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Travel Guide to Batanes - Philippines' Northernmost Tip

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Batanes is the northernmost province of the Philippines, consisting of 10 islands that are known for their breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, and hospitable people. If you are looking for a unique and memorable destination, Batanes is the place to go. However, planning a trip to Batanes can be challenging, as there are many things to consider such as the weather, transportation, accommodation, and budget. In this Batanes travel guide, we will help you with everything you need to know about Batanes, from how to get there, where to stay, what to do, and what to expect. Read on and discover the beauty and charm of this island paradise.

Batanes Overview

Batanes, a stunning province in the northern Philippines, beckons with its captivating scenery and rich cultural tapestry. Comprising ten islands and islets, it offers a visual feast of rolling hills, rugged cliffs, lighthouses, and stone houses. Notable landmarks include Marlboro Hills, Valugan Boulder Beach, and Naidi Hills Lighthouse. The Ivatans, the province’s warm and resilient native people, dwell in traditional stone houses and wear distinctive abaca fiber clothing. Delight your taste buds with local cuisine like coconut crab and uvud balls, all prepared from fresh, organic ingredients.

One of Batanes’ remarkable distinctions is its zero crime rate, owing to the honesty and integrity of its residents. Enjoy the mild climate, especially from December to February, and experience all four seasons in this charming locale. But it’s the welcoming Ivatans who truly make a visit special. Their hospitality, smiles, and readiness to share their unique culture and traditions make it easy to connect with these friendly locals.

Philippines Batanes Basco Lighthouse
Batanes Basco Lighthouse

Top Things to Do in Batanes

Batanes offers a wealth of attractions and activities for travelers. Here are some of the must-do experiences in Batanes:

  • Explore Batan Island: Start with the main island, Batan, and discover its scenic landscapes and historical sites. Don’t miss the Basco Lighthouse, the Vayang Rolling Hills, Valugan Boulder Beach, the Japanese Tunnel, and the Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge.
  • Embrace Ivatan Culture: Immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage of the Ivatan people, Batanes’ native inhabitants. Marvel at their traditional stone houses, savor local cuisine and delve into their customs and beliefs.
  • Venture to Sabtang Island: Take a boat ride to Sabtang Island, where you’ll encounter more stone villages, lighthouses, beautiful beaches, and fascinating caves. You can also witness the art of crafting vakul, a native headgear made from abaca fibers.
  • Explore Itbayat Island: Journey to Itbayat Island, the largest and northernmost in Batanes. It’s renowned for its natural wonders, including cliffs, springs, lakes, and remarkable rock formations. You’ll also have the opportunity to see ancient burial sites and petroglyphs.
  • Admire Sunrises and Sunsets: Treat yourself to the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets in Batanes. Enjoy the mesmerizing views from various vantage points like Tayid Lighthouse, Marlboro Hills, Naidi Hills, and Chanarian Beach.
  • Water Adventures: Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Batanes for swimming, snorkeling, diving, or even surfing. The province offers pristine beaches like Morong Beach, White Beach, Nakabuang Beach, and Diura Beach.
  • Biking and Hiking: Explore Batanes’ natural beauty and invigorating fresh air through biking or hiking. Rent a bike or join a guided tour to traverse the various trails and routes in this scenic paradise.
  • Visit the Honesty Shop: Discover the unique Honesty Shop, a store operating on trust and integrity. You can pick up souvenirs, local products, coffee, snacks, handicrafts, books, and shirts. Simply take what you need and note your purchases in a logbook, paying accordingly.
Philippines Batanes Sabtang Island
Sabtang Island in Batanes

What to Eat in Batanes

Batanes is a delightful destination for food enthusiasts, offering a culinary journey that reflects the unique Ivatan culture, emphasizing simplicity, freshness, and locally sourced ingredients. When you visit Batanes, make sure to savor these delectable dishes:

  • Uved or Uvud: A delicious dish made from finely-shredded corn. It’s combined with minced meat (pork or beef) and chopped fish, flavored with garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. This dish can be enjoyed as savory balls or in a soup, depending on your choice.
  • Dibang or Flying Fish: A common sight in Batanes, the flying fish can be prepared in various ways, such as frying, grilling, steaming, or as lataven, akin to ceviche or kinilaw.
  • Vunes: This dish comprises dried young gabi (taro) stalks chopped and mixed with fish, beef, pork, or fowl, resulting in a chewy texture and a savory flavor.
  • Payi: A sought-after delicacy in Batanes, Payi refers to lobster. It’s often grilled or steamed, served with a zesty accompaniment of vinegar or calamansi (Philippine lime) juice.
  • Root Crops: Batanes abounds in root crops like taro, sweet potatoes, yam, cassava, and the vibrant purple yam known as ube. These versatile ingredients find their way into various dishes, from stews and soups to desserts and bread. Some noteworthy examples include Supas (a taro leaf and coconut milk soup), Lunis (a marinated meat dish of thinly sliced pork or beef), and Ube Halaya (a sweet purple yam jam).

In addition to their unique dishes, Batanes features a range of local vegetables like coconut heart, ferns, wild mushrooms, garlic chives, and tomatoes, often paired with seafood or meat to create dishes such as arayu (mahi-mahi fish with coconut heart) and ensaladang ivatan (a salad of ferns, tomatoes, onion, and salted fish). Alongside the famous dibang and payi, Batanes offers crabs, shrimps, squid, octopus, mussels, and various fish, typically prepared through grilling, steaming, frying, or in soups and stews. To complete the experience, enjoy fruits like mangoes, bananas, pineapples, papayas, guavas, and citrus fruits, fresh or as jams and juices, and explore local drinks like tubho tea, palek (rice wine), and bukayo (coconut wine).

Philippines Batanes Food Payi
Coco Grove Beach Resort in San Juan Town

Where to Stay in Batanes

Batanes is an archipelago composed of three key islands: Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat, each possessing its own unique allure. If you’re planning a trip to this picturesque region and contemplating where to stay, here are some recommendations tailored to your preferences and budget.

In Basco, the Capital of Batanes:

If you’re seeking accommodation in the capital, Basco offers a range of options. As the most developed and accessible town in Batanes, it’s home to the airport, restaurants, shops, museums, and other amenities. It’s also conveniently close to popular attractions on Batan Island, including Basco Lighthouse, Valugan Boulder Beach, Vayang Rolling Hills, and Naidi Hills. Here are a few of the best hotels in Basco:

  • Hillside Villa: A 3-star hotel that provides comfortable, spacious rooms with air conditioning, cable TV, private bathrooms, and complimentary Wi-Fi. It also features a restaurant serving local and international dishes, a garden, a terrace, and a 24-hour front desk. The hotel is conveniently located near the airport and town center.
  • Boulder-Bay Residences: Another 3-star choice, this hotel offers modern and elegant rooms with air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, private bathrooms, and free Wi-Fi. Their restaurant serves delicious seafood and Filipino cuisine, and the hotel includes a garden, terrace, and free private parking. It’s situated near the beach and hills, offering scenic views of the surroundings.
  • Residencia du Basco: This 3-star hotel offers comfortable and clean rooms with air conditioning, cable TV, private bathrooms, and complimentary Wi-Fi. The amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant serving buffet breakfast and local dishes, a bar, and free shuttle service. It’s conveniently located near the airport and town center.

For a More Rural Experience in Smaller Towns:

If you prefer a quieter, more authentic setting, consider staying in smaller towns or villages on Batan Island, like Mahatao or Ivana. These areas offer a peaceful atmosphere and easy access to attractions such as San Carlos Borromeo Church, the Spanish Bridge, Honesty Coffee Shop, and the House of Dakay. Some of the best accommodations in these regions are:

  • Bernardo’s Lantia Hotel: A 3-star hotel offering charming and rustic rooms with air conditioning, cable TV, private bathrooms, and free Wi-Fi. It boasts a sea and mountain-view terrace, a restaurant serving local and continental dishes, a bar, and room service. This hotel is located in Ivana town near the port.
  • Florabells Iraya Guest House: A cozy guest house offering homey rooms with air conditioning, cable TV, private bathrooms, and free Wi-Fi. Guests can enjoy a terrace, shared lounge, and complimentary shuttle service. The guest house is situated in Mahatao town near the church.

Exploring Other Islands in Batanes:

For those looking to explore the more secluded islands of Batanes, such as Sabtang or Itbayat, you’ll need to take a boat ride from Batan Island. These islands offer natural beauty and cultural heritage in abundance, with attractions including Savidug Stone Houses, Chavayan Village, Morong Beach, and Rapang Cliffs. Here are some of the best accommodations on these islands:

  • Villa de Babat: A villa featuring spacious, stylish rooms with air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, private bathrooms, and free Wi-Fi. It also boasts a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a garden, a restaurant serving local delicacies, and water sports facilities. The villa is located on Sabtang Island near the beach.
  • Lorenzo’s Homestay: A homestay offering simple, clean rooms with air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and shared bathrooms. It also provides free private parking and shuttle service. The homestay is situated on Itbayat Island near the airport.
Philippines Batanes Bernardo Lantia Hotel
Bernardo’s Lantia Hotel

How Many Days to Stay in Batanes

Batanes comprises three main islands: Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat, each offering unique attractions. To thoroughly explore each island, allocate at least one full day per island. Hence, a minimum of three days is advisable if you intend to visit all three.

However, some travelers often extend their stay on a specific Batanes island to match their interests. Sabtang allures nature and culture enthusiasts with its traditional stone houses and scenic vistas, while adventure seekers favor the remote landscapes of Itbayat. For those intrigued by history or seeking convenience, an extended stay on Batan, the primary island with the capital Basco, offers a rewarding option. Furthermore, some explorers venture beyond standard tour packages to uncover lesser-known attractions like lighthouses, churches, museums, festivals, and local cuisine, adding depth to their Batanes journey, albeit requiring more time and effort.

Considering these factors, a reasonable range for a Batanes visit would be four to seven days. This allows you to appreciate the highlights of each island and delve into the unique facets that make Batanes a special destination. Naturally, you can tailor your itinerary to align with your personal preferences and schedule.

Batanes Itbayat Island
Breathtaking Itbayat Island

Batanes Weather & Best Time to Visit Batanes

Batanes boasts a tropical rainforest climate, with year-round warmth and humidity, and an average temperature of approximately 26°C (79°F), albeit varying with season and elevation. The province experiences two distinct seasons: a dry period spanning December to May, featuring sunny, pleasant conditions with occasional strong winds; and a wet season from June to November, characterized by frequent rainfall, typhoons, and rough seas, with August being the wettest month, receiving an average of about 620 mm (24.4 inches) of rainfall.

Ideal Visit Times:

For an optimal Batanes trip, target the months of January to April and December. During these periods, the weather is dry, cool, and marked by brisk winds. It’s important to note that this coincides with the peak tourist season, so expect higher expenses and larger crowds. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent time for activities like hiking, biking, island hopping, sightseeing, and cultural immersion.

For a quieter, budget-friendly escape, consider traveling to Batanes from May to November. Be prepared for erratic weather and possible flight disruptions. Despite the challenges, you can still savor Batanes’ beauty, though you might need to adapt your plans in response to shifting weather conditions.

Festivals and Events:

Batanes is also celebrated for its festivals, highlighting the province’s rich heritage and traditions. Notable festivities include the Vakul-Kanayi Festival in April, dedicated to the indigenous clothing of the Ivatans. In August, the Palu-Palo Festival features various cultural performances and competitions, while September hosts the Kavayvanua Festival, honoring the wisdom of the elders. June sees Batanes Day, commemorating the province’s establishment.

Batanes Transportation: How to Get to and Travel around

How to Get to

  • By Air: The quickest and most convenient approach to reach Batanes is by plane. You can catch a flight from Manila to Basco, Batanes’ capital, via Skyjet or Philippine Airlines. The flight typically spans around 1 hour and 45 minutes and costs approximately 4,000 to 12,000 pesos per one-way trip, varying with the season.
  • By Land: For a more economical but lengthier option, you can embark on a bus journey. Begin by taking a bus from Manila to Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan province, which consumes roughly 12 hours and typically costs between 650 to 850 pesos. From Tuguegarao, another bus ride can transport you to Basco, covering approximately 8 hours and demanding around 500 pesos. If you prefer a quicker but pricier route, you can also opt for a taxi or car rental from Tuguegarao to Basco.
Batanes Basco Airport
Basco Airport in Batanes

How to Get around

  • Bikes and Motorcycles: To explore Batanes at your own pace, consider renting bikes and motorcycles in Basco. Rates typically range from 300 to 500 PHP per day.
  • Tricycles: For short distances or full-day tours, tricycles are a common and affordable mode of transport in Batanes. Fares start at 50 PHP per trip.
  • Public Jeepneys: Experience local travel by opting for public jeepneys for town-to-town transit. Fares are around 30 PHP per person, but schedules may vary.
  • Private Vans or Cars: The most convenient option for group travel, book private vans or cars with drivers from your hotel or a local tour operator, usually costing 2,000 to 3,000 PHP per day.

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