Do a Batan North Tour
Below is what’s commonly referred to as “Batan North Tour” — as the name implies, you will venture through the top spots in the northern part of the main island of Batan for your Batanes itinerary.
I have gotta say though… I couldn’t help giggling as they took me around because it was all a bit surreal — imagine, I was a local being toured around (where else but) in my own hometown!
Still, it was quite an experience and I surely saw Batan in a new light, especially when (for example) I arrive at a location that was normally just a normal hangout place for me and my classmates during high school, but was now a top tourist attraction. I guess tourism also brought something good for us because they have also started digging more into our history!
NOTE: If you’re not fit for biking or motorcycling around the island to visit the following spots during your Batanes itinerary, you can rent a tricycle (at Php 1,000 for 2 pax Batan North Tour), a car (depending on the size of the car, the costs start at Php 2,000 for a whole day), or just go for a guided North Batan tour by reserving your spot online.
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North Batan Stops
◘◘ Mt. Carmel Chapel
Located at Sitio Tukon in Barangay Chanarian in Basco, this chapel is the most recently built worship house in Batanes and the only chapel that adopted the stone house style. Its prime position above the hills has made it a popular spot not only for weddings but also for tourists who are looking for Instagram-worthy shots.
◘◘ Fundacion Pacita
This is Batanes’ only luxury hotel and rightly so as it is nestled above a picturesque hill that has a grand view over the sea and the surrounding Batan terrain. Rest assured, you’re free to wander inside its premises even if you’re not a hotel guest. You can also visit its indoor museum where Pacita Abad’s works are found.
Who is Pacita? She is an internationally known artist who was a full-blooded Ivatan and Fundacion Pacita was her former home when she was still alive.
◘◘ PAG-ASA Radar Station
This used to be a USA weather station and climbing to the top of it will offer you great panoramic views over the island.
◘◘ Didawud Idjang (Fortress)
There are a total of 4 Idjangs in Batanes and this is one of them. In the olden times, the Ivatan people used it as fortifications (likened to castles) to protect themselves during times of war. Originally, these were elevations that were formed by molten volcanic magma which acted as a plug on an extinct crater.
◘◘ Dipnaysuhuan Japanese Tunnel
Located in the hills of Tukon, this five-door tunnel that’s complete with a series of chambers, was a bunker that served as a lookout spot and a water reservoir during the Japanese occupation.
◘◘ Chanpan/Valugan Boulder Beach
This is popularly known for its long stretch of boulders due to Mt. Iraya’s eruption in 400 AD. The rock formation, smoothed over time by the strong Pacific waves, presents a panoramic view over the horizon and of Mt. Iraya that must be included on your Batanes itinerary!
◘◘ Provincial Capitol Area / Casa Real
Built between the 16th to 18th centuries, it’s a government building and is commonly regarded as the center of the town (nearby, you will find a vast sports plaza where most of the island’s celebrations are usually held).
◘◘ Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral / Sto. Domingo Church
This is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Batanes and it is the first parish church to be built in the early 18th century in which it was originally made up of cogon grass roofing. It was also the first to have galvanized iron roofing in the 1890s. The feast of its patron saint, Sto. Domingo de Guzman, is celebrated by the Ivasays (people from Basco) every August 8.
◘◘ Vayang Rolling Hills
These are seemingly endless waves of rolling hills that are perfectly backdropped by the seascape. It is best enjoyed from afar, but it is also best experienced when explored on foot; plus, this spot is the best vantage point for an unhampered view of the province’s three major islands.
◘◘ Naidi Hills and Basco Lighthouse
This is one of my fave hang-out spots when I was young! An old sitio derived from the Ivatan words “na” which means past, and “idi” which means settlement. Located here are old wireless telegraph facilities by the Americans which were bombed by Japan during World War II. One can also get a breathtaking view of the town atop the hilltop 66-feet lighthouse.
◘◘ Kural Marine Sanctuary
I remember visiting this place for picnics on weekends with family, friends, and relatives! In 2005, it has been found that the marine life in this area is so rich and perfect for diving that it has been decided to properly protect it. After acquiring a pass, anyone can dive, swim, snorkel, and picnic here to enjoy its natural beauty.
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If you’ve got the extra time during your Batanes itinerary, I highly recommend the following:
◘◘ Climb Mt. Iraya
Towering over Basco at approximately 1,009 meters above sea level, this dormant volcano is the first attraction you will see upon landing at the airport. To get a picture-perfect view, timing and patience are required since its peak is almost always covered by clouds. As for climbing this mountain, it can be quite challenging because of its abundant endemic flora and fauna, but it’s absolutely doable. As such, it’s not advisable to do it alone; however, there are some tour guides who offer a guided hike up the mountain.
NOTE: This mountain also supplies the water in all households in Basco — so yes, when you’re in Batanes, you can drink from the tap! It’s safe and fresh spring water!
Do a Batan South Tour
Given that Batan is a huge island, this day of your Batanes itinerary will be spent on the southern parts as you go through the top highlights of the remaining areas: Mahatao, Uyugan, Ivana, Itbud, and Imnajbu.
TIP: If you’re ever pressed on time, this Batan South Tour can be combined with the North Tour and can be done in a day. But of course, it’s always best to take it easy so that you can have more time (and photo ops!) in each location. Remember: you should make the most of your trip here!
NOTE: If you’re not fit for biking or motorcycling around the island to visit the following spots, you can rent a tricycle (at Php 1,500 for 2 pax Batan South Tour), a car (depending on the size of the car, the costs start at Php 2,000 for a whole day), or just go for a guided South Batan tour by reserving your spot online.
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South Batan Stops
◘◘ Chawa Viewdeck
(Mahatao) A perfect spot to enjoy Batanes sunsets! Via a nearby staircase, you can also descend more than a hundred steps down to the adjacent cliff to fish, take pictures, or frolic in the waters.
◘◘ Boat Shelter Port
(Mahatao) This supports the goals of the fishing industry of the province namely: fish sufficiency and generation of employment. It was constructed in October 2005 and as a 130-million pesos project, it is the biggest infrastructure project by the Provincial Government at that time. The area was chosen because of its cove-like structure that gives good protection to the boats during inclement weather.
◘◘ San Carlos Borromeo Church
(Mahatao) Its beauty and excellent state of preservation made it a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2001. Outside the church, you will also find a typical olden Spanish lamp post — two vertical structures about 30 meters apart that used to be manually lighted with fire so that the local fishermen could identify how far the shore is.
◘◘ Homoron Blue Lagoon (or Spanish Lagoon)
(Mahatao) Located between Ivana and Mahatao, it’s an interesting spot for your Batanes itinerary because back in the Spanish era only the Spanish were allowed to take a dip there.
◘◘ Maydangeb White Beach
(Mahatao) A cove with multi-colored rocks and white-colored sand, this spot can easily rival the beauty of Boracay! It is located along the national highway about 9 kilometers from Basco and is being maintained by both Mahatao and Ivana Local Government Units (LGU’s).
◘◘ Diura Fishing Village
(Mahatao) A sitio in Basco’s eastern part where an association of fishermen called mataw still practice the traditional fishing for arayu (dorado type of fish). They also still observe an old ritual called kapayvanuvanua which signifies the start of the fishing season in March. Don’t miss out on checking the beach front here too!
◘◘ Rakuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country)
(Mahatao) Dubbed by foreign tourists as Malboro Country because of its similar contour, endless rolling hills, and wind-swept communal pasturelands for cows, carabaos, and horses. For sure, this is a perfect spot for nature lovers and photographers.
◘◘ Spanish Bridge
(Ivana) This was constructed and formed as part of the main road of Ivana during the Spanish period as the road leads to the doorstep of the Church. It is still being used to date by people and trucks alike.
◘◘ House of Dakay
(Ivana) Probably the most photographed Ivatan house in the islands, this was built of lime and stone in 1887 and owned by Luisa Estrella who bequeathed it to her favorite nephew, Jose “Dakay” Estrella. A survivor of the destructive earthquake of September 13, 1918 which destroyed much of the rest of the town, the House of Dakay’s shutters and floor have never changed and have retained much of its authentic look throughout the decades.
◘◘ San Jose de Obrero Church
(Ivana) Built in 1784 by Fr. Jose Fausto de Cuevas, it is the only church in Batan with a separate bell tower that was constructed 30 years later. Located by the coastal area, it is here where Katipunero revolutionaries commanded by Captain Perea landed on September 18, 1898 to liberate the province from the Spaniards.
◘◘ Honesty Coffee Shop
(Ivana) An unmanned refreshment store that has become famous worldwide, and a must-to-see for your Batanes itinerary. Showcasing the best of Ivatan’s honesty, here you will find no standby seller because the owners rely on the honesty of its customers when they pay for goods taken from the store.
◘◘ Songsong Ruins
(Uyugan) Remnants of an old settlement that was ravaged by a tsunami in the 1950s. Residents were given homesteads in Mindanao under the Magsaysay resettlement program and today, it is a thriving coastal community again.
◘◘ Itbud Town
(Itbud) This is where the best-tasting local wine called palek comes from and where maytuab and sinadumparan (local Ivatan stone houses) still stand. It had the largest population in Batan’s south-eastern part in the 18th century due to a stable water supply spring and a well-fortified idjang (fortress).
◘◘ Itbud Idjang
(Itbud) One of the 4 Idjangs in Batanes. Here, rock carvings are still evident (probably for water storage), as well as their gathering/meeting area and the rocks with bored holes for anchors are still intact.
◘◘ Alapad Pass and Hills
(Uyugan) Offers a captivating view of several rolling hills and the vast expanse of the sea — a location made popular by the Filipino movie “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit”, starred by Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta.
◘◘ LORAN Station
(Imnajbu) “Long-Range Aid to Navigation” where the US Coast Guards were based. Its lawns and buildings that were once beautiful and well-kept have deteriorated and were ruined after the Americans left and abandoned it in the 1960s. Today, it is a National Museum Branch.
◘◘ Disvayangan Beach Front
(Mahatao) A row of private picnic houses with basic facilities adjacent to a government-operated recreation building featuring two bowling lanes and a billiards room.
◘◘ Tayid Lighthouse
(Mahatao) Erected in 2000, this colonial-looking beacon offers a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, as well as other parts of Batan Island and its rugged mountain cliffs that face the West Philippine Sea.
◘◘ Ranum ni Kumalakal / Rakuh-a-idi (Spring of Youth)
(Mahatao) A man-made pool with spring water and a view of the Pacific Ocean and Mt. Iraya. This spot is truly ideal for picnics (and photo ops!).
~ TIP: For your Batanes itinerary, you can book online and reserve your spot on a half-day tour to this place, especially if you want some more time to relax here.
Make your way to Sabtang Island
Sabtang is one of the inhabited islands in Batanes and depending on the strength of the waves, it is an “exciting” 30 to 1-hour boat ride from Ivana in Batan Island — an experience that you should consider for your Batanes itinerary.
I may have been raised in Batanes but I have never — I repeat — never had the chance to visit Sabtang nor Itbayat. Yes, I know, shame on me! For years, I’ve heard tales from my family and friends about the beauty of these islands and their “eventful” boat rides; so it was about time that I finally headed over to this place… and boy, I absolutely regretted not coming sooner!
NOTE: You can book a packaged Sabtang tour for a hassle-free experience and you can even do it in just a day!
Otherwise, you can DIY this trip. Sabtang boat trips (that spans for about an hour) depart from Ivana port from 6:00AM to 7:00AM — you can get to this port from Basco by renting a tricycle roundtrip transfer which costs about Php 440. The boat trip costs Php 100 per person each way, and once you arrive in Sabtang you will have to pay Php 200 environmental fee at the tourism office.
Later on, you can take the boat ride back to Ivana starting from 8:00AM until 2:00 to 3:00PM (depending on the weather, there can still be boats at 5:00PM but it’s best to be at the Sabtang port before by 2:00PM — or better yet, just ask the locals what is the estimated time for the last trip back to Ivana).
There are 3 boat operators going to Sabtang and I went with M/B Aljolyner since I personally know the owners. You can contact them via this mobile number: +63 928-244-5475. As for touring the island by yourself, you can rent a tricycle at the port for Php 800 (2 pax).
TIP: The boat ride can get a bit wet, so it’s best to bring a waterproof bag for your essentials.
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◘◘ Savidug Community (Vernacular Houses)
A village filled with traditional Ivatan houses. In fact, it is the area where the endangered black face spoonbill was sighted years ago. To this day, it continues to fly in the area!
◘◘ Savidug Idjang (Fortress)
Among the 4 Idjangs in Batanes, this is considered to be the most beautiful and perfectly shaped.
◘◘ Chamantad–Tinyan Viewpoint
Located between Savidug and Chavayan, this place offers a spectacular view of nature and the Pacific Ocean. Take your sweet time lounging here during your Batanes itinerary because the sights are quite stunning!
◘◘ Chavayan Community / Barrio
This is arguably the cradle of Ivatan culture and heritage. Famous for its rows of old houses, narrow streets, and old sites, Chavayan is likely to leave lasting memories on your visit. Its Chapel, the only church in Batanes still roofed with cogon grass, is a stone’s throw away from a picturesque shore.
◘◘ Nakabuang (Mayahao or Ahaw Stone Arch) in Morong Beach
One of the iconic and most photographed spots in Batanes because of its natural rock arch formation in an ideal beach cove.
Explore Itbayat Island
If Sabtang island will leave you speechless, Itbayat island will make your mouth drop to the floor. Then again — traveling here is no joke! The waves can be harsher than the journey to Sabtang and it will take about 2 to 4 hours; yet without a doubt, it will all be worth it for your Batanes itinerary!
NOTE: If the 4-hour boat trip doesn’t sound ‘fun’ to you, you can also fly to Itbayat via NorthSky Airlines which is a small 8-seater plane that flies every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It takes about 15 minutes and the fare will be about Php 1,800 one way. However, please take note that it will only fly if ALL seats are full.
Now, since the waves can be quite volatile, it’s best to inquire about this trip beforehand with the Ivatan locals. Otherwise, it’s better that you have spare days on your trip just in case you can’t ride a boat back to Batan island because of bad weather.
NOTE: To do the whole Itbayat visit, you can book a packaged tour for a hassle-free experience.
Otherwise, you can DIY this trip. Itbayat boat trips are available from Basco every day from 6:00AM to 9:00AM in the mornings; and from Itbayat to Basco, around 11:00AM to 2:00PM. Per person, you will have to pay Php 450 one way. If you fail to catch the boat, there are no hotels in the island but you can always arrange a homestay with the locals or with your tour guide/operator.
There are also 3 boat operators going to Itbayat namely Itransa, Ocean Spirit and Veronica. As for touring the island by yourself, you can rent a motorbike (with a guide at Php 1,000 for a day) or a tricycle (at Php 2,000 for a whole day, good for 2 to 3 pax).
TIP: The boat ride can get a bit wet, so it’s best to bring a waterproof bag for your essentials.
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◘◘ Turungan Cave & Hills
The most ancient dwelling place in Batanes. It is believed to be the first landing place of the Austronesians who came from Formosa, Taiwan in 4000 BC. Today, it is an area where stone boat-shaped burial markers are found, and it is believed that this is the burial grounds of the cave’s ancient settlers.
◘◘ Kumayasakas Cave River
An underground stream that flows to the sea and is a newly-developed water source for the community.
◘◘ Rapang Cliff
A must-see for your Batanes itinerary! This is a natural park comprised of forest, cliffs, and rocky hills where bonsai arius trees are abundant along a grazing area for goats. One unique formation that you’ll find here is a flat stone that lies naturally upon another stone and when you strike it with another stone, it produces a bell-like sound. Apparently, it served as an alarm for the ancient inhabitants against approaching enemies and a signal for community meetings and for gathering goats.
A sinkhole that serves as the town’s giant drainage. It was explored by a German doctor named Gechard Schmith in 1993 and was found to be around 45-meter deep and has two big chambers with a narrow passage in between. Apparently, it’s regarded as a ‘haunted’ sinkhole because it is where the ancient Ivatans threw witches as punishment according to the old justice system.
◘◘ Vernacular Houses
These are combinations of European and Itbayat architecture with thick walls of stone and lime and several layers of cogon for roofing. They are proven to withstand strong typhoons, earthquakes, and other calamities, and can withstand the harshest ‘local’ winter from December to February.
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If you’ve got the time, I highly recommend the following:
◘◘ Climb Mt. Karububuan
The town’s highest point at about 280 meters above sea level. The historical significance of this mountain is that is the other ‘pair’ of Mt. Riposed which is one of the island’s foundations and old settlement for the early settlers.
◘◘ Climb Mt. Ripused
As one of the two volcanoes considered to have been the foundation of Itbayat, it affords a breathtaking panorama of the different parts of the island.
◘◘ Sail to nearby Siayan Island
About a 4 to 5-hour boat ride from Itbayat, Siayan is acknowledged as one of the most beautiful spots in the area, so do consider including this on your Batanes itinerary. This is basically an 87-63 hectare island surrounded by beautiful white beaches and rich coral reefs which is home to lush marine life. (The same goes for the nearby uninhabited island of Mavulis).
Other Activity Options
At this point, you have basically explored the inhabited group of islands in Batanes! So either take your time exploring the town on foot as you mingle more with the locals — or do some other unique activities below:
◘◘ Sail to the uninhabited islands
As you can see from the Batanes map that I’ve posted above, there are uninhabited islands in Batanes such as Y’ami, Ditarem, Dinem, Siayan, and Misanga. Depending on weather conditions, you can travel to these places and the boat rental cost can start from Php 6,000.
◘◘ Experience fishing with local fishermen
Usually done around the town of Basco, you’ll have an extraordinary fishing experience using nylon, and hook — one of the typical methods used by the Ivatans.
◘◘ Bike around the island
Instead of having the luxury of motor transportation to go around the island of Batan during your Batanes itinerary, you can opt to challenge yourself and get fit! After all, traveling from Basco to the southern parts and back is perfectly doable in a day (I did this a lot with my high school friends back when I was still living in Basco).
◘◘ Join a local festivity
One of the BEST things that you can ever do in Batanes to make the most of your stay is to join one of the local celebrations, fiestas, or festivals to best see the local custom and culture. So go and time your visit if you can! The main fiesta you should witness is Batanes Day (which happens on June 26) and it’s usually a week-long celebration consisting of fairs, parades, sports festivals, and shows where you can watch Palo-Palo Dance, Fundanggo, Sagalas & Gozos, and more! Other festivities are as follows:
- Savidug Sabtang Fiesta (Around January)
- Ivana Fiesta (May 1)
- Uyugan Fiesta (May 10)
- Diptan Fiesta (June 13)
- Valugan Fiesta (June 27)
- Basco Fiesta (August 8)
- Sinakan Sabtang Fiesta (October 1)
- Itbayat Fiesta (October 7)
- Mahatao Fiesta (November 4)
- Itbud Fiesta (November 27)
NOTE: During fiestas, you can visit any house to celebrate, meet, and eat with them — yes, even if you don’t know them! Everyone’s welcome to do so. Back when my Ivatan friends and I were younger, we often jokingly comment that this house-hopping spree during fiestas was like a grand buffet experience because we can survey the houses and pick the best food spots. LOL.
Other than the fiestas above for your Batanes itinerary, do consider visiting during Christmas. We have a lot of events happening during the holidays while also enjoying a real chilly December (which is not so common throughout the Philippines).