Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. The most populous too! While it’s most known as the location of the country’s capital, the northern part of it is a dream destination for nature lovers. It is home to spectacular towering mountains, wondrous rice terraces, beautiful beaches, and scenic views of forests and lush greeneries. From the towering Mt. Pulag and the fascinating Banaue Rice Terraces to the coasts of La Union and the rolling hills of Batanes, there’s so much to explore and do when in this part of the country.
You’ll be feasting not only your eyes, you’ll be in for some culinary experiences, too, with Ilocano cuisine as one of the most popular in the Philippines.
This brief guide to Northern Luzon will let you know how to get there, what to do, eat, and drink, where to stay, and must-see spots.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: This guide recommends that booking for Northern Luzon summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Northern Luzon in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
There are many ways to get here depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while in Northern Luzon : Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The following are the major ports of entry for this destination.
The following are the modes of transportation available in Northern Luzon …
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while in Northern Luzon.
1 | Marvel at the rice terraces in Cordillera
While the one in Banaue is the most popular, there are actually other rice terraces found in Cordillera particularly in the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province. These majestic manmade wonders have been around for hundreds of years yet they continue to impress everyone by the way they were built using traditional practices. The ancient staircase-like paddies are a popular attraction and have become an icon of the region.
2 | Climb Mount Pulag
Mount Pulag is the highest peak in Luzon and the third highest in the country. It is most known for its sea of clouds and the breathtaking view of the sunrise, sunset, and Milky Way Galaxy at dawn therefore attracting several mountain climbers and hikers. Not only that, the mountain is also home to a large diversity of flora and fauna so that makes the climb more interesting and rewarding.
3 | Hike at Sierra Madre
Aside from Mount Pulag, Northern Luzon also has Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the Philippines. Its highest peak may not be as high as Mount Pulag but it’s a favorite destination among adventure seekers as there are national parks and protected areas, major rivers along the mountain range, several waterfalls, and a volcano. It has rich biodiversity and some endangered species endemic to the Philippines are found within its range.
4 | Escape to Batanes
Batanes is the northernmost and the smallest province in the country. It takes pride in its unspoilt beauty of rolling hills and picturesque pastureland as well as postcard-worthy lighthouses and stone houses. It is a perfect destination for anyone seeking a peaceful refuge and to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
5 | See the heritage sites in Ilocos Sur
When talking about Ilocos Sur, the first thing that comes to mind is Vigan. Aside from being the capital of the province, its heritage houses, cobblestone streets, and Spanish architecture attract tourists who are into these things. But there is more to Vigan and Ilocos Sur than its rich history. In the province is a mini zoo and an adventure zone. You can even try your skill in loom weaving and pottery. Ilocos Sur is truly a great destination to walk down memory lane and learn a craft or two.
6 | Explore Ilocos Norte
While in the region, you shouldn’t miss Ilocos Norte. It has its own share of rich heritage in the form of centuries-old churches, museum, bell tower, and a historical lighthouse made of bricks and bronze cupola. The province is even more interesting especially for thrill-seekers as it has Suba Sand Dunes where one can experience a 4×4 trail ride and unlimited sand boarding. And if those aren’t enough, you’d get to feast your eyes on the breathtaking views at the Patapat Viaduct, Bangui Windmills, and Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.
7 | Experience authentic Ilocano cuisine
Ilocano dishes are known to be tasty and delicious, almost unforgettable. There’s no better place to experience authentic Ilocano cuisine than in Ilocos. Try bagnet, pinakbet, dinengneng, pinapaitan, and don’t forget to bring home empanada and Vigan longganisa.
8 | Surf in La Union
La Union, particularly the town of San Juan, is a popular surfing spot in this part of the country. In addition to great surf breaks, it’s become a favorite destination among surfers beginners and experts alike due to its close proximity to Manila. Around the town are surf shops and schools, beach bars, restaurants, and resorts for more comfortable, relaxing, and fun stay.
9 | Enjoy the cooler temperature in Baguio
Baguio City enjoys a colder climate which is about 7 to 8 degrees Celsius lower than most cities in the country. Tourists flock the city to escape the heat especially during summer which therefore earned the city the nickname Summer Capital of the Philippines. Aside from being a summer refuge in the mountains, Baguio City is also a melting pot of history, culture, relaxation, and nature – a great place for family and friends to explore and unwind.
10 | Get traditional tattoo in Kalinga
Several local and foreign tourists alike endure the 10-hour drive to Buscalan in Kalinga to meet and get inked by Apo Whang-od, the oldest mambabatok (traditional tattooist) in the country. Batok is a traditional hand-tapped tattooing using a thorn from a citrus tree attached to a bamboo stick. The ink is made up of a mixture of ink and water. While she’s often referred to as the last mambabatok, she’s training a grandniece to continue the tradition.
NOTE: The Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City occurs annually every 4th Sunday of February.
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while in Nrthern Luzon.
1 | Amare La Cucina
Located inside EGI Albergo Hotel in Baguio, Amare La Cucina is the place to be when looking to satisfy your Italian cuisine cravings. This most popular Italian restaurant in Baguio boasts of its traditional wood fire brick oven pizzas and the pasta, ribs, and even the gelato are equally good based on customer reviews. With accommodating staff and reasonable prices, Amare La Cucina is definitely worth trying when in Baguio City.
2 | Baguio Craft Brewery
Anyone who loves good beers shouldn’t miss Baguio Craft Brewery where beers are freshly brewed and do not contain additives. Try their Passion Fruit beer, their best seller or their signature Lagud Strawberry beer. Other unique craft beers to try are Rolling Fog Wheat Ale, Zigzagger IPA, Old Xavier, and English Man in New York.
3 | Bergblick Restaurant
The only fine dining restaurant in Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte, Bergblick offers International, German, and Filipino cuisine. The restaurant is vegetarian-friendly and takes pride in using fresh and organically-grown ingredients, particularly vegetables. They serve local dishes like bagnet and sinigang as well as Western favorites like pasta, pizza, and creme brulee, the restaurant’s bestseller.
4 | Casa Napoli
The top restaurant in Batanes based on reviews, Casa Napoli serves Italian favorites made of fresh and homegrown ingredients. The space is small and can accommodate around 12 people at a time so expect to wait to be accommodated when dining during peak hours. Try their fried chicken, Luñiz pasta (local pork dish), and of course pizza which is what the restaurant is known for.
5 | Farmer’s Daughter Restaurant
A well-loved restaurant among locals and tourists alike, Farmer’s Daughter in Baguio serves traditional Cordilleran dishes Etag (Sagada-style smoked and salted pork), Pinuneg (sauteed Ibaloi sausages), Pak-pako (garden salad made from fresh river ferns), and kinuday, the best seller. The use of fresh vegetables and native wines makes the dishes more appetizing.
6 | Gaia Cafe & Crafts
Gaia Cafe & Crafts is a community-based cafe a short walk away from Sumaguing Cave in Sagada. Built from local materials and scraps, this humble cafe is located on a cliff and offers scenic views of Kapay-Aw rice terraces. The cafe is known to be serving mostly organic dishes made of locally-sourced ingredients like organic raw sugar, naturally-brewed soy sauce, and natural vinegar. They also practice sustainability by discouraging the use of plastic and recycling or reusing non-biodegradables.
7 | Hill Station
A fine dining restaurant, Hill Station has a cozy cabin setup and serves a range of Asian-European dishes like Crispy Belly Pork and Dulong Pasta, their bestsellers. While it’s not for those who are on a tight budget, it’s a good choice for anyone who wants to indulge and experience fine dining in Baguio City.
8 | La Preciosa
This two-story house turned into a restaurant offers not only traditional savory Ilocano dishes but mouth-watering pastries as well. Located in Laoag City, La Preciosa is known to have the best carrot cake in Ilocos although their cheesecake and moist chocolate cake are good too. Other must-try dishes include Pancit Lusay and Warek-warek.
9 | Phil’s Brew
Phil’s Brew is a homey little spot in Basco that serves the best coffee in the area as well as pastries and other Ivatan delicacies. Must-try includes tres leches, chocolate cake, and dukayo (local root crop and sweetened coconut).
10 | Sagada Brew
Sagada Brew is more than just a cafe serving coffee and light snacks. It is also a great place to have breakfast, lunch, or indulge your sweet tooth in homemade pastries. Though quite small, the cafe attracts people for its charm and good food particularly callos, salad, and roast beef.
KNOWN FOR: Strawberry and Strawberry Products, Vigan Longganisa, Empanada, Bagnet
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WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following is your guide to our top choices for each range in Northern Luzon.
1 | Oyo 492 Sunset View Ridge Residences (Budget)
2 | G1 Lodge Design Hotel (Mid-Range)
3 | The Manor at Camp John Hay (Luxury | Resort)
This guide recommends using the following sites to conduct research online of where to stay in Northern Luzon or for a specific destination:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:
TIP: G1 Lodge Design Hotel is the best property to experience this destination.
Use the chart below to get an idea of how much to budget daily. Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD). For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Attractions & Activities
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. Booking tours online is almost always more expensive.
Typical Costs in Northern Luzon in 2021:
- Hostel Dorm Bed: 250-350 PHP ($5–7 USD) night
- Budget Hotel: 700 PHP ($14 USD) night
- Mid-Range Hotel: 1500 PHP ($31 USD) night
- Street Food: 50-150 PHP ($1–3 USD) meal
- Restaurant Meals: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) meal
- Local Beer: 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD) bottle
- 1.5L Bottle of Water: 38 PHP ($.75 USD) bottle
- Jeepney Ride: 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD) ride
- Tricycle Ride: 20-100 PHP ($.5-2 USD) ride
- Taxi: 75-500 PHP ($1.50-10 USD) ride – use GrabTaxi app
- Long-Distance Bus Ride: 400-500 PHP ($8–10 USD) ride
- Public Ferry Ride: 200-300 PHP ($4–6 USD) ride
- Domestic Flight: 2,000-3,500 PHP ($40–70 USD) flight
- Island-Hopping: 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD) trip
BEST NO-FEE INTERNATIONAL DEBIT & CREDIT CARDS
The following is some of our best advice on traveling to Northern Luzon. Learn what you need to know BEFORE you go!
Tips & Hacks
he following are our Top 10 Tips when visiting this destination in the Philippines:
- Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
- Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
- Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
- Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
- Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
- Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
- It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
- Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
- Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
- Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.
For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found on the island. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
Health & Safety
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Northern Luzon, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel or resort front desk as they are more likely to give you reliable information than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
- 6 Common Accidents to Avoid
- How to Beat the Heat in the Philippines
- Taxi Safety Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- Motorbike Safety Tips
- Beach & Ocean Safety Tips
- Sun Safety Tips
Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines.
The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
- Keep Active
- Sanitize Often
- Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
- Take Your Vitamins
- Practice Safe Sex
- Be Prepared Should You Get Sick
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Grab (taxis/ride shares)
- Angkas (motorbike ride-hailing)
- WhatsApp (phone calls)
- Skyscanner (flights)
- Rome2Rio (transportation)
- Agoda (accomodations)
- Booking.com (accomodations)
- AirBnB (accomodations)
- Traveloka (flights, accomodations, activities)
- Klook (attractions & activities )
Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.
For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below. Download a FREE copy for yourself as a PDF.
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
Things to Remember
This guide recommends to take note of the following while traveling Northern Luzon or in the Philippines in general.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Don’t Forget …
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