Additional Photos: Pie Abraham, Lisa Quinio, Arnel Poblete, Koke Villaflor
|Johanna wearing a vakul in Batanes|
It's the most beautiful, most serene place I've ever seen. If that's not enough recommendation, I'd say if there was one place a person should see in the Philippines, it would be BATANES!
Who should go
How to get there
Batanes can be reached through plane from Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Domestic terminal). We flew from there via Asian Spirit to Basco Airport, but they don't carry Batanes trips anymore. Option:
SEAIR - http://www.flyseair.com/
Small, propeller-type planes
Flights on certain days of the week only
Airfare: P11,000 to P17000 (USD $247 to $382) - one of the most expensive local airfares
Ours was about P11,500 via Asian Spirit
Roads are narrow in Batanes. Transportation - vans and jeepneys - are usually included in packaged tours. Tricycles are also available for a small fee.
MUST DO: Rent a bicycle or a motorcycle to go around Batan Island! Inquire at your lodging.
When to go
We went first week of February and all conditions were perfect. The tour guide told us our boat was the first one in 4 months that was able to cross the wavy channel between Batan Island (mainland Batanes) and Sabtang Island, where the stone houses are found.
Bad weather conditions are also known to get vacationers stranded in Batanes indefinitely. Unlucky us, we left on time. Yeah, I wanted to get stranded in Batanes! Boooo good weather!
BEST: February until May, end of the summer season.
Where to stay
|Johanna at Batanes Seaside Lodge beachfront|
We stayed at Batanes Seaside Lodge, which I picked because it was... you guessed it, sea-side. It's also only a walking distance from the town center, where not much can be found, to tell you honestly! But it's a charming place, and well-worth the stroll.
Batanes Seaside Lodge is a small inn and basic at best. But the facilities were clean, and the bed and the pillows were fluffy. The service was also satisfactory. I just wish they'd put up lights on the beachl; we couldn't do night swims because of the dark.
Full-body massage services are available at around P450 per hour (as of 2008).
|Typical tour food|
There are no big hotels in Batanes, only lodges and inns.
Shanedel's Inn - Gobsmack in the middle of the town. I didn't see the rooms, but it's not beachfront.
A very tan Ysabs At Fundacion Pacita
Pension Ivatan - Found near Basco Airport.
DDD Habitat Lodge
Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge - http://www.fundacionpacita.ph/
Luxury in Batanes
Fundacion Pacita's Bathroom
Sabtang Island accomodations - I was told that they offer lodging in Sabtang.Great to look into.
Basco boarding houses - I was offered by some locals to stay at their homes with a promise that prices are cheaper than the inns.
Fan Rooms - P200 to P500 (US$4 to $12) per person per night
Airconditioned rooms - P500 to P1200 per person per night, except for Fundacion Pacita which could cost P2000 to P3500 each.
What to see
Everywhere you look is a postcard waiting to happen.
1. Diura Fishing Village
Rocky hills set beside a beach curved into a crescent shape. It's just an amazing, unique terrain! I could stay there forever (as long as there's internet connection, mind you!).
2. Chavayan and Savidug Stone Houses
Most people who have heard of Batanes think all houses in Batanes are made of stone. Wrong! Most stone houses are found in the villages of Chavayan and Savidugan in the island of Sabtang. No Batanes trip is complete without seeing them. Plus the villages lie between green hills and a gorgeous beach... again STUNNING!
|Ysabs & family at Rakuh a Payaman|
Called Marlboro Country because of its resemblance to a certain cigarette commercial.
The views overlooking surrounding hills and beaches are unfathomably beautiful. I got goosebumps!
1. Valugan Boulder Beach
2. Naidi Lighthouse where you can see the town center from above.
3. The Radio Station in Tukon
4. The art studio of Pacita Abad, a noted Filipino painter, at Fundacion Pacita.
|Valugan Boulder Beach|
6. The rustic Municipal Hall & Police Station
7. Tunnels made during the Japanese Invasion - You can walk inside if the weather is dry.
8. Song Song Ruins
9. Vayang/Naidi Hills - Rolling hills as far as the eyes can see and jawdropping views of the ocean. I almost took a tumble down a hill, the winds were so strong!
10. Loran Station - Beautiful beach panorama.
|Johanna at Naidi Hills|
13. Mahatao & Ivana Churches
14. The oldest stone house in Batanes, found in Ivana
15. Spring of Youth - Said to have curative powers. Accessible via a 20min curving trek. Senior citizens, beware.
16. Nakamaya Burial Grounds
17. Honesty Coffee Shop - People pay by dropping money into a container. Nobody's watching over the store - now that's a test of honesty for you! Prepare exact payment, getting change could be a problem
19. Morong Beach in Sabtang Island - 15min trek. Lovely light fine sands. I was surprised to find this beach in the middle of nowhere.
Fresh seafood abound in Batanes. Buy from the market or order from your inn's crew, and have it cooked anyway you like at a minimal price (starts at P100).
Better get reservations before dining out, as service may be slow or the place may be closed.
MUST HAVE: Delicious coconut crabs - found only in Batanes!
|Casa Napoli's Pizza|
|Pension Ivatan's Buffet|
SDC Canteen across the Police Station - Eat here to fill your stomach, nothing more. Cheapest food in Basco. Rundown place.
Pension Ivatan Buffet - If you like goat dishes, eat here. (Ysabs)
I always get this question. It may have been true in the past, but according to people there, the weather in Batanes has been steadily changing in the past decade. Less rain but more unpredictable weather. When we were there, it only rained from 12 midnight until sunrise, like clockwork!
- PASALUBONG (Souvenirs): The usual t-shirt and key chains are sold at the lodges. Ask your tour guide or ride a tricycle to get to the market or to the souvenir shops. There, you can buy vakuls and Ivatan weaved bamboo backpacks, and their cute miniatures. The best quality vakuls are sold in Savidug village. Also great for souvenirs are the handmade fans, and the traditional Ivatan purses that can be securely closed without need of locks. NOTE: Coconut crabs are endangered, and it is against the law to take them out of Batanes.
- Length of stay: At least four days are recommended. I plan to stay 2 weeks next time! Only the plane fare is expensive. When you get there, everything is cheap.
- Travel agency: A friend of mine, Liz, owns a travel agency and she arranged the trip for us. Her contact number is available upon request.
- Don't be afraid to ask the driver to stop so you can explore the sights. I enjoyed climbing up and down the hills!
- Batanes is a very safe place, with next to no crime rate.
- Bring flip flops. You'll do a lot of beaching and muddy treks.
- Bring umbrella, fans, water and hankies. Transportation is not airconditioned.
- Bring bonamine and other anti-nausea medicine for the bumpy boat rides.
- And lastly, bring an adventurous spirit and leave your worries behind you.
DAY 1 : After checking in at your chosen lodging, start wandering! First start with sites you can see around town from the nearest to the farthest. I also suggest: getting a transport ready via jeep or motorcycle since some of the sites are already in another town.
- The Simbahan ng Basco, Basco Town proper
- Naidi Light House, Rolling Hills. The Lighthouse and Rolling Hills are just walking distance from each other so that's killing 2 birds with one stone.
- Mahatao View Deck, Mahatao Church
- Visit the 100 year old stone house (Bahay ni Dakay)
- San Jose De Ivana Church and Honesty Cafe. Are near each other. Get a refreshing drink here before you go to the next destination.
- Song Song Ruins and re-enact Dawn Zulueta and Richard Gomez in Uyugan Hill, overlooking the Old Loran Station.
- End the day with watching the sunset in Marlboro Country.
- Leave for Sabtang.
- Roll along in the Chavayan Hills.
- Visit the village of Savidug and Chavayan. You will take lots of pictures here. It is a site that sums up all you see in Batanes.
- Relax, swim and have lunch under the Nakabuang Arch and beach.
- Go back to Basco.
- Visit Pacita Abad's former art studio and gallery where local artists showcase their works.
- Go to Diura Fishing Village and see the Spring of Youth. Swim and relax on the beach and in the hot spring.
- Eat lunch at the Diura Village.
- Take a peek at the Japanese tunnels.
- Visit Fundacion Pacita Lodge and Inn.
Are you ready for the wonders of Batanes?