Most Filipinos know this place as that remote group of islands often frequented by storms. However, in recent years, Batanes has regained a new reputation as the Philippines’ last frontier, the ultimate travel destination. Last January, we have had the pleasure of exploring this beautiful province and, yes, Batanes absolutely took our breath away.
Batanes: The Hard Facts
Batanes is the smallest and northernmost province of the Philippines. It is so far up that some of its parts are actually closer to Taiwan than to mainland Luzon. The province is primarily composed of three main island groups: the largest island Batan (where the capital Basco is located), the nearby Sabtang, and the remote Itbayat.
People who live in Batanes are called Ivatans. We know them from our Philippine history classes as those amazingly resilient people who build storm houses that can stand the fiercest of storms, which frequent this province (at least in the past; not much nowadays because of climate change).
Exploring North Batan
A typical Batanes trip is divided into three parts: North Batan tour, South Batan tour, and Sabtang tour. For tourists who want to visit Itbayat, you’d have to allot an additional three days. We began with North Batan tour since our guide told us that the views here are comparatively less beautiful than the views from the last two tours, but believe us, Batanes is beautiful from all angles, regardless of the tour you take.
We began our North Batan tour by heading to Tukon Church, also known as the Mt. Carmel Chapel. Situated on top of Tukon Hill, the chapel is quaint with its exterior decorated by iconic stone walls. The chapel is actually popular for weddings, with its nice garden in front and beautiful views outside.
Located near the chapel, you will see the large dome of the PAGASA Weather Station, the northernmost of its kind in the country. Standing at the viewdeck gives tourists their first glimpse of the rolling hills and the high cliffs that Batanes is famous for.
Next, we headed to the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel, built by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. With a headlamp, tourists can come inside and explore the short but maze-like interiors of the tunnel. The tunnel is actually quite spacious, so you don’t have to worry about breathing problems, but it might not be for the claustrophobic. On top of the tunnel is a hill that you can climb which offers a majestic view of Mt. Iraya
For our next stop, we proceeded to the most famous beach in Batanes, the Valugan Boulder Beach. Not your typical white sand beach, this surreal shoreline, covered by boulders which range in size to the very large to those smaller than your palm, was said to be built by volcanic explosions in the past. This place is perfect if you just want to have a quiet time sitting on the rocks and watching the waves crash into the stone-lined shore.
Another popular destination in Batanes is the Vayang Rolling Hills. Its wide, sprawling green hills, dotted by grazing cows is ideal for strolling and even for biking. Or you can try to prance around and belt out a few lines from Sound of Music if you feel like it.
The last in our itinerary is the Naidi Lighthouse, one of the many lighthouses in the province. Ideally, you should be able to get in this spot by dusk since this spot offers a great view of the sunset over the South China Sea.
At the end of our tour, we went back to our lodge with wide smiles on our faces. We were already so overwhelmed with the place. Little did we know that Batanes still had more in store for us for the second day of our tour.
The safest way to reach Batanes is via plane. Philippine Airlines (PAL) safely flew us to this northern paradise despite the usual overcast sky. PAL flies daily from Manila to Batanes. Follow @flypal for timely seat sales and travel fairs. In our case, we are lucky to have availed of a promo round-trip fare in last year’s Travel Madness sale. Skyjet also flies DAILY to and from Batanes.
Where to Stay
During our 5-day vacation in Batanes, we mostly stayed at Crisan Lodge for only Php 2,800 for 4 nights (at a discounted 700/night). With its cheap & cozy rooms, clean restrooms and a convenience store downstairs, Crisan Lodge (09158490178) was our home away from home. Not to mention, the very friendly and helpful owners Sir Mon & Mam Crisan Imperial. We also stayed for one night at Berlen Lodge (09204784003 c/o Ms Elena Villarta), which is very near the airport. A number of affordable lodgings are available in Batan Island, with Marfel Lodge probably as a popular affordable accommodation option.
Where to Eat
Some of the famous restaurants in Batan include Casa Napoli and Octagon Restaurant, to name a few. However, with their steep prices, it’s not practical to eat out for every meal. Many of the lodges accept ‘paluto’ (home cooking), where you can ask the hosts to cook simple meals at prices that will not hurt the pocket. In our case, we would go out to buy freshly grilled pork barbecue and we’d ask our hosts to cook steamed rice.
A lot of Batanes tours are available online, but we acquired the services of BISUMI Tour and Services. They turned an ordinary vacation into an educational tour thanks to their kind and knowledgeable guides. Every little thing was accounted for from the moment they pick us up until they drop us off in our lodge, so we had nothing to worry about. Definitely recommended. You can checkout their page for tour & rates details. You can also try Chanpan Tours and Services Batanes. Shout out to our guide, Sir Art.