The first time I traveled solo to Batanes, I rented a motorcycle to visit all the attractions in a day. That motorcycle ride around South Batan remains one of the most memorable rides I have ever done in the country. The distance may not have been that long, but in terms of coastal roads and just pure awesomeness of the landscape, Batanes is pretty hard to beat.
I got to experience the beauty of Batanes again a few months later when I returned with Art. This time, we decided to explore by mountain bikes. We allotted our combined baggage allowance for him to bring his bike, while I rented one from there to save costs. Despite the steep ascents and uphills, it’s possible to bike around the whole Batan island in a day. The experience is actually more rewarding and the views become even more special because of the effort it takes. You can also take your bike to the hills with some pretty amazing views. If you are a mountain biker, Batanes is definitely one of the most awesome bucket-list worthy bike destinations in the Philippines.
READ MORE: Biking in Batanes
Before I backpacked solo to Itbayat Island while Art biked around Sabtang Island, we spent a lazy day together, just for pure relaxation. I got to visit some sights I had missed during my first visit that are usually included in the North Batan Tour and we spent the rest of the day just chilling out at the beach. At the time, only vintage commuter bicycles were available for rent, which I learned from experience are very difficult to use on steep roads of Batanes, so we rented a motorcycle to cover more ground.
The town proper of Basco itself is very compact and walkable. You can easily walk from the airport to your homestay or inn. There’s a church, a plaza and a few eateries. From the Basco port, you can see Naidi Hills.
Basco Lighthouse in Naidi Hills is the town’s major landmark. From here, you can get a beautiful view of rolling hills and liveng, the Batanes complex of hedgerows spread out over the hills. Locals plant small trees, tall grass like talahib, bamboo, shrubs and/or corn in order to protect crops against grazing animals, from the wind and soil erosion or to serve as boundaries between farming lands.
Another popular spot north of Basco is Vayang Rolling Hills. The view from the lighthouse gives you an unobstructed view of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The view of verdant rolling hills, the sea in the distance, and cows grazing on the slopes epitomizes Batanes.
There are two major boulder beaches in Batanes. The previous night, we visited Chadpipan Boulder Beach, which can be seen from rolling hills. It’s a pretty steep downhill to get there (especially if you’re on a commuter bicycle), but it’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset. There are also Burial Grounds and Japanese Tunnels hidden in the hills near the beach.
On the opposite side of the island nearer the airport is Valugan Boulder Beach, which is also lined with boulders of igneous rocks said to have been spewed by Mt. Iraya long ago when it was still geologically active. The waves are quite strong in both beaches, so swimming isn’t really recommended, but both are really scenic. This beach is best for sunrise shoots.
Tukon Hill is one of the major stops in the North Batan Tour. This hill which is reachable by a steep paved road contains a number of sites of interest and stunning views.
For those with cash to burn, Fundacion Pacita is the place to stay in Batanes. Formerly the home studio of renowned artist Pacita Abad, the place is now a nature lodge that offers the best accommodations in Batanes. The Abads are the most prominent and the most powerful family in Batanes. The place is a landmark, with rooms and suites showcasing traditional Ivatan art. However, staying here is a bit expensive for backpackers and budget travelers.
Day-trippers are welcome to visit Fundacion Pacita if they want to look around. Unfortunately, it was closed to visitors for a private function during our visit. With its gorgeous views and isolated location, this place is best for honeymooners or couples who want relative privacy.
Nearby is the PAG-ASA weather station, where you can get a 360-degree view of the beautiful landscape. From here, you can see Mt. Iraya, the cliffs by the beach, and the rolling hills. From afar the station kind of looks like a giant golf ball, waiting to be tossed into the greens.
Built in the traditional design of Ivatan stone houses, Tukon Chapel is a charming chapel on a hill near Fundacion Pacita. The walls are made of boulders pieced together, with three crosses adorning the facade with its carved wooden doors and a trellis of vines. Inside the chapel, there are hand-painted images of the province’s patron saints and large stained glass windows that offer views of the sea outside. The chapel is the stuff of dream weddings!
From my last visit, I remembered stopping by a beautiful white sand beach in between Mahatao and Ivana and wanting to stop for a swim or picnic.
The White Beach in Maydangeb, Ivana offered a peaceful respite from the heat. It was low tide when we visited this time, but there were some empty hammocks hanging up in trees calling out to us. We ended up just taking it easy during the hottest part of the day. I think I’ll make it a point to bring a hammock whenever I ride, because siestas with the ocean breeze under the shade of trees are a valid part of the travel experience. We bought a few cold drinks and snacks from a vendor and just sat back and relaxed with this view before heading back to Basco for the day.
I just love this narrow road leading to Basco Lighthouse with towering cliffs on either side. From here, you get a perfect view of the rolling hills, Mt. Iraya and the open sea. It was a perfect way to cap a day of riding.
The great thing about having a motorbike is the mobility. After picking up Art, we headed to Casa Napoli, a home-grown restaurant that’s famous for their pizza and pasta dishes. Their restaurant beside Bernardo’s Hostel in Chanarian (near the national road) is a bit far from the town proper if you have walk (tricycle fare costs P50 one way), but is just a quick motorcycle ride away.