Having thoughts of going on a vacation this summer? Want to have an adventure, nature trip, beach bumming and historical walk through all-in-one without going off coast from Luzon? Then let me take you to Ilocos Norte, the broke travelers’ way.
So before I talk about the place; let me tell you how to get there first. There are two (2) ways on how to get to Ilocos Norte, by Plane or by Land.
Commuting to Ilocos Norte
Via Plane, you would likely be landing on Laoag International Airport which is located at the heart of Ilocos Norte. They offer free shuttle service to the different Hotels in Laoag City.
Via Land (Bus), There is a terminal at the back of UST where Maria De Leon Bus Lines is located. They both have the normal Air conditioned bus and the deluxe one with spacious seats. If you’re near Quezon City, you may want to try Aurora Blvd. corner Pinatubo; there you’ll see the terminal of Partas Bus Lines. Travelling from Manila to Laoag City is quite a long ride, it’s a whopping of 10-hour ride. I would suggest traveling at night and sleeping it out. Bring a travel pillow with you if you like to have comfortable sleep on the road.
Ilocos Norte is located at the northern part of Luzon, the home of the famous Former President Ferdinand Marcos. Most likely you’ll be booking a hotel in Laoag City or Pagudpud near the beach. Now, there will be several activities, crowded places, tourist destinations in Ilocos Norte, so let me help you decide on where to go by narrowing down the things you’ll need to put on your check list.
1. Eat Empanada!
Photo credit: Chin Uy
Upon walking on the streets of Ilocos Norte, you’ll see people falling in line beside mini stalls, where orange pastries are being fried in a pool of hot oil. Meet the Mighty Empanada! This orange pastry stuffed with bean sprouts/shredded cabbage/shredded green papaya and egg, is something that the locals not just in Ilocos Norte, but in the whole of Ilocos Region are proud of.
It’s super “oily” but still my personal favorite. Empanada that is being sold in the local market tastes more authentic, but I guess the ones on the streets are not bad at all. Again, don’t leave Ilocos without eating Empanada! You don’t want to miss half of your life by not trying it.
2. Visit their Tourist Spots
Kapurpurawan or White Rock in Burgos
Sinking Bell Tower Laoag
Mini spelunking in Bantay Abot
There are lots of tourist spots in Ilocos Norte; which were preserved well for the past century. National shrines, heritage sites and museums are some of them. Now you’re thinking, “How would I be able to visit them all if I have limited time?” Here’s the trick, don’t spend too much time on one tourist spot, appreciate the structures and scene, get a camera and take a photo, then go to the next place. Don’t waste your time loitering around with other tourists, unless there are more to see inside that place, like a museum.
3. Sand dunes Adventure (Sand boarding and 4×4 extreme ride)
Photo credit: Chin Uy
Would you like to have an extreme activity added to your trip? Then I would recommend Laoag Sandventure. There’s one in Paoay also, but Laoag has bigger sand dunes. Trust me on this one, YOU MUST TRY THIS 4×4 RIDE! They usually costs Php 2,500, with a max of 5 persons per ride, but don’t worry it includes unlimited Sand-boarding. My tip? Go in groups! If you’re traveling solo, find people to share the ride. With a group of 5, it’ll just cost you Php 500 pax.
For more information you may visit their site on Facebook Laoag Sandventure. Message/Call/Text them directly and they might give you a discount.
4. Take jump shot photos with their Windmills
Me and my bad photography skills (Sorry Ivan)
Bangui is the location of the infamous Ilocos Wind Turbines. Built in 2005 and was finished last year 2008, when Senator Bongbong Marcos was still the Governor of Ilocos Norte. Being the first to have available renewable energy in South East Asia, is something that our country should be proud of. I guess that’s why a lot of our countrymen are drawn to this spot of Ilocos Norte. I think we should have these available to all rural areas here in the Philippines.
5. Beach Bumming in Pagudpud
Pagudpud means beach to me!
Pagudpud beach front!
Ilocos Norte is the home of what they call “Boracay of the North“. Surfing, beach bumming, and partying are some of the activities that can be done there in Pagudpud. Maybe beach bumming is not your thing and would like to do something unique and adventurous. How about trying a 1.51Km Zipline? Yes! Hanna’s Beach Resort in Pagudpud offers the Longest Zipline in Asia! We were not able to try it, because it’s quite expensive (Php 900.00 for guests). Maybe next time, when our site is called rich travelers already (I kid).
Getting a tour in Ilocos Norte,
Map of Ilocos Norte
I would suggest renting a jeep or a van to save time going to places. As you can see places are far away from each other, and commuting is really a hassle there. So really going in groups is something that you should consider.
Ilocos Norte has a lot of things to offer, not just with their tourist destination, but also on the places which are rich in history. Here everyone will greet you with a smiling face, will try to offer you snacks that has been part of their culture hundreds of years ago. They will share knowledge that is unique to their way of life. Maybe that’s why some of our nation’s great heroes such as General Juan Luna came from Ilocos Norte.
So if you’re planning on having a one of a kind summer vacation without ruining your budget. Make Ilocos Norte as your number 1 choice.