep of the Church. It is still being used to date by people and trucks alike.
◘◘ House of Dakay
Probably the most photographed Ivatan house in the islands, this was built of lime and stone in 1887 and owned by Luisa Estrella who bequeathed it to her favorite nephew, Jose “Dakay” Estrella. A survivor of the destructive earthquake of September 13, 1918 which has destroyed much of the rest of the town, its shutters and floor have never changed and has retained much of its authentic look throughout the decades.
◘◘ San Jose de Obrero Church
Built in 1784 by Fr. Jose Fausto de Cuevas, it is the only church in Batan with a separate bell tower that was constructed 30 years later. Built by the coastal area, it is here where Katipunero revolutionaries that commanded by Captain Perea have landed on September 18, 1898 to liberate the province from the Spaniards.
◘◘ Honesty Coffee Shop
An unmanned refreshment store which has become famous worldwide. Showcasing the best of Ivatan’s honesty, in here you will find no standby seller because the owners rely on the honesty of its customers when they pay for goods taken from the store.
◘◘ Song-song Ruins
Remnants of an old settlement which were ravaged by tsunami in the 1950s. Residents were given homesteads in Mindanao under the Magsaysay resettlement program and today, it is a thriving coastal community again.
◘◘ Itbud Town
This is where the best-tasting local wine called palek comes from and where maytuab and sinadumparan (local Ivatan stone houses) still stand. It had the largest population on Batan’s south-eastern part in the 18th century due to stable water supply spring and a well-fortified idjang.
◘◘ Itbud Idjang
One of the 4 Idjangs in Batanes. In here, rock carvings are still evident (probably for water storage), as well as their gathering/meeting area and the rocks with bored holes for anchors are still intact.
◘◘ Alapad Pass and Hills
Offers a captivating view of several rolling hills and the vast expanse of the sea — a location made popular by the Filipino movie “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit”, starred by Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta.
◘◘ LORAN Station
“Long-Range Aid to Navigation” where the US Coast Guards were based. Its lawns and buildings that were once beautiful and well-kept have deteriorated and were ruined after the Americans left and abandoned it in the 1960s. Today, it is a National Museum Branch.
◘◘ Rakuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country)
Dubbed by American tourists as Malboro Country because of its similar contour, endless rolling hills, and wind-swept communal pasturelands for cows, carabaos and horses. For sure, this is a perfect spotfor nature-lovers and photographers.
◘◘ Diura Fishing Village
A sitio in Basco’s eastern part where an association of fishermen called mataw still practice the traditional fishing for arayu (dorado type of fish). They also still observe an old ritual called kapayvanuvanua which signifies the start of the fishing season in March.
◘◘ Disvayangan Beach Front
A row of private picnic house with basic facilities adjacent to a government-operated recreation building featuring two bowling lanes and a billiards room.
◘◘ Tayid Lighthouse
Erected in 2000, this colonial-looking beacon offers a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, as well as other parts of Batan Island and its rugged mountain cliffs that face the West Philippine Sea.
◘◘ Ranum ni Kumalakal / Rakuh-a-idi (Spring of Youth)
A man-made pool with spring water and a view of the Pacific Ocean and Mt. Iraya. This spot is truly ideal for picnics (and photo ops!).
» DAY #3 «
Sabtang is one of the inhabited islands in Batanes and depending on the strength of the waves, it is an “exciting” 30 to 1 hour boat ride from Ivana in Batan Island.
TRIVIA: I may have been raised in Batanes but I have never — I repeat — never had the chance to visit Sabtang nor Itbayat. Yes, I know, shame on me! For years, I’ve heard of tales from my family and friends about the beauty of these islands and its “eventful” boat rides; so it was about time that I finally headed over to this place… and boy, I absolutely regretted not coming sooner!
Make your way to Sabtang Island
◘◘ Savidug Community (Vernacular Houses)
A village which is abound with traditional Ivatan houses. In fact, it is the area where the endangered black face spoonbill was sighted years ago. To this day, it continues to fly in the area.
◘◘ Savidug Idjang (Fortress)
Among the 4 Idjangs in Batanes, this is considered to be the most beautiful and perfectly shaped.
◘◘ Chamantad–Tinyan Viewpoint
Located between Savidug and Chavayan, this place offers spectacular view of nature and the Pacific Ocean. Take your sweet time lounging here since the sights are quite stunning!
◘◘ Chavayan Community / Barrio
This is arguably the cradle of Ivatan culture and heritage. Famous for its rows of old houses, narrow streets, and old sites, Chavayan is likely to leave lasting memories on your visit. Its Chapel, the only church in Batanes still roofed with cogon grass, is a stone’s throw away from a picturesque shore.
◘◘ Nakabuang (Ahaw Stone Arch) in Morong Beach
One of the iconic and most photographed spots in Batanes because of its natural rock arch formation in an ideal beach cove.
» DAY #4 «
If Sabtang island will leave you speechless, Itbayat island will make your mouth drop to the floor. Then again — traveling here is no joke! The waves can be harsher than the journey to Sabtang and it will take about 2 to 4 hours; yet without a doubt, it will all be worth it!
Now, since the waves can be quite volatile, it’s best to inquire about this trip beforehand with the Ivatan locals. Otherwise, it’s better that you have spare days on your trip just in case you can’t ride a boat back to Batan island because of bad weather.
NOTE: If the 4-hour boat trip doesn’t sound ‘fun’ to you, you can also fly to Itbayat via NorthSky Airlines which is a small 8-seater plane that flies every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It takes about 15 minutes and the fare will be about Php 1,800 one way. However, please take note that it will only fly if ALL seats are full.
Explore Itbayat Island
◘◘ Turungan Cave & Hills
The most ancient dwelling place in Batanes. It is believed to be the first landing place of the Austronesians who came from Formosa, Taiwan in 4000 BC. Today, it is an area where stone boat-shaped burial markers are found, and it is is believed that this is the burial grounds of the cave’s ancient settlers.
◘◘ Kumayasakas Cave River
An underground stream which flows to the sea and is a newly-developed water source for the community.
◘◘ Rapang Cliff
Must-see! This is a natural park comprised of forest, cliffs and rocky hills where bonsai arius trees are abundant along a grazing area for goats. One unique formation that you’ll find here is a flat stone which lies naturally upon another stone and when you strike it with another stone, it produces a bell-like sound. Apparently, it served as an alarm for the ancients inhabitants against approaching enemies and a signal for community meetings and for gathering goats.
A sinkhole that serves as the town’s giant drainage. It was explored by a German doctor named Gechard Schmith in 1993 and was found to be around 45-meter deep and has two big chambers with a narrow passage in between. Apparently, it’s regarded as a ‘haunted’ sinkhole because it is where the ancient Ivatans threw witches as punishment according to the old justice system.
◘◘ Vernacular Houses
These are combinations of European and Itbayat architecture with thick walls of stone and lime and several layers of cogon for roofing. They are proven to withdstand strong typhoons, earthquakes and other calamities, and can withstand the harshest ‘local’ winter from December to February.
If you’ve got the time, I highly recommend the following:
◘◘ Climb Mt. Karububuan
The town’s highest point at about 280 meters above sea level. The historical significance of this mountain is that is the other ‘pair’ of Mt. Riposed which is one of the island’s foundations and old settlement for the early settlers.
◘◘ Climb Mt. Ripused
As one of the two volcanoes considered to have been the foundation of Itbayat, it affords a breathtaking panorama of the different parts of the island.
◘◘ Sail to nearby Siayan Island
Abou a 4 to 5-hour boat ride from Itbayat, Siayan is acknowledged as one of the most beautiful spots in the area. This is basically an 87-63 hectare island surrounded by beautiful white beaches and rich coral reefs which is home to lush marine life. (The same goes for the nearby uninhabited island of Mavulis).
» DAY #5 «
At this point, you have basically explored the inhabited group of islands in Batanes! So either take your time exploring the town on foot as you mingle more with the locals — or do some other unique activities below:
Other Activites and Options
◘◘ Experience fishing with the local fishermen
Usually done around the town of Basco, you’ll have an extraordinary fishing experience using nylon, and hook — one of the typical methods used by the Ivatans.
◘◘ Bike around the island
Instead of having the luxury of motor transportation to go around the island of Batan, you can opt to challenge yourself and get fit! After all, traveling from Basco to the southern parts and back is perfectly doable in a day (I did this a lot with my high school friends back when I was still living in Basco).
◘◘ Join a local festivity
One of the BEST things that you can ever do in Batanes to make the most of your stay is to join one of the local celebrations, fiestas, or festivals to best see the local custom and culture. So go and time your visit if you can! The main fiesta you should witness is Batanes Day (happens on June 26) and it’s usually a week-long celebration consisting of fairs, parades, sports festivals, and shows where you can watch Palo-Palo Dance, Fundanggo, Sagalas & Gozos, and more! Other festivities are as follows:
– Savidug Sabtang Fiesta (Around January)
– Ivana Fiesta (May 1)
– Uyugan Fiesta (May 10)
– Diptan Fiesta (June 13)
– Valugan Fiesta (June 27)
– Basco Fiesta (August 8)
– Sinakan Sabtang Fiesta (October 1)
– Itbayat Fiesta (October 7)
– Mahatao Fiesta (November 4)
– Itbud Fiesta (November 27)
NOTE: During fiestas, you can visit any house to celebrate, meet, and eat with them — yes, even if you don’t know them! Everyone’s welcome to do so. Back when my Ivatan friends and I were younger, we often jokingly comment that this house-hopping spree during fiestas was like a grand buffet experience because we can survey the houses and pick the best food spots. LOL.
Other than the fiestas above, do come visit during Christmas. We have a lot of events happening during the holidays while also enjoying a real chilly December (which is not so common throughout the Philippines).
Wondering what Batanes food or Ivatan dishes that you must absolutely try?
Check out this blog post to find out: What & Where to Eat for the Best Ivatan Cuisine
It’s clear to see that Batanes has a LOT to offer — and more! In fact, it might just have something for just about anyone.
So what are you waiting for…? If you’re looking for a tranquil escape or an unforgettable vacation, make your way to this northernmost paradise of the Philippines and I guarantee you that it will be worth your while.
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Hey there! I am Aileen Adalid.
At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to pursue my dreams. Today, I am a successful digital nomad (entrepreneur, travel writer, & vlogger) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.
My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel too, and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel guides, adventures, resources, tips, and MORE!
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