Mid-October in the Philippines is the best time to go on a vacation in the North. Aside from the popular Oktoberfest in La Union, the Ilocos region experiences adequate temperatures during this week: not scorching hot unlike from March to May and not rainy unlike from June to September.
Both my parents are born in Ilocos, but during the holidays, we would stay in our home in Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur. I could only remember a time when we had a tour in Bantay Bell Tower when I was young, and of course, we had our last vacation as a whole family last December 2017 (before Mama died).
With tours and travel packages, Malacanang of the North and Baluarte ni Singson are included. However, these attractions are against my values, so I opted to take them out in the itinerary below. (That will give you more time visiting other more worthwhile tourist attractions.) Cape Bojeador Lighthouse should have been here, but it was under repair during our stay.
The best mode of transportation to visit all these tourist attractions in Ilocos is your own vehicle. Although there are tricycles and buses, finding one for a fair rate could be time-consuming.
05:00 – Calle Crisologo
06:00 – Bantay Bell Tower
08:00 – Breakfast at Hidden Garden
10:30 – Museo ni Juan at Antonio Luna
12:00 – Lunch
13:00 – Paoay Church
16:00 – Paoay Sand Dunes
18:00 – Rest and Night Life
07:00 – Breakfast
09:00 – Hannah’s Beach Resort and Blue Lagoon
13:00 – Lunch
14:00 – Bantay Abot Cave
15:00 – Bangui Windmills
16:30 – Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
19:00 – Rest and Night Life
08:00 – Breakfast
09:00 – Pasalubong Hunt
11:00 – Calle Crisologo and Lunch
13:00 – Quirino Bridge
14:00 – Departure
Ilocos Sur is not only known for its old churches and Spanish-Mexican-Chinese colonial architectures but also for its tasty must-try longganisa. The tourist attractions we went to included Calle Crisologo, Bantay Bell Tower, Hidden Garden, and Quirino Bridge.
Calle Crisologo in Vigan
The first time I went to Calle Crisologo was last December 2017 with my whole family. We had a glimpse into the remnants of the Spanish regime and was able to appreciate beautiful colonial houses while shopping for souvenirs.
Calle Crisologo at Dawn
Calle Crisologo at Midday
Although there are many restaurants to choose from, we settled with 1995 Studio Cafe. They serve coffee, frappes, as well as Vigan’s best delicacies.
I ordered sinigang na bagnet for Php 285 and cookies and cream frappe for Php 125. The pork in their sinigang had too much fat, so I was able to savor only a bit of the meat and more of its veggies.
Hidden Garden in Vigan
If I were asked where to eat in Vigan, I would easily recommend Hidden Garden. It is not only a restaurant offering breakfast meals and buffet areas but also a garden—as its name implies—where you can buy different plants. (I bought a snake plant worth Php 70, which I use as an air purifier in my room!)
Looking at the pictures below make me crave their food. Since I was on a diet, I ordered bangsilog for Php 170.00 (it comes with a free drink). Perfect score.
Restaurant Food: Bangsilog (L) and Bagnetsilog (R)
Bantay Bell Tower in Bantay
Not for people with extreme acrophobia. The Bell Tower of Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Caridad, also known as the Bantay Bell Tower, was constructed 1591–1592 to serve as the church’s belfry and the town’s watchtower.
Quirino Bridge, Santa
This one is actually the old Quirino bridge, also called Banaoang Bridge, which connects two beautiful mountains. Cars pass by the new bridge, while this one is more used for picture-taking.
The highest part of Region I, also labeled as the True North, is known for the home of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Ilocos Norte also takes pride in its historic churches, aquamarine-colored waters, and panoramic mountain views.
Museo Nina Juan at Antonio Luna, Badoc
This museum is located at Badoc, Ilocos Norte, where the famous painter Juan Luna was born. Although Juan became popular for his award-winning Spolarium, the largest painting in the Philippines, let us all remember that he killed his wife and his mother-in-law. On the other hand, we became more familiar with his brother Antonio Luna—a pharmacist, editor-in-chief, and general—because of Director Jerold Tarog’s Heneral Luna.
The museum is a reconstructed house of the Luna family, which suffered fire damages in 1861. It contained six galleries that displayed the brothers’ memorabilia.
Saint Augustine Church, Paoay
The Church of Paoay was founded by Augustinian missionaries in 1593. Katipuneros used its tower as an observation post during the revolutions.
Paoay Sand Dunes Adventures, Paoay
If you are going to Ilocos, I highly recommend that you avail of the activities offered by Paoay Sand Dunes Adventures. For Php 500, you will already enjoy the thrilling 4×4 ride (I had no sports equipment—and enough guts—to record it) and sandboarding, along with five other people with you. This was the most enjoyable part of my vacation.
Blue Lagoon and Hannah’s Beach Resort, Pagudpud
I have never seen such aquamarine waters in my entire life. The mountain ranges, the serenity that the waves brought, the clear blue skies, the white sand—I loved everything about Blue Lagoon.
Breathtaking Blue Lagoon
Since it got extremely hot at noon, we stayed under the huts of Hannah’s Beach Resort, which citizens claim to be “the most beautiful resort around Blue Lagoon.”
Hannah’s Beach Resort
Here’s how big their field of sculptures is:
Bantay Abot Cave, Pagudpud
Although I’m not typically fond of hiking and climbing landforms, something unique about my Ilocos experience was how people helped me climb and get down a huge rock in Bantay Abot Cave. It was embarrassing, but my “in the name of my IG feed” attitude made me come out of my comfort zone, so why not?
Bangui Wind Farm, Bangui
If you want to find out how windy can Ilocos Norte get, visit Bangui Wind Farm in Pagudpud. Its highlight? Twenty units of 70-meter wind turbines! Converting wind energy to electric energy, these gigantic instruments power the whole Bangui Bay.
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Burgos
On the rocky coast of Burgos lies nature’s art—Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, which is recognized for its cream-white limestone structures.