Ilocos is a region in the Philippines which has two provinces: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. This region is known for its historical sites, beaches and the well-preserved Spanish colonial city of Vigan. You can reach Ilocos in different ways according to what is preferable to your convenience and budget.
- By Plane: Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines do have flights between Manila to Laoag in Ilocos Norte which would cost around Php 1,500 – 2,500 depending on your travel dates or if you can catch a promo fare.
- By Bus: There are a lot of public buses traveling from Manila to Ilocos and will take around 10-12 hours travel time. Normally, fare ranges from Php 700 – 1,000. You also have a choice if you like to have air-conditioned or non-air-conditioned buses.
- By Car: If you are into long drives, you can take your car going to Ilocos which would take around 8-10 hours. You can check Google Maps for the route going there.
In our case, we availed of the Tour Package (Php 2,850 for 12-15 pax) offered by N.E.C Tours which is inclusive of roundtrip air-conditioned van service (Manila-Ilocos-Manila), hotel accommodation, insurances, permits, and entrance fees.
Not all travels are perfect, sometimes, we can encounter some unexpected circumstances. During our trip, we were supposed to be at our designated location around 6:00AM yet we arrived around 10:00AM due to heavy rains and some areas along the way were flooded which caused minor landslides. Another tragic incident happened when our friend had a major leg injury during one of our activities and we needed to bring her to the nearest hospital. With these kind of situations during our first day, we missed some of our supposed-to-be-destinations. But more than that, we stayed positive and continued with our trip though some of us stayed with our friend in the hospital.
Here are the TOP 5 PLACES you need to visit in ILOCOS.
1. Marcos Museum and Mausoleum
Located at the quiet place of Batac City lies the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum that houses hundreds of memorabilia of the late Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos that will take you back to his regime and achievements. Ilocos is known to be the Marcos’ “balwarte” where locals really loved him and adore him for his rulings though there are some people in the Philippines who are against him because of Martial Law.
In the Mausoleum lies the remains of the late President and according to rumors, the body was not the real one but just a replica made out of wax. Until now, it is still a rumor as there is no definite answer yet.
2. Sand Dunes
One of the highlights of our trip is our extreme adventure here in Paoay Sand Dunes. It is a vast sand playground for the exciting 4×4 jeep ride and sand boarding.
The 4×4 ride is a bumpy ride of different levels of obstacles and slopes. It is like a roller coaster and heart-pounding ride. Usually, the driver accelerates the jeep from a 90-degree slope of a hill to create a more exciting ride that will swing you up from one side to another of the hill. To survive this knee-bruising and elbow-breaking adventure, you need to hold firmly on the bars of the jeep.
For the Sand Boarding, you need to glide yourself down on either a standing position or a sitting position using a board. If you choose to stand, you should balance yourself so that you will not fall off the board easily in the middle of the slope.
By the way, it is during this activity where our friend experienced a major leg injury. At first, we thought that it was just a simple cramp until we all decided to take her to the nearest hospital as she was really crying because of the excruciating pain. The doctor told us that her bones were fractured and she needed to be treated ASAP.
3. Paoay Church
Paoay Church is also known as St. Augustine Church which was built in 1710 with a unique baroque architectural designs made from solid construction materials. The Spanish friars who built the church made sure that the church can withstand earthquakes. Adjacent to the church is its 3-storey stunning bell tower which serves as the observational post for Filipino revolutionaries against the Spaniards. And the best part? The façade is a picture perfect for your Instagram and Facebook feeds.
4. Vigan City / Calle Crisologo
If you want to experience how does living in the Spanish Era feels like, then this is the place for you. Calle Crisologo or Mena Crisologo Street is filled with Spanish-style houses built in cobblestone streets, roofs in red tiles, thick walls, and huge doors. The place was named after the respected son of Ilocos, Don Mena Pecson Crisologo who is an illustrious writer and politician.
Today, what you can see mostly are souvenir shops, cafes, and hotels. You can also find the best products of Vigan here like food, snacks, woodcrafts, and woven items. One should definitely complete their Calle Crisologo Trip with a “Calesa” which is used during the Spanish Era as carriages that transport people from one place to another.
5. Bangui Windmills
Bangui Windmills wind farm in Ilocos is a project granted by the Danish government to the Ilocos Norte Province in 1998 but the inauguration took place in 2005. Each windmill is 70 meters high and is located just 10 meters away from the sea edge that provides almost 40% of the power needed by the entire province of Ilocos Norte.
Though this place was made originally to utilize renewable energy sources, the site itself has become a tourist destination that will totally put you in awe as you see them. We only see it in Philippine post cards before, but it has a totally different feeling when you see it with your own bare eyes. Imagine having huge electric fans right in front of you. Be ready for a “Mahangin ba sa labas?” hairdo.
These are just 5 of the wonderful places we visited in Ilocos. It has been a wonderful 3-day trip with our friends as well as reconnecting to our ancestral roots in the past through these historical places.
Below are some of the other superb places we explored in Ilocos that are worth mentioning.