Whenever people ask me what the best destination I’ve been to in the Philippines is, it’s easy for me to say Batanes. In terms of raw landscapes, the northernmost province of the Philippines is really a dream destination. Though I love a lot of places I’ve been to around the country, Batanes is really special. It offers a unique blend of breathtaking scenery, natural attractions and well-preserved culture. Plus the locals here are just the most hospitable and kind people I’ve ever met. Everyone and everything here just feels so pure and good.
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Sabtang Island is one of three inhabited islands of Batanes, the northernmost province in the Philippines. With its well-preserved culture, beautiful natural landscapes, and friendly people, this remote island is such a refreshing escape. It’s one of the most laid-back and peaceful places I’ve been to in the country. Most people who travel to Batanes visit Sabtang Island on a day trip just to see the main tourist spots. During my last trip here, I got to spend three days on the island, while covering a local festival. If you want to experience how it is to live off-the-grid, I recommend you stay here a few days.
There’s a new airline that now flies to Batanes, the country’s most sought after travel destination! Wakay Air Transport Services (Inc.) offers chartered flights from Manila to Basco, Batanes and vice versa in partnership with AirSWIFT. Launched last March 29, 2016, Wakay Air’s flights are serviced by a 48-seater ATR 42-600 turboprop plane. Flights depart from A. Soriano Terminal in Pasay City to Basco Airport in Batanes. Flights from Manila leave 5:15 am and arrive in Basco at 7:00 am. Return flights leave at 7:20 am and arrive in Manila at 9:00 am. Travel time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Sabtang Island is one of three inhabited islands of Batanes, the northernmost province in the Philippines. It is here where you can see traditional stone houses that Batanes is known for. It is also here where you can find the finest weavers of Batanes known for making the vakul, a traditional headdress worn by farmers in the fields to protect them from the sun and rain. While women traditionally wear the vakul, men wear vests known as kanayi and talugong, a traditional wide-brimmed farmer’s hat.
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.
Batan and Sabtang Island are amazing enough. But then I got to Itbayat, the northernmost inhabited island of Batanes, and I was floored. While Itbayat is more rugged and more difficult to explore, it has a unique charm of its own. Hiking over rough roads, hills and steep paths can be grueling, but you will be rewarded with amazing views of caves, cliffs and coasts.
On our last day in Batanes, after biking around North and South Batan, motorcycling around, and separate trips to Sabtang Island and Itbayat, Outside Slacker and I met up again in Basco to hike through a forest maze up a mountain. The thickly forested Mt. Iraya has an elevation of 1,009 metres (3,310 ft) above sea level, and is a major landmark of Batanes, the northernmost province of the Philippines.
From the port of Ivana, we spotted a small wooden boat loaded with passengers approaching the shore. The boats called faluwa are the main means of transportation between islands in Batanes. They’re quite small and don’t have outriggers, so they can easily navigate the strong waves at sea. This was our ride to our destination for the day – Sabtang Island, the smallest of the three inhabited islands of Batanes, the northernmost province of the Philippines.
On the left side of the road was a towering rock wall. On the right was a cliff that plummeted down into the sea, complete with dramatic waves crashing into the rocky coast. The winding road carved into the hills narrowed into one lane as it made its way around a sharp bend. Yellow “Blow Ur Horn” signs painted on stone markers signaled blind spots in the road, leading to landscapes that wouldn’t look out of place in a fantasy film.