Going on a road trip up north this summer? Check out these 20 fun places to cool off in the Cordillera mountains of Luzon.

From Metro Manila as a jump-off point, I joined a caravan of fellow thrill seekers and followed a circuit trail around the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Benguet. Our jam-packed 4-day adventure led us to discover these beautiful sights and enriching experiences:

1. Balete Pass Viewpoint

Our first glimpse of soaring mountains and zigzag roads! This viewpoint is perched on the summit area of Balete Pass, also called Dalton Pass, in Santa Fe town of Nueva Vizcaya province. Known as a gateway to Ifugao Province and Cagayan Valley Region, Balete Pass is located 3,000 feet above sea level, where the mountain ranges of Caraballo Sur and Sierra Madre converged.

Balete Pass, San Jose, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines

2. Bayombong Town Center

Bayombong, also located along the highway going to Ifugao Province, is a historical town and capital of Nueva Vizcaya Province. St. Dominic Cathedral looked over the town center with its charming brick facade and belltower. A couple of steps away was the People’s Museum and Library that housed exhibits about the history and heritage of the province’s indigenous tribes.

Bayombong Church, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines

Bayombong Church, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines

Exquisite textured wooden roof and chandeliers inside St. Dominic Cathedral.

People's Museum and Library, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines

People’s Museum and Library building that also served as the former seat of the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government.

3. Kiangan Shrine

The Kiangan War Memorial Shrine located in Kiangan Town of Ifugao Province was built to commemorate the end of World War 2 in the Philippines. Steps led to the top of the structure that provided a breathtaking sunrise view of the mountains.

Kiangan Shrine, Ifugao, Philippines

Kiangan Shrine, Ifugao, Philippines

4. Nagacadan Rice Terraces

The practice of hand-carving these terraces to grow rice at high altitudes has been in use in the region for 2,000 years virtually unchanged.  The Nagacadan Rice Terraces, also located in Kiangan, is one of five UNESCO’s World Heritage sites in Ifugao. What sets the cluster in Nagacadan apart was the presence of a boulder strewn river running through ascending rows of rice terraces. Following the foot trail that takes you in the middle of the rice fields is a must to experience the “Open Air Museum.”

Kiangan Rice Terraces, Ifugao, Philippines

Kiangan Rice Terraces, Ifugao, Philippines

5. Ibulao-Ibulao Bed and Breakfast

This homey bed and breakfast in Kiangan is a destination in itself. Choose to stay in an Ifugao house, a tree house, or more conventional modern rooms. The main living area had an almost floor to ceiling glass window with a beautiful natural view. I couldn’t help but want to just cozy up all day there and enjoying the relaxing ambiance. Make your reservations beforehand since walk-ins are not allowed.

Ibulao Ibulao Bed and Breakfast, Kiangan, Ifugao, Philippines

6. Banaue Ethnic Village

The Banaue Ethnic Village and Pine Forest Resort maintains a Heritage Center where visitors could see a display of Ifugao houses and their evolution over the centuries. It’s also a beautiful place to enjoy a view of pine trees and cool mountain breeze.

Banaue Ethnic Village and Pine Forest Resort, Ifugao, Philippine

Skulls of animals are adorned outside Ifugao houses as a sign of the family’s Wealth.

Banaue Ethnic Village and Pine Forest Resort, Ifugao, Philippine

Ifugao children playing on stilts during an enlightening cultural performance about Ifugao culture.

7. Bangaan Rice Terraces

Each of Ifugao’s rice terraces cluster had a unique character and charm of its own. Bangaan’s was no different with a photogenic compact village surrounded by rice terraces that seemed to ascend into the heavens.

Bangaan Rice Terraces, Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines

Getting to Bangaan by toploading a jeepney was half the fun.

Bangaan Rice Terraces, Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines

8. Banaue Rice Terraces

Get to see the rice terraces printed on the 1,000 Peso bill at the viewpoint near Banaue Town Proper. Although the Banaue Rice Terraces view point may be the most touristic site in Ifugao and is not even included as one of the World Heritage Sites in UNESCO’s list, it arguably has the grandest view of rice terrace clusters in the whole country.

Banaue Rice Terraces, Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines

9. Banaue Hotel

Stay in comfort while exploring Ifugao’s Rice Terraces at Banaue Hotel, one of the most luxurious accommodations in the area. They had an excellent breakfast and dinner buffet with an awesome view to top it off.

Banaue Hotel, Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines

Breakfast with a view.

Banaue Hotel, Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines

Ifugao man showing us their custom of preparing native chicken for cooking.

10. Bayyo Rice Terraces

Take a rest stop at the Bayyo Rice Terraces viewpoint on your way from Banaue to Bontoc or Sagada. You will see the village of Bayyo and its rice terraces built on the side of very steep mountain slopes.

Bayyo Rice Terraces, Bontoc, Mountain Province

Cloudy view of Bayyo Rice Terraces during our visit.

11. Bontoc Museum

While in Bontoc, don’t skip a visit to the Bontoc Museum that houses exceptional exhibits on the history and heritage of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera region. I couldn’t help but find myself getting lost in the exquisite photographs of native Igorots and their customs captured by Eduardo Masferre sometime in the mid-1900s. They also had a nice outdoor museum that mimicked a traditional Ifugao village.

Bontoc Museum, Bontoc, Mountain Province

Bontoc Museum building inspired by the Ifugao House. Photography was not allowed in the indoor museum.

12. Sumaging Cave

Crawling inside caves might not be most people’s idea of a vacation but it Sagada, tourists literally lined up to experience the beautiful subterranean views of Sumaging Cave during our weekend visit.

Sumaging Cave, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Sumaging Cave, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Massive cavern inside Sumaging Cave with freezing cave pools and an underground river.

13. Lake Danum

Usually frequented for its scenic sunset view, we visited Lake Danum in Sagada under the mystical night sky for dinner and a cultural performance beside a bonfire. Don’t forget to bring extra thick layers for extremely chilly weather.

Lake Danum, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

14. Kiltepan Peak

A sunrise view fit for the dramatic “hugot” moment in the “Tadhana” movie. Kiltepan Peak is where you can witness the warm glow of the sun rise above a sea of clouds and an overlooking view of the Kilong Rice Terraces.


No sunrise view during our visit because of the thick fog, unfortunately :(

15. Echo Valley Hanging Coffins

When in Sagada, don’t miss a hike to Echo Valley and its Hanging Coffins found at the side of its stunning rock cliffs.

Hanging Coffins, Echo Valley, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philipp

Echo Valley, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

View of Sagada town center on our hike to the hanging coffins in Echo Valley.

16. Bangao View Deck

On your way from Sagada to Baguio, stopover at Bangao View Deck in Buguias, Benguet for a beautiful overlooking view of pine trees and the town’s vegetable terraces.

Bangao Viewdeck, Buguis, Benguet, Philippines

17. Buguias Vegetable Terraces

Skip a day at the market and enjoy a fun day picking your own vegetables at Buguias, Benguet located between Sagada and Baguio City. You’re guaranteed of fresh pickings and cheaper prices than supermarkets in the city.

Vegetable Terraces at Buguis, Benguet, Philippines

Vegetable Terraces at Buguis, Benguet, Philippines

Vegetable Terraces at Buguis, Benguet, Philippines

18. Atok Flower Farms

Why stop at picking your own vegetables when you can bring home freshly cut flowers from Atok, Benguet. The colorful instagram-able views alone are worth your trip. The town of Atok is also located along the mountain highway between Sagada and Baguio.

Flower Farm at Atok, Benguet, Philippines

Flower Farm at Atok, Benguet, Philippines

19. La Trinidad Strawberry Farm

Vegetables to feast on. Cut flowers to decorate your dining table. What else is missing? Fresh strawberries for dessert from La Trinidad, Benguet! The strawberry farms of La Trinidad can be reached within a 30-minute drive from Baguio City.

Starberry Farm at La Trinidad, Benguet, Philippines

Starberry Farm at La Trinidad, Benguet, Philippines

20. Baguio City

A must visit for a trip to the Cordilleras, Baguio City is the summer capital of the Philippines. Here, you can find all the conveniences you would expect in a modern metropolis plus tons of excellent activities you could do during the day (or night!).

Mines View Park, Baguio City, Philippines

Mines View Park.

Good Taste Restaurant, Baguio City, Philippines

Queue at Good Taste Cafe & Restaurant spilled over to the sidewalk during lunch hours. This popular multi-level restaurant offered delicious large servings at cheap prices. Some levels had a good view overlooking Burnham Park.

Azalea Residences, Baguio City, Philippines

Beautiful early morning view from Azalea Residences Baguio.

Your itinerary doesn’t have to start or stop at the Cordilleras. You could visit these interesting sites on your way to or from Manila.

Quezon Heritage House, Quezon City Circle, Philippines

Quezon Heritage House. Our group met to start our tour at the Quezon Heritage House found at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, Metro Manila. This two-storey house served as a vacation house of the family of the late President Manuel L. Quezon. Originally located along Gilmore Street in New Manila, the Quezon Heritage House was transferred to its present location and made into a museum in memory of Quezon City’s founding father.

Philippine Carabao Center, Central Luzon State University, Phili

Philippine Carabao Center Satellite Station. Stop by the Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija to learn about the Research and Development programs at the Philippine Carabao Center.

Tilapia Ice Cream, Philippine Carabao Center, Central Luzon Stat

Central Luzon State University. Also located in Muñoz, take a tour around CLSU’s main campus and try the unusual but delicious Tilapia Ice Cream.

Book Your Tour

You can experience the 20 cool spots listed above by joining the “Cordillera’s Heritage Warrior Caravan” organized by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA). The tour supports the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) “Visit the Philippines 2015” campaign.

Here’s a description from PHILTOA:

Have you ever tried riding a wooden scooter bike? How about trekking the stairways to heaven? Discover the magic and charm in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Cordillera’s Heritage Warrior caravan is a specially designed tour crafted by the experts in the industry in partnership with the local government. It will encompass San Jose, Santa Fe, Lagawe, Banaue, Bontoc, Sagada, and Baguio provinces all in one trip.

The jump-off point for all the tours will emanate from Manila. PHILTOA President Cesar Cruz shares that “The Island Philippines Fun Caravans will accommodate both foreign and local markets, where they can choose to bring their own vehicles or avail the caravan vehicle. It is designed to provide flexibility in the choices of activities and accommodations — campsite, lodging houses, hostels, or star-rated properties.”

Cruz also added that the caravan is meant to become interactive and participative, hence, there will be programs that will encourage them to interact and immerse themselves in the local communities. Other facets that are expected to be entailed during each course are a dummy passport which will be stamped by the participating local government unit, mini-trade fairs, a festive welcome reception, and other community-based activities that will highlight the best spots and emerging lifestyle and travel trends in the municipalities included in the itinerary.

“As our tourism industry further shapes up through Visit the Philippines 2015, PHILTOA wanted to contribute through this caravan project, which aims to provide an effective platform for the promotion of different tourist destinations across the country,” says Cruz.


With Pinoy Travel Bloggers: Melo, Gael, and Marky and our Cordillera dummy passport fully stamped :)

You may contact PHILTOA for your inquiry and booking through these channels:

  • Address: Unit 810-811 8th Flr., Cityland 10 Tower 1, H.V. dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati City
  • Landline: (02) 812 4513; (02) 822 6964
  • Fax No.: (02) 817 4608
  • Email: [email protected]; [email protected]
  • Website: http://www.philtoa.com/

Disclosure: My experience aboard the Cordillera’s Heritage Warrior Caravan was sponsored by PHILTOA. Rest assured, all opinions stated in this article are solely my own.