Metro Manila · The Rice Terraces (Banaue, Batad, Sagada)
The Rice Terraces of Banaue are breathtaking. Located in the North of Luzon, these 2000-year old masterpieces of agriculture are a must-see.
The Rice Terraces are located in the Mountain Province with the most popular spots being Banaue, Batad and Sagada. The rice terraces featured on most postcards and on the twenty Peso bill are the 'Grand Rice Terraces of Banaue'. They have been carved out of the hillside by the Ifugao (indigineous tribe living in the Mountain Province), reaching up to 1500 meters altitude. The steps put next to each other would stretch half-way around the world. It is a wonderful place and can be best explored with a local guide.
From Banaue you can travel further to Sagada (by Jeepney) or to Batad (by hiking). Both places feature not only rice terraces but also waterfalls, caves to explore, and much more. While Sagada has already acquired internet connection and warm running water, Batad is still a location you go to when you need some time away from everything. Sagada also has a range of dainty cafés and restaurants, and you will be able to taste the Kopi Alamid, which is the local name for Kopi Luwak or civet coffee, the world's most expensive and famous coffee.
The best way to go to Banaue is by hiring a private van. It will take you up to 12 hours to reach your destination. If you are hiring a van, make sure you ask for a driver who has been there before. The roads in this part of the mountains can be very dangerous to the point of being treacherous so be sure to get a driver who knows the area. If you are planning to travel to this part of the Philippines, make sure you only go there during the dry season (December to April/May), as landfalls regularly hit the mountain province when it is raining.
Many travel agencies offer tour packages to Sagada by van. These typically include a stop-over with breakfast in Banaue, two or three nights in Sagada, several hikes and spelunking, and a stop-over in the City of Baguio on the way back. Rates for a short trip start at around 3500 Pesos.
If you plan to travel on your own and just take public transport, you can ride a bus going to Banaue then hire a van from there to get to other places in the area. On your way back, the only way to get to Baguio City is by bus. The busses drive fast in these areas and can often be scary because of the dangerous cruves on the road.