Batanes, Philippines – After finally landing in the smallest and northernmost province of the Philippines, we were stoked! We couldn’t contain our excitement and start touring the province’s second biggest island – Batan! Out of Batanes’ 10 islands, only three are inhabited and Batan is one of them. So here’s our first day, covering North Batan Tour and Itinerary.
Exploring Batanes: North Batan
After checking in at Marfel’s Lodge, our rented van driver and guide picked us up to start our tour. The capital of Batanes, Basco is located in North Batan and is also where the province’s airport is located. Beside the airport is Mt. Iraya, making it hard to fly to this province especially during times when the weather is not ideal.
You can actually explore Batan island via tricycle or bicycle (if you’re up for it!) but we chose a van since I was traveling with my three friends and they’re not as used to DIY and budget travel as I am.
The attractions in Batan island is divided into two — North and South.
So what did we see on our first day in Batanes?
North Batan tour and attractions
Vayang Rolling Hills and Mt Iraya
Cliche, but you’ll definitely burst into singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music”. That or you’ll be shocked speechless once you lay your eyes on the entirety of Vayang Rolling Hills. The lush pastoral landscape certainly has that effect – green rolling hills, strong winds, grazing cows, hedgerows, blue skies. We were lucky that when we got there, there were only a few other visitors and there were more cows than people!
Beyond the hills with different shades of green lies the West Philippine Sea. In the distance, you can also see the majestic Mt Iraya and Chadpidan Boulder Beach. You can also see the other islands if it’s not cloudy.
Mt Iraya (approximately 1,009 masl) is still an active volcano, although its last eruption was way back 1454. Like Mayon, you’d be lucky to see Mt Iraya in its full glory and without cloud cover. If you’re a mountaineer and willing to brave the thickly forested climb, a guide is required if you want to hike up the summit of Mt. Iraya.
Naidi Hills and Basco Lighthouse
This iconic white and red lighthouse built in 2003 can be seen amidst the rolling hills in Naidi. The viewing deck offers a panoramic view of Basco town proper and the surrounding landscape.
Besides the lighthouse is a former American bunker that is now a restaurant called Bunker’s Cafe. People come here not just for the food but more so for the view during sunset.
Related: Where to eat in Batanes
Mt Carmel Chapel (Tukon Church)
Perched on a small hill in Barangay Chanarian, what made this small church stand out is because of its boulder walls, the only one of its kind among the churches in the province. Inside, you’ll be amazed by stained glass windows, carved wooden doors, and the handpainted ceiling. Officially opened in 2008, it is now one of the famous churches to get married at. It was also made even popular by a local rom-com movie.
Radar Tukon (PAGASA)
The PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration) of course has their own weather station in the northernmost province of the country.
Batanes, which is surrounded by the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, is often on the path of typhoons and a reference point in the north for storm updates. Located in the hills of Tukon, it overlooks Mt Iraya and the rolling hills with its hedgerows (liveng).
Along the way, our guide pointed out the Basco Idjang in the distance. Idjangs are ancient Ivatan stone fortresses and habitations.
Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge
Sitting on a hill with a view of the sea is the former home and studio of the acclaimed artist, Pacita Abad. Now a luxury accommodation, it pays homage to Ivatan art and heritage and also has a gallery that showcases the artworks of Pacita Abad and up-and-coming local artists.
Its location and the surrounding verdant landscape is certainly a good inspiration for creating paintings and even photography. It was too picturesque for words! Too bad that when we went there, the lodge is closed from August 1 to October 30. This is to allow three months rest for the facility and for the plants, soil, and land to recuperate.
Dipnaysuhwan (Dipnaysuhuan) Japanese Tunnel
If there were no people outside the entrance of the tunnel, I would have easily overlooked it. A small hole beside the roadside under a tree root and stones, leading you further underground.
I’m not a big fan of caves and tunnels for they make me feel claustrophobic. So after opening my flashlight app, I went with our guide inside the tunnels that used to be the shelter of Japanese soldiers during World War II. We went around different doorways and chambers and exited on top of a hill, which is probably the lookout spot of the Japanese soldiers.
Valugan Boulder Beach (Chanpan)
When we think of the word beach, immediately what comes to mind is powdery sand, coconut trees, and idyllic waves. But Valugan offers something different – boulders from the 15th-century eruption of Mt. Iraya.
Smooth andesite rocks litter the area where the sand should dominantly be, making the path to the water tricky to walk on. The waves crash angrily to the shore, a clear warning that swimming here would be near to impossible.
Boulders notwithstanding, I was literally jumping for joy (again) when we reached this unique beach. Definitely a masterpiece of Mother Nature. There’s something so hypnotic about watching the fierce waves kiss the shore (and rocks).
Basco town proper
After resting for a bit at Marfel’s we decided to rent some bikes from the neighbors and explore the town proper. Since I was a pansy ass for not being able to brave the bike, I walked instead while my three friends biked. We stopped by the first Catholic church in the country built in the 18th century, Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Cathedral, then head back to our guesthouse.
Our Batanes North Batan tour and itinerary:
Day 1 North Batan
0600 H ETD NAIA 3
0745 H ETA Basco Airport
0800 H Arrival at Marfel Lodge Annex (pick-up c/o Marfel)
1030 H Start of North Tour (Vayang Rolling Hills | Naidi Lighthouse)
1230 H Lunch (6 to 8 Panciteria)
1315 H Mt Carmel Chapel | Radar Tukon (PAGASA) | Idjang Viewing | Fundacion Pacita | Dipnaysuhwan Japanese Tunnel | Valugan Boulder Beach
1500 H end of tour
1515 H Marfel’s Lodge (start of free time)
bike around the Provincial Capitol, plaza, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, port, Shanedel’s Inn
1830 H Dinner (Octagon)
Who to contact for Batanes tours?
Click here for the list of DoT (Department of Tourism) accredited travel agencies and tour operators in Batanes as well as more suggested itineraries.
Where to stay in Batanes?
We stayed in Marfel’s Lodge and would love to do so again. But here is the list of DOT-accredited accommodations in Batanes that you can choose from.
Here are more accommodation options in Batanes:
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Have you been to Batanes? How was your experience? 🙂
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