destination sagada

Baguio Sagada Banaue Travel Guide

Planning for backpacking trip to the cooler climate of the mountains in northern Philippines? Here’s a travel guide cum itinerary that help you get started on pinning down the cost and details. The Baguio-Sagada-Banaue route is perfect for adventure travel style.  Prepare yourself, physically that is, for all the adrenaline-packed activities that awaits you in the mountains of Cordillera Autonomous Region.

Getting Started

Baguio City, Sagada and Banaue are all located in the Cordillera Autonomous Region in the northern Philippines. This backpacking route is pretty popular because of the cool climate and many tourist destinations all packed in the mountainous area of the region.

I share here the itinerary that I planned, how many days, where I stayed and how much it cost me. The cost may vary depending on your travel style and activities you want to do or join. After arriving at Banaue, the last stop of the route, you can opt to go further, to another town, Batad or to the neighboring provinces in the Cordillera Region.

When to come

You can decide to come during the summer months of March thru May. But I must warn you that this is also the exodus of many families from Manila because of school holidays and long holy week vacations. So that means full accommodations, crowded tourist spots, heavy traffic getting out of and coming back to Manila. Not to mention that prices for everything including bottled water increases proportionally with how crowded it is during peak season.

I went during the rainy cooler months of September. Baguio is most beautiful when it rains. I loved that the city is cleaner and smells like a car freshener because of the pine trees. The lean months of September is a perfect time to visit Sagada. Less crowd, cheaper everywhere and you get your own personal tour guide. October to December is a busy period for the locals accepting tourist because of the fruit picking season and the cooler climate. February is a busy month too because of the Sagada’s town fiesta.

If you want to see the green valleys and rice paddies of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces, you should plan your visit during September to October due to harvest season. The rice paddies though, are at its greenest during July right after planting season. Perfect for your travel photography!

What to pack

  • Your clothing that can last for 5-7 days depending on your planned stay. I completed the trip in 7 days.
  • Headlamp for cave exploration activities in Sagada. Flashlight is no good since you need your 2 hands for climbing and grip.
  • Jacket and hoodies to keep you warm.
  • Flip flops
  • Swimming attire if you plan to take a dip in Sagada’s and Banaue’s amazing cool waterfalls.
  • Photography gear

Baguio City

Baguio City is easily accessible by bus or by driving from Manila. And with the opening of the TPLEX, the travel time is now shorter and smoother. Here’s the centralized website for bus companies that travel to Baguio from Manila. Baguio City is much like Manila, there are number of malls and choosing where to eat and lounge for drinks is not a problem. This vibrant and energetic city serves as the regional center of the Cordillera mountains.

I stayed in transient house Bab’s Place located in Gabriela Silang. Mrs. Barbara, the owner, has a nice place and a fantastic view of the city skyline from the terrace. Plus 2 lovely dogs to play with during your stay.

Bab’s Place, Gabriela Silang, Baguio City
PHP600.00 per night
+63 923 349 8481

To travel to Sagada, from the transient house, I flagged a taxi to take me to Dangwa Bus Terminal. You can mention to the driver that you’re headed to Sagada and they already know where to take you. For most backpackers, Sagada is almost always the next stop. The first bus trip to Sagada usually leaves around 6-6:30AM from Dangwa Bus Terminal and there is a bus that leaves every hour after that but no more after 1PM. The trip can take 5-6 hours so make sure you got something to eat and drink with you on the bus. The bus fare is PHP220.00.

Make sure to get the window seat because it’s a 5-6 hours of scenic ride. The bus ride will take you to thru the most beautiful amazing zigzag roads, in my opinion, for the whole of Cordillera. The dizzying ride can be nauseous for some, and if you do need a vomit bag, you can ask one from the bus conductor.

baguio sagada

Sagada

I stayed in Sagada for 3 whole days. Sagada is a small town where everything is kept simple. Upon arriving, register at the tourism office just across the town hall and beside the police station and pay an environmental fee of PHP35.00. For any tour that you’re interested to do, you must always go with a tour guide. The information ladies will gladly help you for any questions or directions that you need. They also provide help to solo backpackers who wants to join group activities and tours to save up on tour guide costs.

destination sagada

Before coming to Sagada make sure to have some cash on you. There is only one bank in Sagada, the Rural Bank of Sagada. They will accept USD but I bet the rate will not be good. Better make sure that you have Philippine Peso with you before coming.  Everything here is cash basis. If you need to withdraw some cash, there is an ATM inside the tourism office. This is the only ATM for the entire town of Sagada. I have not tried to use it, though I saw Visa and Megalink logo.

I stayed in a transient house at Hidden Hill, towards the southern part of the street where the tourism office is located. Their rate is the most reasonable at PHP350.00 per pax per night. Maybe because their pretty far from the main highway, about 15 minute walk from the tourism office. There is no tricycle here, the best part that I loved, so that means less noise pollution and you burn more calories climbing the steep streets.

There are many tours and activities that you can do around Sagada. But to save up on the tour cost, you can ask the nice and well-informed lady receptionist at the tourism office that you want to join other groups so she can help you check out if there are other groups with vacant slots. I met new friends by joining other groups plus its fun planning together, over beer and sumptuous dinner,  on what activity to do next.

To travel to Banaue from Sagada, you have 2 options. You can take the jeepney to Bontoc, the capital city of Mountain Province. From Bontoc you can take another jeepney ride going to Banaue. Choosing this option is cheaper plus you may get the opportunity to ride at the rooftop of the jeepney, called toploading, for a more adventurous ride. Most of the jeepneys do not travel past 1PM so better check your timing and leave early. Travel time from Sagada to Banaue is around 3-4 hours.

Another option is to take the Coda Bus Lines. Beside the Sagada Town Hall is the Coda Bus ticketing office where you can but tickets or check for more information on schedules. This option is definitely pricey, ouch at PHP300.00, but if you cannot leave Sagada in the morning, it’s good that there’s bus that can take you to Banaue at 3PM.

Banaue

Banaue is a fourth class municipality and is bigger than Sagada. There are tricycles that can take you around Banaue. Upon arrival, you have to register at the Banaue Tourism Office. All transportation pass by at this office and its hard to miss since its also a drop off point.

 

View from my window. #banauericeterraces #banaue #icanlivehere #philippines #travels

A photo posted by carla abanes (@justtravellingsolo) on

I stayed with Banaue Homestay where my stay was really homey and I had an awesome view from my bedroom window. Ms. Bea also respond quite fast to inquiries. They also offer Banaue Rice Terrace tours which includes 4-hour trekking through the valleys of the famous icon. The tour cost is PHP800.00, including tour guide and tricycle transport to the viewpoint, and I shouldered this cost alone.  I’ve always wanted to trek the 8th Wonder of the World so I went anyway. If you plan to do this activity, make sure you are physically fit, wear the proper shoes and bring bottled water. I forgot my bottled water at the tricycle, fortunately there is a small community at the top of one of the valley that sells bottled water for PHP20.00. The climb can be pretty steep and challenging at times and the pathways can be muddy due to rain or irrigation. Never go without a tour guide.

Related Post: Trekking Banaue Rice Terraces

Lastly

If you plan to head back to Manila after all that exhausting climb, there is a Coda Bus ticketing office just a few steps from the Banaue Tourism Office. This is the easiest option and the most comfortable one and you arrive Manila terminal at 3AM. Another option is take a side trip to Santiago, Isabela and from there, take a Victory Liner to head back to Manila. The travel time from Banaue to Santiago is around 4 hours.

sagada

So head on to the mountains of Cordillera and challenge your limits to hours of trekking the 2000 year old Banaue Rice Terraces, cave explorations and spelunking in Sagada, brave the cold waterfalls of Sagada and Batad, chill with a Sagada brew and arroz caldo (hot congee) while waiting for the sunrise in Kiltepan Viewpoint.

There is no better time than now. Click To Tweet

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Comments

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  1. Reply

    I’ve never been backpacking, but this looks like a beautiful place to do it. I wouldn’t want to be too hot, so September sounds like a good time.

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • September 27, 2016
      Reply

      Exactly! The cool weather was just perfect for trekking, spelunking and conquering mountains. Would love to do it again January when its cooler and the temp drops to a single digit.

    • Tonya
    • September 27, 2016
    Reply

    I’m sure when most people think Philippines they think beaches. Great post about exploring more of the inland mountainous areas too.

    • Jen
    • September 27, 2016
    Reply

    How much does it rain during the rainy season? Is it more tropical rains that last for maybe an hour and then the skies clear or is it all day rain?

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • September 28, 2016
      Reply

      Depends, when there’s no typhoon or storm alert, the raining can be just for hours then the sun takes over. Since its a mountainous area, the typhoon can be rare because the mountains kind of break up the storm clouds. I backpacked late September (heads’ still fresh) and the rains usually come in late afternoon thru evening making the already cool climate much more cooler. Come visit my Philippines! Happy travels!

  2. Reply

    Great tips! I’m heading to the Philippines next year and I’m hoping to get up to the mountains. I’ll definitely reference this again!

  3. Reply

    Oh my goodness I’ve been dying for a Philippines trip! This was such an excellent overview of a solid backpacking trip. Definitely saving this.

  4. Pingback: A Piece of Bliss That is Sagada - Just Travelling Solo

  5. Reply

    I’ve been thinking about planning a trips to the Philippines, but mostly for diving. I didn’t realize there was a great hiking trip to be had, definitively pinning this and using it to plan later!

  6. Reply

    I haven’t thought that the Philippines had such a scenery with mountains. I aways though beaches. Nice guide, very informative.

  7. Reply

    I’m so glad you went in September as this is when I’ll go and I can get the most out of your article then. Sounds like a place full of adventure!

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • October 3, 2016
      Reply

      Happy travels to you! The weather is getting better now as we go into the first few days of October.

    • Lesley
    • October 3, 2016
    Reply

    I love trekking, caving, and adventure. Sounds like a great trip for me, especially in the cooler weather. I have yet to put Philippines on my list. I think 2017 is the year.

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • October 6, 2016
      Reply

      Come visit soon! Happy travels!

  8. Reply

    This sounds like a really cool trip to take, and you’ve helped so much with the planning. I wouldn’t know where to start planning a true adventure like this.

  9. Reply

    I haven’t been on an adventure like this yet, but hope to get to that part of the world very soon. Seeing the rice fields would be so amazing! Thanks for all the info about how to plan your trip, that is good stuff. I would love to see a photo of what the tricycles look like. 😉

  10. Reply

    the rice terraces look so pretty! thanks for the advice; I am not sure where i will go to the Philippines but definitely on my list for the future 🙂

  11. Reply

    This is great, and so in depth! I’m planning to visit the Philippines at some point, and was mostly interested in the scuba diving, but I’ll have to reconsider adding some trekking!

  12. Reply

    There are so many “undiscovered” places in the Philippines, which I’m enjoying discovering online. Keep on travelling!

  13. Reply

    Next time I visit Pinas definitely going to Sagada and banaue. It has been on my bucket list for a while.

    • Carol Colborn
    • October 6, 2016
    Reply

    Bill and I went with a jeep load of foreigners in 2011 and it became an experience they could never forget. They have become great friends!

    • Ben
    • October 6, 2016
    Reply

    Lucky me to come across this post as Phillipines and the Banaue Rice Terraces were on my list. The moment I read Banaue my eyes lit up. Sucks that you need a tour guide for Sagada. Great video but would have been better if it was landscape rather than portrait!

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • October 6, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks for the tip, next time I would tilt the phone sideways hahaha. I realized that when I posted the video. About tour guides in Sagada, they’re really needed because you can easily get lost in the maze of trails in the mountains and in the caves. Happy travels to you and enjoy Sagada and Banaue!

    • Amy
    • October 6, 2016
    Reply

    We have not had the chance to take a backpacking trip, but this one seems like a great itinerary. The rice field are something I have always wanted to see. And that small town and simple life that Sagada offers would win me over for sure!

  14. Reply

    Great to learn more about a region I don’t know much about. Love that you include a what to pack list. I haven’t been caving before so good to know you need a headlight.

  15. Reply

    Backpacking can be overwhelming, particularly in a country like the Philippines where the is just so much to see and do. This is a really great guide however and I’ve tweeted it out as I think it’d be useful to a lot of my followers. And totally agree, the rice fields are nothing short of a must.

    • Luca
    • October 6, 2016
    Reply

    I’ve never thought about Philippines and mountains, probably I thought the country was more “island-ish” than it actually is.
    Then I realized that I know Mount Pinatubo and what its eruption did to the Philippines back in 1991 so I knew there were mountains and they’re interesting too!

    • Ella
    • October 7, 2016
    Reply

    I love backpacking and you´re post is really interesting! Thank you for so much information. I guess it´s always a hard decision on what time you go. As you said maybe the weather is “better” at a specific time, but then it´s more crowded! And I share that opinion with you, some places are certainly even more beautiful when it´s raining <3

  16. Reply

    That looks like a fantastic place! I’ve never been to the Philippines (though I wish I could be there next week for TBEX Manila!) but it’s definitely on my list. I love mountains and trekking so I’m sure I’d be happy there 🙂

  17. Reply

    This is yet another lovely place in the Philippines that I need to add on to my list. Philippines is a country that never fails to surprise and fascinate. Such a blessing of nature with its countless islands and beaches.

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • October 10, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you! We are indeed blessed with more than 7000 islands that offer diverse activities aside from the beaches! Come on over and visit!

  18. Reply

    Your detailed tips make it look like a possible trip. Backpacking there should be fun and easy now. The rice fields there interest me a lot, I am curious how different they are from our fields here. I haven’t been to Philippines yet… but hopefully I get there soon.

  19. Reply

    Interesting to run into your blog. Our nonprofit in Washington dc is exploring the idea of promoting trekking in this part of the country as the great cordillera traverse is currently being established. If you have articles to share regarding the trails there – send me an email (bgtrekker@peakexplorations.com).

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • October 10, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks Marinel, I send you email! Hope we can work together!

  20. Reply

    The rice terraces look absolutely stunning! I bet the bus ride it’s worth it. I don’t usually feel comfortable on zigzag roads but I would do it, for those views. Sagada seems small but very interesting. It’s great that the ladies from the information point provide help for solo backpackers.

  21. Reply

    Thanks for this guide, especially the what to pack part. Super helpful, as I’m planning to go to Baguio & Sagada soon. But, I just might see Banaue Rice Terraces too, looks beautiful.

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • October 10, 2016
      Reply

      Indeed it is! You should go see it! Happy travels!

  22. Reply

    Havn’t been to Philipphines. But I really appreaciate the comprehensive guide. There is hardly anything more that I could ask for from a guide about any place!

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • October 11, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks and I hope you bookmark it for future reference!

    • Shane
    • October 11, 2016
    Reply

    I’ve honestly never heard any of these places! I regret not visiting the phillipines while in Southeast Asia. So much untouched beauty to discover!

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • October 11, 2016
      Reply

      Thats a great reason to come back to SEA and this time include Philippines too! Happy travels!

  23. Reply

    One of the place up north I havent been to but soon for sure.
    I wanna see and feel much colder weather in Sagada. And if theres time I wanna climb Mt Pulag as well

      • carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com
      • October 11, 2016
      Reply

      Planning to climb Mt Pulag as well in November. Are you planning your climb anytime soon? Maybe we can climb together! Happy travels!

  24. Pingback: Safe Destinations in The Philippines

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