In the past few years, Batanes has emerged as one of the top must-see destinations in the Philippines. Heralded as the ‘New Zealand’ of our country, Batanes boasts of scenic views that is overflowing with the unspoiled beauty of nature. All of this got me and some good friends from work to begin the process that would eventually lead us there.
We knew we were set when we luckily managed to book a flight to Batanes during the last travel fair for only P6,000 (a bargain given that a round trip flight to Batanes usually costs somewhere around Php 15,000 – 20,000)! A friendly tip: once you know you’re booked, immediately start looking for a place to stay. Accommodations get booked really quickly, especially during the peak season. It was also fortunate that an officemate of ours went there a week before us and was able to recommend a tour guide who would help us with our sightseeing and transfers. Then, it was just a matter of packing our bags, and then we’re off!
After a 2 hour flight from Manila, you’ll be greeted by a small and quaint airport, with a runway that could probably just accommodate one plane at a time. The airport is framed against the beautiful Mt. Iraya – a dormant volcano in Mt. Batan – that usually hides its peak behind layers of clouds. Given that Batanes is located at the very tip of Luzon, the Batanes group of islands is the country’s most northern point (and also the smallest province), hence experience drier heat and cool temperatures.
Baked Cheezy Lobster at Octagon Bed and Dine
You’ll touchdown in Basco, in Batan island – the provincial capital. It’s a relaxed town with a small population, smaller in population size compared to most barangays in Manila. Everything is 10-20 minutes away, and when you’re in the heart of Basco, you can just walk to get from one destination to the other. Our hotel was 2 minutes away from another resort where I had the best cheesy baked lobster of my life! Great seafood with the sights and sound of the ocean was really an incredible way to start this adventure. It was a little pricey – but absolutely worth it! (Check out the Octagon Bed and Dine for this one!)
Then the tour begins! I’d suggest the local tours as it’s quite organized, affordable, and is heavily supported by the local government. We even had the good fortune of having a tour guide that was also a photographer! We were taken from one beautiful site to another, smitten by the rugged terrain, the rolling green hills, and the powerful waves surrounding the island.
Waves crash against the Batanes shore
There are three major areas you can visit – North Batan, South Batan, and Sabtang Island. All of which offer equally stunning views. North Batan is home to Mt. Carmel Chapel, the Rolling Hills, and Boulder Beach. These were my favorite stops here as each one showcased one aspect of what Batanes had to offer. Mt Carmel is a picturesque stone chapel that overlooks the hills and seas. A dream wedding destination for those who’d prefer an intimate ceremony that’s close to nature.
The Rolling Hills was next, an array of lush green hills that could be the setting for the Sound of Music 2. There a lot of free ranging cows, goats, and other farm animals here. And Felix, our guide, had jokingly said that the hills were named as such because of the number of tourists who slipped and well, rolled down the hills. However, be ready for strong bursts of wind that could threaten to do just that. The view, though, is breathtaking and totally worth the risk.
Then there was the Vayugan Boulder Beach. This was probably my favorite place in all of Batanes. Aptly named, the beach is, well, made of boulders which are large and smooth, coming from Mt Iraya. Through the years, these huge rocks were battered by waves to create the smooth surfaces they have now. This is a serene place to think, chill, or watch the sunrise or sunset. It’s also great for photo shoots, especially for all the frustrated models out there.
Other stand out locations would be the Marlboro Country which appears like the setting of the Marlboro commercials of old if you’re familiar with them. This area in South Batan really frames the scenery well with a grand view of Mt. Iraya, the South China Sea, and endless flowing grassland. Just be careful where you step as the field is littered in animal droppings!
Grotto at South Batan
One other notable spot in South Batan would be the Grotto. There would be a stairway beside it that brings you down right to where the ocean batters the rocky shore. Waves crash and explode every five seconds. Make sure to hold your pose and ask a friend to just keep clicking to capture that golden moment. An awe-inspiring sight, this really highlights the strength of the ocean, and how it can erode mountains and solid rock.
There are so many other places you can visit like Sabtang Island for some beach time (though it’s a little difficult to swim as the shore is full of rocks) and to see first-hand the Ivatan Village. You can also visit Fundacion Pacita which is the province’s most luxurious resort for lunch, dinner, or merienda – as long as you make reservations in advance. Experience the famous Honesty Coffee Shop as well, no cashier, no guards, just take what you want and leave the money. This shop is a true testament to the extremely low crime rate of Batanes, as well as to the amiable, honest, and friendly population of these islands.
Sunset at Basco, Batanes
There is much and more, and I encourage you to see these islands for yourself. Photos really do not give justice to the magnificence of this well preserved paradise. What these islands can offer is an unparalleled visual feast, a serene vibe, and an opportunity to detach from city life, even for just a few days. A memorable experience recommended for everyone.