Exploring Ilocos ~ A Budget-Friendly Travel Guide

Whether you are a history buff, an adventure seeker or a beach bum, Ilocos region has always been a great destination. I have been in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur a couple of times and the place never failed to amaze me. The Ilocos Sur alone features two UNESCO World Heritage sites including the famous and historic town of Vigan and the Santa Maria church. Ilocos Norte, on the other hand, is equally amazing and is known for the popular Bangui Windmills, the crystal blue Pagudpud Beach, and the Kapurpurawan Rock formations.

The recent earthquake incident, however, left some notable damages to the region and all the tourism activities were temporarily suspended. This includes the access to the historic Bantay Bell Tower in Ilocos Sur that was utterly damaged after the magnitude 7 earthquake. Luckily, after weeks of suspension, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur are now reopening their doors to the tourists. So if you are planning to visit the beautiful provinces of Ilocos, now is a great chance! Just be mindful that traveling from Manila to Ilocos will take more or less 12 hours. It is going to be a long trip indeed and if you are planning for a DIY tour, make sure that you already book your accommodations and have your itinerary ready. Ideally, a 3D/2N stay in Ilocos gives you enough time to visit all the popular landmarks and attractions in the region.

Although if this is your first time to visit Ilocos, I highly suggest that you take an ilocos tour package from tour agencies like WayPh Tours. First of all, it is way more practical than having a DIY tour. The itinerary and the accommodation are already prepared for you and all you need to worry is your OOTD to make sure that you capture all the picturesque beauty of Ilocos. Second, the itinerary offered by the agency is already well-polished to make sure that you never miss any of the popular destinations in the region including the places to eat (to try the famous Ilokano cuisine)  and places to buy pasalubong (souvenirs). Lastly, these packaged tours are more budget-friendly because you are splitting the cost to other people who are part of the tour. Whether you are traveling with a group or you are just a joiner, you will certainly find it more inexpensive than having a DIY tour.

Today, I am listing down some of the places that you should not miss when visiting Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Paoay Church – First on our list is the historic church of San Agustin in Paoay. With its seemingly untouched architecture, you can easily tell that this church has a huge historic significance and it is pretty amazing how such building managed to withstand all the calamities and war all throughout the centuries. The church comes with a very distinct architecture and is notable for its huge buttresses. Next to its enormous facade is a separate bell tower that shares an interesting piece of history. It is said that the tower served as observational post for Filipino revolutionaries against the Spaniards in 1898 and by Filipino guerrillas against Japanese soldiers during the second world war. Paoay Church is not just declared as a National Cultural Treasure but is also one of the four churches in the country that is under the UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you are planning to visit he church, make sure not to miss the Paseo de Paoay, a Spanish-themed building located not to far from the church.

Paoay Sand Dunes – Those who are looking from thrilling adventure, this particular attraction should not be missed.  The place is perfect for adventure seekers as there are many activities here that a tourist can do that requires some sort of stamina and energy. These include the 4X4 rough ride and sand boarding! There are many sand dunes in Ilocos including La Paz in Laoag, Suba in Paoay and also in Pasiquin. Some of which became the shooting place for movies like Himala and Panday. The rate for a 4×4 Jeep ride will cost Php2000 to 2500 for a 1 hour ride (depends on the number of passengers). The rate could go lower as Php1000- Php1500 for a 30 minute long ride. Sandboarding rate, on the other hand, ranges from Php20-50.


Malacañang of the North – If Cavite has Aguinaldo Shrine and Baguio has the Mansion, Ilocos Norte has its very own version of Malacañang! Dubbed as the Malacañang of the North, this presidential museum in Paoay was once a residence of Marcos Family by the time that he was serving as the President of the Philippines. The place served as the official residence of the Marcoses in Ilocos Norte.The 2-story mansion was built in 1977 for Marcos’ 60th birthday. It was given as a gift by the former first lady Imelda Marcos. The place showcases an overwhelming amount of memorabilia in relation with the late President. Here, you’ll see their well preserved bed rooms, office, antiques and more! Entrance fee to Malacañang of the North is Php20 for Adult and Php10 for kids

Cafe Bojeador Lighthouse – Another popular attraction in Ilocos Norte is the Cafe Bojeador. The Cape Bojeador is perfect example of a well maintained and well preserved piece of architecture. It was first lit on March 30 1892 and interestingly, it is still functional and the place is still standing strong! For nearly 125 years, this century-old Spanish lighthouse has witnessed numerous events in Philippine history. It was declared as a National Historical Landmark on August 13, 2004 and a National Cultural Treasure on June 20, 2005. It is also interesting to note that this lighthouse is considered as the highest elevated “still original and active Spanish era lighthouse” in the country. For a minimal entrance fee of Php20, you will have an access to a small museum showcasing some lighthouse apparatus. Some original parts were displayed on the museum as well as the bed rooms used by the operators during the Spanish era.


Saud Beach – If you are a beach bum, the crystal blue water of the Saud Beach in Pagudpud is definitely a perfect spot. To top it all off, the beach is also known for its White sand and is often being compared to the Boracay beaches. There are also many hotel resorts nearby, making it a perfect place for staycation.


Kapurpurawan Rock Formations – Possibly one of the most popular destinations in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. The distinctive-looking Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is located near the rocky coast of Burgos.  The place is known for its smooth and creamy white (kapurpurawan in Ilocano means white) and streamlined limestone formation that is naturally formed and sculpted by the waves.  The best way to get a closer view of the Kapurpurawan is through Horseride. You can pay 100php for a horseride and they will guide you around the rock formation. You can also have the opportunity to view the stunning rock up close. There you can also see the statue of Biag ni Lam-ang,a famous Ilocano epic poem.

Bangui Windmills – The Bangui Windfarm is composed of 20 units of 230ft high Vestas wind turbines. What makes them so distinctive is that they are straightly arranged in a single row along the shoreline of Bangui bay which stretches up to nine kilometer long. The wonderfully aligned row of wind turbines and the striking view of the Bangui Bay makes this place a picture worthy and has become one of the most visited attractions in Ilocos. What makes this attraction even more recommendable? It can be accessed by everyone for FREE! Yes, there’s no entrance fee nor environmental fee involved just like the Pililla Windfarm in Rizal.

Calle Crisologo in Vigan – A trip to Ilocos will not be completed without  passing by the stunning cobbled street of Calle Crisologo. The street will definitely take you back in time and it feels like exploring the town during the Spanish era. The heritage houses are well preserved and the street is even busier at night. You can buy all your favorite pasalubong from Ilocos including their famous balikutsya and cornik. Also, don’t forget to witness their dancing fountain just in front of the Vigan Cathedral.


Crisologo Museum – If you are a history buff, make sure not to miss the Crisologo Museum in Vigan. Museo Crisologo is a two storey museum dedicated to one of the most prominent clan in the province of Ilocos, the Crisologos. The late Floro Crisologo is one of the men behind the Social Security System law in the country. Bingbong Crisologo on the other hand is also a prominent figure. The museum houses various memorabilia that belongs to the famous clan.


Baluarte  – Another prominent figure of Ilocos is the wealthy businessman and politician Mr Chavit Singson. The so-called Baluarte ni Chavit, however, is not a museum that will showcase his achievements in both Business and political career. Instead, the Baluarte Ni Chavit will take you to a very unique zoo with animals that we rarely see in our country. It also comes with a Safari Gallery that houses many preserved animals that Chavit previously owned.


Hidden Garden Lilong and Lilang Restaurant – Located in Brgy Bulala, Vigan City, Hidden Garden : Lilong and Lilang Restaurant was opened in 1999 and is owned by Rafaela Flores with luscious green landscape by Francis Flores.Of course, a trip to Ilocos will not be completed withou trying their famous cuisine. The restaurant offers signature Ilocano dishes including Bagnet, Vigan Longganisa, Warek warek, Dinengdeng, Sinanglao, Poqui Poqui, Pinakbet and the Buko Halo Halo.


The Bantay Church and Tower – Unfortunately, the historic Bantay tower is no longer accessible and it might take awhile for the building to recover after the quake incident last month.  The old historic belfry of the church known as the Bantay Tower  served as a watchtower for pirates back in the Spanish colonial era, gave the town its name – bantay. The church, on the other hand, was established 1590 making it as one of the oldest churches in Ilocos region. The church is dedicated under the patronage of Saint Augustine and Our Lady of Charity which is better known to locals as Apo Cardidad.

Ilocos region definitely has so much to offer and absolutely worth exploring. If you have more time, there are many other places you can visit including the Burnayan Pottery, the Sinking Bell tower of Laoag, Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave, and Paraiso ni Anton to name a few. Depending on what Ilocos tour package you avail, WayPH Tours will make sure that you make the most out of your Ilocos escapade. If you are planning for a tour this month, this is your sign!

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