Northern Luzon road trip: A suggested itinerary

There’s no better way to take in the sights of the uppermost regions of the Philippines than by hitting the highway

Patapat Viaduct

Patapat Viaduct

Looking to get away from Manila? Take a road trip up to the northern beauty spots of Ilocos Norte, Vigan and La Union, where the air is fresh and the sights stunning. It’s not difficult to find your way up north — road maps are widely available in convenience stores, and you can also use online applications such as Waze and Google Maps. Check out our recommended route.

Bangui Wind Farm
Bangui Wind Farm

Leg 1: Manila to Ilocos Norte

Approximately 10 hours

It takes the best part of a day to drive from the capital to Ilocos Norte, so we’d recommend leaving the city at 4am to reach your destination by mid-afternoon. Be sure to stop by Glory’s Empanada (Caunayan, Batac City), located along the main highway, for warm and crisp turnovers stuffed with longganisa (pork sausage) and egg.

As you approach your destination, you’ll pass Bangui Wind Farm (Bangui), where you’ll glimpse a stretch of towering windmills. This is a sure sign that you’re on the right track! From here, make a stop along Patapat Viaduct for breathtaking views of the ocean.

Check into Pannzian Beach and Mountain Resort (Brgy. Pancian, Pagudpud; +63 920 952 0662; pannzian.com) for the night, where you can enjoy a much-needed digital detox — there’s no cellular reception here. The hotel also makes a great base from which to explore the rest of Ilocos Norte, as it offers a number of package tours.

Spend the next day taking in the sights of Ilocos Norte. Head to the La Paz Sand Dunes (Laoag City), a coastal desert where you can enjoy a spot of sandboarding or ride an ATV. Alternatively, visit the forested municipality of Adams, where the friendly locals will be more than willing to take you around. The village is known for its bignay (a tangy, cherry-like fruit) products, so don’t forget to sample some — for example, the wine that’s made here.

Then, embark on an hour-long hike up the mountains to reach the beautiful Anuplig Falls — take a dip in its crisp waters to cool off after your trek.

The facade of Paoay Church
The facade of Paoay Church

Leg 2: Ilocos Norte to Vigan

Approximately 3 hours

Once you’ve explored Ilocos Norte, make your way to Vigan, stopping by the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Paoay Church (Paoay; +63 77 614 0214) along the way. Constructed in 1710, this Roman Catholic church stands out from other churches in the area, thanks to its distinctive architecture — you’ll see enormous buttresses on the side and back of the building, which help fortify it against earthquakes.

Also read: 7 beautiful places of worship in the Philippines

Fuel up at the famous Herencia Café (Paoay; +63 77 614 0214) in front of the church, which serves up mouthwatering Ilocano fare. Then check into Playa Tropical Resort Hotel (Brgy. Victoria, Currimao; +63 77 670 1211; playatropical.com.ph) for the evening.

The beach at San Juan
The beach at San Juan

Leg 3: Vigan to La Union

Approximately 4 hours

Take a morning drive to San Juan in La Union province, a choice surf spot known for its fantastic beach breaks and relaxed vibe. Besides surfing, you can sign up for a yoga class or two, trek to the spectacular Tuddingan Waterfalls (Tuddingan, Naguilian, La Union), or simply relax on the beach with a good book.

Also read: 8 natural wonders you must visit in the Philippines

For accommodation, we’d recommend staying at the Flotsam & Jetsam Hostel (MacArthur Highway, San Juan, La Union; +63 917 802 1328; flotsamandjetsamhostel.com) a cozy abode with friendly staff. Don’t forget to grab a cuppa at nearby specialty coffee shop El Union (Km 274+, MacArthur National Highway beach side, Urbiztondo), which also serves up some of the best pancakes in town.

Leg 4: La Union to Manila

Approximately 6 hours

After having your fill of sun, sand and sea, it’s time to head back to Manila. Remember to have a filling meal and load up on the snacks before hitting the road — it’s a good six-hour journey back!

Written by

Mikka Wee

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