Years ago, my former officemate told us that his son was going to get married in Basco, Batanes. Basco, Batanes?! What’s there? So, I do my research and I’m mesmerized. Rolling hills, mountains upon mountains overlooking the ocean, and scenic spots perfect for pictures.
I had the opportunity to join a familiarization tour organized by PHILTOA a couple of weeks ago. My partner and I have been waiting for this trip for more than a year! Even for someone who has a travel agency, it’s still hard for us to go off and travel.
It’s best to take a 4-day, 3-night trip because flights arrive and depart only in the mornings. You technically lose a day. We flew in via Skyjet in a 90 plus seater plane. Despite the small size, it was a relatively smooth flight. After landing, we were brought to our hotel for breakfast. Some of us in the group checked in at Bernardo’s Hotel while the others stayed at Batanes Resort. Me and my partner stayed in Bernardo’s. Rooms were great and they have a restaurant that serves delicious pasta and pizza.
After breakfast we started our tour. For the first day, we concentrated our tour on the north side of Batan island. Batanes actually has three inhabited islands: Batan (where Basco, the capital is located), Sabtang, and Itbayat. We concentrated on the north side of Batan island for the first day. The notable highlights that day was the Fundacion Pacita, Valugan Boulder Beach, lunch at Pension Ivatan Hometel and Restaurant, Vayang Rolling Hills, and dinner at the Naidi Hills Lighthouse.
Another thing I enjoyed in Batanes was the food. Everything was so fresh and organic, probably because the animals have freedom to walk around the mountains, eating fresh grass. The plants have no pesticides. Must try is the coconut crab (upper left in the picture below), a local delicacy in Batanes. Another one is their local kamote, naturally sweet and they use it almost on everything – cookies, chips, candies. Pension Ivatan where we had lunch uses it in their leche flan. To. Die. For.
This is pretty much a common sight here in Batanes, mountains overlooking the ocean. It reminded me of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. All you want to do is take pictures.
The last stop for the day was the Naidi Hills Lighthouse. There were several lighthouses in Batanes and all are as picturesque as this one. Our group ate dinner al fresco while waiting for the sunset. It was an amazing site! And after that, you can see the bright stars in the sky. No smog to cover the sky.
Our day started really early the next day. We had breakfast by the Ivana port because we were taking a 35 minute boat ride to Sabtang where we were staying for one night. To really capture the feel of Batanes, we were doing a homestay. Sort of their version of Airbnb. We wanted to maximize our stay in Sabtang and decided to stay the night so we won’t have to rush and take the boat back to Batan in the afternoon.
First stop while waiting for the boat was the famous Honesty Coffee Shop. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
The products for sale already had prices to make it easier for buyers to pay. They just leave the money in a box by the door.
For our Sabtang tour, we went to local villages, Morong Beach for the Natural Stone Arc, visited ancestral houses at Savidug and Idjang, and Chavayan village to watch the making of vakul. The day was topped with an Ivatan Fiesta dinner by the beach.
We also visited Chamantad Tinyan on our way to Chavayan Village. The view was perfect for photoshoots, the couples in our group did their own version of “prenup” pictorials thanks to our super nice tour guides. They were sooooo good they choreographed their shots!
Sights like these, you feel like you’re so close to heaven.
We then proceeded to Chavayan Village where we watched how they made a vakul. Their version of weather gear, for both rain and sun.
We had a tiring day. We went back to our own homes for the night and rested until we had to walk to our dinner by the beach. The sky was so clear we saw the moonrise. The next day we woke up early again to catch the first boat out of Sabtang. We did another tour in the north part Batan. It was a shorter tour so we could rest up for our fellowship night.
On our last day of tour we started we visited the oldest ancestral house in Batan, the House of Dakay.
We then went to Song Song Ruins and Marlboro Hills (Racuh a Payaman). We also stopped by the iconic hill from the movie Hihintayin Kita sa Langit starring Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta. I was dead tired I couldn’t go down from the van to take pictures anymore.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel. We rested for awhile and I decided to explore Basco more. I rented a bike and just went around town. A bike rental can cost Php25 per hour or Php65 if you’re renting a mountain bike.
All in all, it was a great trip. It need not be expensive too, just ask us how. 3-days, 2-nights IS possible but that’s just 2 days worth of tour. You can do DIY but we have packages that includes airfare, accommodation, tour, and some meals. People also ask me what’s the best time to visit Batanes, locals say February to March since it’s cooler. April to July is still okay but can get pretty hot during peak summer months.
Just some reminders:
- The tour is not for young kids with all the walking and trekking.
- Bring small bills and coins. The coins are for public pay bathrooms. It’s not as bad as you would imagine.
- Be ready to hydrate yourself during tours.
- Batanes is not a beach destination. If you think it will be a Palawan or Boracay beach getaway, sorry to burst your bubble.
- There is cellphone signal in Batanes. All networks. Although you lose it in some areas. There is no data , however, and internet access is not readily available in hotel.
This is one place in my bucket list I’m so happy to check off!
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