Ilocos Norte is a big place to be. Having an Ilocos Norte tourist spots itinerary is a must. The area holds timeless attractions such as breezy beaches and historical sites. It has sites that are preserved as historical landmarks. The famous Pagudpud beach, meanwhile, is famed for the big waves. It is a surfer’s haven. Whatever your purpose, Ilocos Norte allures in many ways. You even have options – an independent journey or a tour package. However, if you want to explore the beauty that is Ilocos Norte, then here is an itinerary.
You can go to Ilocos Norte via bus or plane. Ilocos Norte is a staggering 8-hour trip from Metro Manila, by the way. It is best to have a ticket reserved beforehand. Also, make advance arrangements. So that when you get to the destination, you can take a rest first. Ilocos Norte is north from Metro Manila. There are 2-3 bus stops for passengers to stretch and rest as well. If you will be going via bus, then remember to hydrate along the way. An 8-hour trip is quite tiring. The bus stations going to Ilocos Norte are found in Cubao, Metro Manila.
Upon arriving at the Ilocos Norte, you can take a tricycle for your hotel and accommodation. Fare depends on the location. Meanwhile, this could range from Php 20 to 50.
Tourist spots in Ilocos Norte are found in Pagudpud and Laoag. As a tip, you can divide the days according to Laoag and Pagudpud trips. Vigan can also be included in the list as a bonus. How many days do you need for all these? Three. Pagudpud, Laoag (and Paoay), and Vigan are easily accessible. They are not far from one another. You can choose to stay in a single hotel for an entire trip. Or you can transfer into a different one in Laoag. The highlights of this three-day trip are:
- Paoay Church
- Sand Dunes
- Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
- Patapat Viaduct
- Bangui Windmills
- Calle Crisologo (Vigan)
Ilocos Norte has a lot of affordable hotels for backpackers. As an adventurer, you need mostly to focus on the journey and the sights. In this case, you won’t be in the hotel too much. It is best to get an affordable hotel. Here are some recommendations:
Balay da Blas – Pensionne House
This is one of the best and affordable hotels around. We made sure that this will be part of your Ilocos Norte tourist spots itinerary. Originally, Balay de Blas was only to be a home for the Blas family. However, tourism boomed in the area. They decided to open its doors to guests. The “residential” touch is obvious in the infrastructure and color scheme of the house. Interior is neat and minimalist. Outside, a relaxing garden will not fail to soothe the weariness. You’ll have that penthouse feeling with the roomy units. The units have flatscreen televisions, clean bedding, desks, air conditioning, and charging stations. The toilets have a bidet, by the way. There is a restaurant inside the house, serving breakfast. The meals are mostly Filipino dishes with the Ilocano touch. Room rates range from Php 4,000 to 5,000 per night.
AA Travellers Pad
This is one of the newest transient houses in Laoag. It has all the essential amenities for a three-day itinerary. If you are on a budget, then this place is the best pick. The deluxe room service provides only the essentials. Pricing us also lowkey. The room features a cable LED TV, hot and cold shower, free WiFi, and karaoke, and air conditioning. AA Travellers Pad also offers free parking, barbecue facilities, and massaging services. For such a low price, the stay is worth it. There are a variety of rooms to choose from, including a family room. Affordability, convenience, and neatness are all in the list. If you want something on a budget but functional, then this is the best pick.
Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel
This resort is most famed for its world-class services and amenities. Looking at the establishment alone will give you that “executive” vibes. Staying in this hotel does cost a little. If you are after something a little extra, then spend it here. This hotel is ideal for anniversary celebrations and honeymoons. It has 290 different bedrooms. You can choose from “simple” to “spender.” Each room has free wiFi, bedding, television, charging outlets, and air conditioning. The hotel also has a swimming pool, shopping arcade, and function room. Each unit fuses modern and classic interior. You can also inquire their Manila office and make reservations.
Other notable hotels: Farm Side Hotel, Hotel Asuncion, Java Hotel, and Isabel Suites
Ilocos has a lot of mouth-watering dishes. However, we have narrowed a holy trio. Empanada, bagnet, and pinakbet leave memorable tones in your palette. They define the best of Ilocano dishes. These three are the signature eats in Ilocos.
This is best eaten when dipped in spicy vinegar. Its ingredients include rice flour, achuete (for food coloring), egg, mongo sprouts, ground meat, and shredded green papaya. The rice flour crust is crunchy and juicy. On first bite, the juices from the ground meat and other ingredients tickle your palettes. It is eaten as a snack on some occasions. However, the servings are enough as a complete meal. Believe us when we say that empanada in Ilocos is the best.
Simply put, this is deeply fried pork that was seasoned overnight. You will taste various spices and flavor. The juiciness is intact in every bite. Meat is a slab yet tender. The taste has a perfect balance of sweet and salty. Some of the folks dip this in soy sauce with chilly. Others eat this as it is. Best partnered with rice, bagnet is an unforgettable dish.
If you want something healthy, then eat pinakbet. The locals would tell you this. But they would never tell you how pinakbet is cooked. We have eventually found out that pinakbet is easy to prepare. The main ingredients are okra, pumpkin, bitter melon, eggplant, and string beans. Some add pork meat in the mix. The ingredients are boiled in fish sauce. That’s it. Why is it so delicious? The simplicity is partnered with balancing skills. Cooks customize pinakbet based on preference. Whatever the result, the balance of tastes is there.
Ilocos Norte Tourist Spots Itinerary
When planning the trip, make sure to have a “Day 0” for travelling purposes. Believe us, the 8-hour trip will spend your energy. All you would want to do is to rest after. Make Day 0 the “getting there” day. Once you arrive at the selected hotel, rest. Let everything go. Tomorrow will be the start of the adventure.
Day 1: Laoag and Paoay
You can take it easy on Day 1. Let St William Cathedral be your first destination. This is an iconic landmark built by the Spaniards in 1612. You will also find the Sinking Bell Tower and the Tobacco Monopoly Monument nearby. The best time to arrive here is 8 am to 9 am to avoid the heat. Taking pictures and walking to the attractions can be difficult under the heat.
A simple tricycle ride can get you to Paoay. Paoay is a worthy place. It has Malacanang of the North and the La Paz Sand Dunes of Pasuquin. La Paz Sand Dunes is one of the unique stops in Ilocos. This is a haven for adventurers and surfers. Test your surfing skills in the sand dunes. Otherwise, take a ride while splashing against the sands.
St Augustine Church
If you can, please don’t leave without going to St Augustine Church. This is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage. The sight and architecture are astounding. They are truly worth the pictures. But beyond this, the trip is educational. You would appreciate the history of the area.
Day 2: Pagudpud
Do a splash day and get ready to be outdoorish on this day. Pagudpud has beaches and waterfalls to offer. You can simply take a bus from Laoag. Make Saud Beach your next destination. It has different beach resorts that you can lounge into. The morning breeze is perfect for some walking and splashing about. When the hot afternoon sun appears, you’d want to take refuge. You can even take lunch among the different restaurants and resorts. The next stop would be Kabigan Waterfalls. Here, you would make a 20-minute hike (This, of course, depends on your agility).
Be sure to check this spot as well after the hike. This is one of Pagudpud’s main attractions. Not far from here is Paraiso ni Anton and Timmangtang Rock. These are great instagrammable spots. Hungry? There are restaurants nearby. They offer local and continental dishes.
If you have the time and energy, then best head to the Bagui Windmills. Bagui Windmills is another highlight in the north. They make use of wind energy, supplying electricity in Ilocos. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is also located nearby.
Day 3: Vigan
Let the third day be Vigan day. Here you can find the delicious empanada that we have been raving about.
Make a morning stop at the Belfry at St. Augustine Church. You can see old structures of the infrastructure. The view from the church is astounding. Taking pictures from this view is worth it. As the saying goes, the best souvenirs are memories. The Hidden Garden is also a good stop. It offers treats and meals. You can try the food from this place. Make Calle Crisologo the last stop.
Calle Crisologo has old Spanish structures that will take you in colonial Philippines. It holds an array of restaurants and shops. The crowd here is welcoming. If you want to spend the night here, very well do so. There are fine and affordable lodgings in the area. This saves you time from going back to Laoag. However, plan this ahead. Instead of spending three days in a hotel in Laoag, spend the final night trip here. Remember the empanada? Calle Crisologo has the best empanada shops. There are also souvenir shops in the area.
Depending of your lodging, the total expenses will not really reach Php 10,000. In fact, you would spend only Php 5,000 to 6,000 for the three-day trip to Ilocos Norte. Backpackers always find a way around. If you are on a budget, then spend less on the hotels and more on the adventures. Ilocos Norte has a lot to offer. May this Ilocos Norte tourist spots itinerary for Backpackers be your guide. Plan more of your adventures in the country with this article: Tourist spots in the Philippines by Region. Good luck on your trip and welcome to the Philippines!