Quick guide to Sagada, Philippines

SAGASA is a beautiful small town in the Mountain Province of the Philippines. There are tons of outdoor activities you can enjoy here, particularly cave and waterfall exploration. The following is a quick guide for an extended weekend jaunt from Manila or wherever else you may happen to be.

1. Length of stay

Do what I did, treat yourself to a long weekend and spend three days in Sagada. This should be the perfect amount of time to see it all and fit in some side trips.

sagada Philippines

2. Find your adobe

While accommodation was arranged by our hell-on-wheels tour, we quite liked where we got to lay our throbbing heads. Emily and I stayed at Sagada Homestay Inn, a charming timber lodge with a cafe, snack shop, outdoor fireplace and oh yeah, HOT water — a rarity even in the city. Our cabin window even opened to an incredible vista of the surrounding highlands. My pastoral heart sang.

sagada

Most of the accommodations in Sagada are a similar set up to this, and usually, you don’t need to book. We saw many solo backpackers strolling the village streets, ducking in and out of lodges to find one which suited them best.

sagada

3. Venturing out

Wake up in time for first light at Kiltepan.

Sagada, Philippines

Break your fast and then get to Bomod-Ok Falls. Most sites say it takes upwards of four hours to complete the hike, but this is false. If in reasonable shape, you should complete it in under two hours. The journey on foot is fascinating, you’ll pass a farming village, paddocks of carabaos, rice terraces and also traditional footbridges, these are good for Instagram photo ops.

Sagada

You might like to allow extra time to swim in the beautiful yet chilly waters like we did. Most tourists and locals won’t go in because of the temperature, so you should have plenty of room to lay some sweet bombs and spread out into floating starfish position for the ‘gram.

Sagada

If you’re feeling adventurous, climb up and around the falls for great vantage points, jumping spots and hidden rock pools.

Sagada

You can even ride a Jeepney back into town once you reach the end of your hike.

Sagada

For the spelunkers and problem solvers, check out the Lumiang-Sumaguing cave connection and do it the hard way. This vast network of caves has subterranean rivers, grottoes, and huge cathedral-like rocky chambers. It’s a good three hours of climbing, rappelling, wading and crawling, so basically the standard Friday night orgy I mentioned previously.

Sagada

Provided your guide is up for it — you’ll need a local to show you through — this caving experience is Choose Your Own Adventure. You can extend your journey however way you’d like. If you’re a fiend for side quests, you’ll love this experience. Tip: Go early. It gets busy and most of the other cavers are slow.

After all the grunt work, check out the Hanging Coffins in Echo Valley. It’s a laidback affair, you could do it with a San Miguel in hand. It is definitely a touristy spot but the peculiarity of the burials is worth it. Plus it’s always good to get fresh ideas for your funeral mood board on Pinterest.

Sagada

For all of these activities, you can book transport and a guide from Sagada’s tourism office in town.

4. Feasting

If you’re a vegetarian like me, you’ll be eating eggs and rice for the duration of your stay. Chop suey if you’re lucky. This isn’t so bad considering your meat-eating companions will be crippled by not knowing whether the meat they’re eating is dog or not.

That’s right, in Sagada it’s normal to eat doggies. Sad, I know, but at least you’ve been briefed now and not later like I was. I only found out after I photographed over 20 pooches around Sagada and formed a sacred connection with every one of them. Woe is me.

Sagada

So Sagada isn’t exactly a foodie’s delight. Nonetheless, it is situated in fertile mountain environments, so they do offer their specialties. The town is famous for its creamy yogurt (see: Yoghurt House) a treat after being in Manila. They’re also obsessed with making lemon pies. There’s a two-storey restaurant dedicated to them (see: Sagada Lemon Pie House).

I wouldn’t particularly recommend either of those joints for eating anything other than their specialty dishes, so if it’s all-around goodness you seek give Sagada Brew a try. They have a selection of meals, takeaway desserts, and a quirky owner who sold Emily fruit for half the price of what he sold it to me for. Right in front of us. At the same time. Also, the mountain rice they lump with everything is a delight. It’s the same colour as Willy Wonka’s snazzy purple suit.

Masferre is also great for its wonderfully friendly staff, variety of sandwich subs, and their cheap and delicious fruit smoothies.

If you’re staying over the weekend, be sure to book in for the Saturday banquet at The Log Cabin. This place has the best ambiance in town.

5. Side trips from Sagada

If you’ve been driving overnight you should be able to line up sunrise at the Banaue Rice Terraces. This 2,000-year-old agricultural delight is particularly invigorating when you’ve been in the fetal position in the back of a van all night.

Sagada

Passing through the highland villages on the way down from Sagada is an entirely new experience in itself. En route to La Trinidad, we stopped at a roadside restaurant and wandered out.

Sagada

We saw local farmers singing Pinoy opera in the fields, and we chatted to families as they walked to school. These villagers looked almost Peruvian with their dazzling russet skin, rosy cheeks, and white smiles. One family we spoke to had a gorgeous little girl whose cheeks I wanted to squeeze until they plopped off into my hands and I could wear them as suave eye patches.

Stopping in La Trinidad is a great idea if you love strawberries. Here you can pick them from the fields, buy them by the kilo and browse the markets for strawberry-themed souvenirs.

You can also stop in the town of Baguio, but I’d limit it to a pit stop. Traffic there is comparable to Manila’s, and didn’t you go to the mountains to leave all that stank behind?

This article originally appeared at Lost by Luna and is republished with permission from the author.

Amazing images of the Philippines

MY FIRST trip of the year was to the Philippines, a place I have always wanted to visit. My girlfriend and I spent a month finding hidden beaches, swimming in crystal clear lagoons, speaking to locals in some of the most beautiful rice terraces I’ve ever seen (despite the rain and fog) and meeting the huge whale sharks of Cebu. It was one of my favorite destinations to date, and the incredible culture, people, and landscapes have lead me to plan my return to the Philippines already! Here is a collection of my favorite photos from the trip. Enjoy!

All photos by the author. To see more of Jordan’s work follow him on Instagram.

1

El Nido is full of amazing places to explore and enjoy. We stumbled upon this beach and decided that one day we should live there.

2

The North of Bohol is filled with many hidden treasures and is absolutely one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines.

3

Shortly after this photo was taken, we found out the light on our motorbike had broken, so we had to drive almost forty miles down snaking mountain roads in the pitch dark. On the positive side, we had never seen so many stars in our lives.

4

A short hike behind the infamous Kawasan Falls in Cebu brings you to these small fairy pools, where you can get away from the tourists that crowd the main waterfall.

5

Believe it or not, it only took her two dives to get this shot.

6

We arrived at Kawasan falls really early in the morning to avoid the crowds, and man was it worth it.

7

We got lucky and chose a particularly good evening for a sunset ride to Osmeña peak, the highest point in Cebu.

8

Sunrise is my absolute favorite time of the day to shoot, and this shows you why.

9

Traveling with an animal lover means we make friends with every dog, cat, and monkey that we come across.

10

On our way to the North of Bohol, we spotted this secluded beach and couldn’t believe we were the only ones there to enjoy these views.

11

Besides busy Nacpan beach is this little hidden gem. We were the only tourists on the entire beach and got this amazing sunset all to ourselves.

12

Hunting for beach swings is one of my favorite past times.

13

Tumalog Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve been to so far.

14

Swimming (I’m not sure you can call it that) from the boat to a nearby rock to get this shot with my camera above my head must have been a sight! Always remember your waterproof casing.

15

After a last minute flight to Coron, we were more than happy to swim through the Twin Lagoon on a steaming February morning.

El Nido is Next Level Beautiful

El Nido, on Palawan Island, is the place I was most excited about seeing on my Philippines trip.  I first learned of the area back when I still had my travel magazine, and an article on this “off-the-beaten-path” but “up-and-coming” destination was submitted.  Of course, these days it’s far from off the tourist trail, and […]