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One of the most popular destinations in Northern Philippines is Ilocos Norte, an 8-10 hour travel from Manila. From a remote area to a tourist spot, Ilocos Norte became popular because of its white sand beaches, hidden waterfalls, and heritage structures.

Since it’s my father’s hometown, it also became my second home. During my childhood days, we visit there every year- which is, to spend time with my grandmother and aunt. And boy, that was one of the golden days of my childhood. It’s one of the reasons why my passion for travel started. We’ve visited Ilocos’s tourist spots even before they got famous and we are one of the lucky ones to see its untouched beauty.

Aside from swimming and hiking, there so many things to do on this north side of Ilocos. Here are 7 things you need to do when travelling to Ilocos Norte.

1 . Try their famous Empanada and Miki at Batac

A trip to Ilocos Norte is not complete without tasting Empanada and Miki. A 20-minute drive from Laoag City (Capital of Ilocos Norte), Batac is famous for their delicious Empanada, a pastry which is filled with delicious fillings such as Longganisa, egg and bean sprouts. There are many kinds of Empanada you can try, such as the jumbo Empanada (with hot dog filling), double special and so on. Partner your Empanada with Miki, a delicious noodle soup with egg.

Empanada ( Batac Version)

Miki

2 . Have a Sunday visit at Paoay Church

The Saint Augustine Church or popularly known as Paoay Church, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1710, this beautiful church is also known for its grand architecture and entering the church is like stepping into the past. I loved how they preserved its old world charm amidst of the development around the church. There are many restaurants, coffee shops and souvenir shops around the area that you can explore. I suggest to avoid visiting during the Holy Week, which falls either in the last week of March or second week of April. The last time we went there was Good Friday, and the place was really crowded.

Side trip: Paoay Lake

Take a breath of fresh air and view this majestic lake on your way to the church. If you are coming from Laoag City going to Paoay Church, you can already view the lake along the highway. Aside from its beautiful view, what I like about this Lake is the legend behind it. My grandmother told us that there is a town beneath the lake, and the story why it sank is sort of like Atlantis. The people in the town were wicked and unkind, so as a punishment, a huge flood came and sank the entire town, which became the Paoay Lake we know today.

View of Paoay Lake

3 . Marvel at the sight of Kapurpurawan’s rock formations

I would like to give a huge shout out to my father’s high school classmate- because of him, we visited one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We visited this place 9 years ago, back when the place is not yet popular and only few tourists come here. My father’s classmate sent him a photo of Kapurpuruwan and at first, he thought it was in a foreign country. We never knew that a beautiful and otherworldly place like this can be found in Ilocos Norte.

Our shot in Kapurpurawan last December 2009.

As far as I’ve remembered, we hiked for about an hour before we reach the rock formations. Well, that was 10 years ago and now you can get there by horseback riding if you are not fond of long hikes.

For me, the long hike was worth it! It’s like I’m in another planet and seeing the majestic ocean and its huge waves hitting the rocks, makes me feel like I’m in a fantasy movie set. My aunt also told us that long ago, people who attempted to go there got lost. Natives say that the culprit is an Engkanto, or an elemental that guards the whole place.

Kapurpurawan Rock Formations in Burgos, Ilocos Norte is an hour drive away from Laoag City. I suggest to go here early in the morning to avoid the high sun (the place has no shade or trees) and the huge crowd.

4. Have a relaxing swim at Saud Beach, Pagudpud

Known also as the Boracay of the North, Saud Beach truly deserves the title. With its clear blue waters and fine white sand like Boracay, going to Saud Beach is one of the things I’m looking forward to whenever we travel to Ilocos Norte. To be honest, it is even better than Boracay!

Saud Beach Resort is a 2-hour travel from Laoag City. The Entrance fee is around 50 Php per head and cottage rental starts at 500Php (whole day). The resort has a hotel too, if you want to stay longer; room price starts at 4,000 Php + per night. For more information, visit their official website here

Saud Sunset

5. View the whole Ilocos Norte from above at Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Burgos

Declared as a National Historical Landmark and a National Cultural Treasure, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is one of the heritage structures in the north that has withstood time and a silent witness to the Philippines’s rich history. Just an hour drive from Laoag City, this place is one of the most popular tourist spots in Ilocos because of its historical structure and the view from the top. You can view the whole Ilocos Norte and the majestic South China Sea and mountains.

View from Cape Bojeador

When we went here years ago, climbing to the top was quite scary because of its steep staircase, not to mention that the glass windows at the top have many cracks already. To add to the thrill, our tour guide mentioned that a white lady and a ghost kid is said to roam around the area by noon and in the evening. He also told us that he heard a child’s laugh in the corridor while we were in the museum. He tried to find the “kid” in the corridor, but he found none. Apparently, there are no tourists inside at that time and its only us (plus the caretakers) in the area. We also didn’t see any kid there, so it’s up to you if you will believe it or not.

What’s truly amazing is that even if its over 100 years old, the lighthouse still functions and guides ships that enter the Philippine Archipelago from the north. The lighthouse is open 24 hours and entrance fee is 50 per head.

6. Pump up your adrenaline and take the Paoay Sand Dunes Adventure

One of the most famous attractions here in Ilocos Norte is their Sand Dunes, a long stretch of slopes of sand which passes from the towns of Currimao through to Pasuquin. Because of the booming tourism in Ilocos, Sand Dunes adventures became popular.

The Paoay Sand Dunes Adventure offers an exciting and fun experience for your visit in the sand dunes. You can either rent a 4×4 ride or try sand boarding, where you will slide over sand folds using a plank of wood. The 4×4 ride is one hell of a ride. A professional driver will be your guide while traversing the sand dunes with thrilling drops on sand ridges that are 10-20 ft high!

Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced this yet, but I promised myself that I’ll get to try to this the next time I’ll be back at Ilocos. 🙂

You can visit the official Facebook page of Paoay Sand Dunes Adventure here to know more.

7. View the sunset at Caparispisan, Ilocos Norte.

We’re lucky to find this hidden gem last April, after our day tour stay at Saud Beach. Just a 30-minute travel from Saud, this place is also known as “Little Batanes of the North” due to its barren hills and majestic view of the South China Sea. The place has not yet developed, which makes it even more beautiful when you see it in person.

Beautiful Sunset

Other tips when travelling to Ilocos Norte:

  • Avoid going here during the peak season (March-May), resorts and tourist spots can get really crowded.
  • I recommend to travel during the evening to avoid heavy traffic. We’ve done this ever since and the normal 10-hour travel is cut down to 8 (not including our stopovers). If road trips are not your cup of tea, you can opt for a flight travel to Laoag City, which is around 45-50 minutes.
  • Just keep exploring! 🙂 And at the same time, show respect to the places you will visit, especially with the locals. Do this and you’ll be the model tourist 🙂

How about you? Have you been to one of Ilocos Norte’s tourist spots? If so, comment down your experiences below!

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Published by Crizelda Nicolas