First time in Batanes, Philippines? If you have less than a week to spend in Batanes, you can start in North Batan Island on your first day. Read on to discover North Batan attractions you can visit in one day.
It’s been a year since I first set foot on scenic Batanes but I have only written one article about it, where I described unique things I learned about this remote Philippine town. It’s not because there’s nothing much to say about Batanes, only that some priorities (hiding by the name, work) had come in the way.
Batan Island is one of the islands comprising the Batanes Group of Islands. For a small island with a lot of scenic attractions, tours in Batan Island are normally split into South Batan and North Batan attractions. A day could easily be filled exploring one area at a time.
North Batan is perfect for starting your day seeing the sights of Batanes. It is where Basco, the province’s capital is, where the airport is and where most of the accommodations are located. If you want to find out what North Batan attractions to enjoy in a day, read on below.
North Batan Attractions in a Day
Mt. Carmel Chapel in Tukon Hills
Mt. Carmel Chapel or Tukon Chapel is perched on top of Tukon Hills overlooking Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine Sea. The chapel’s architecture is clearly inspired by the traditional stone houses of Ivatans. From here, you can also have an unobstructed view of Mt. Iraya. Building of the chapel was led by the Abad family, one of the most prominent families in Batanes.
Murals in the chapel were creations of Ivatan artists
At the choir's station of Mt. Carmel Chapel
Beside the chapel is a small school. Found these jolly children playing after school
Mt. Iraya in the backdrop. We all need some "me" time at times.
PAG-ASA Weather Station
Not far from Mt. Carmel Chapel, you can wind your way through the PAG-ASA Weather Station. The tower in the photo you see below used to hold the station’s Doppler Radar, which is used to measure direction and speed of precipitation. Unfortunately, the instrument was damaged by mega typhoon Ferdie last September 2016 at powerful Signal No. 4.
From the weather station, you can get sweeping views of the ocean, Batan Island, Itbayat Island, Fundacion Pacita (next attraction below) and hedgerows called liveng in Ivatan term.
A Doppler radar which looks like a huge soccer ball used to sit atop the tower
Three months after Typhoon Ferdie, its damaging effects were still eminent in the vast landscape. That's Mt. Carmel Chapel at the right.
Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge
Currently the most luxurious lodging in Batanes is Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge. It is not surprising to see artworks around the property as this place used to be the home and studio of the renowned Filipina artist Pacita Abad.
Lovely garden within the property
Fundacion Pacita's Cafe de Tukon
Love the colorful homey floor tiles of . Pacita Abad's paintings are always vividly colored. Cafe de Tukon's flooring is similarly vibrant with these Aztec-y tiles.
We walked our way a few meters from the lodge. How can you be tired with this view?
Not sure but those blue chairs in progress looked like they will soon be seating guests at Fundacion Pacita
Photo by my photographer friend, Elena Taeza
Idjang Didawud refers to a geologic formation that once served as habitation, fortification and look-out point to protect the Ivatans from invaders.
Dipnaysuhuan Japanese Tunnel
Descending towards the east from Tukon Hill is a hidden network of tunnels built during the Japanese occupation for their hideout. You have to duck at the small hole entrance until a few more steps where the walls are high enough for one to stand up. Our guide brought flashflight for us to see through our path. He pointed us to a small tunnel further down but informed us that visitors are not allowed to explore further from there as the steps down is damp and slippery.
Our guide literally guiding our way through the tunnel
The tunnel's exit
Valugan Boulder Beach
Valugan Boulder Beach is at the east coast of North Batan. The beach is fascinatingly rimmed by wave-polished boulders, formed from the eruption of Mt. Iraya. This boulder beach reminded me of Mabua Pebble Beach in Surigao (click here to see why), which I would say is the cute version of Valugan Boulder Beach. Because of its orientation, the boulder beach is a perfect spot for sunrise watching. Marvel at the splashing power of the Pacific Ocean but be careful not to get too close to the crashing waves. Remember, you are not like the boulders who can’t be moved.
My very first attempt on a long exposure shot using an ND filter. I could hardly get my bearings as I struggle to stabilize my tripod, dig the right settings and do all these in a cramped time as the drizzle threatens to become a full-blown rain.
I love how the polished look of the boulders seem more vivid as it gets splashed by the Pacific Ocean
Vayang Rolling Hills
What is it about rolling hills that almost always involuntarily raises your arms, makes you hold your head high, and then take in a lungful of fresh air? There is no running out of verdant landscapes in Batanes and Vayang Rolling Hills is one place to enjoy that.
At this point in our tour, dark clouds began to hover over Mt. Irisan. The wind got from strong to extra strong, too.
Naidi Hill Complex and Basco Lighthouse
Basco Lighthouse, standing confidently atop Naidi Hill, is probably the most iconic landmark of Batanes. Climb its spiral staircase and you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of seascape, lush greenery and Mt. Iraya. I may not have been good enough for goodness sake because the weather had not been nice to me as the thick clouds were obstructing my view of Mt. Iraya.
Spiral staircase up the Basco Lighthouse
Sunset at Naidi Hills
Hello dark clouds! I want you to go away, but I'll shoot you anyway
Sto. Domingo Cathedral
This church is built during the Spanish occupation under the supervision of Dominican friars. It is conveniently located at the town center.
The 10 Commandments, Ivatan version
Yaru Nu Artes Gallery
Yaru Nu Artes Gallery showcases a collection of artworks by Ivatan artists. Artworks displayed and are for sale include paintings, handicrafts, metal crafts and other souvenir items. Works of art on display in this gallery are not only a medium for promoting Ivatan culture and natural stunning landscapes. It is also a venue for the artists to express their views and advocacy on social and environmental issues. The eye-catching wooden mosaic at the entrance to the gallery is hard to miss.
Getting Around Batanes
You can get around the sites of Batanes by biking (there’s a guide here), renting motorcycles, or hiring tricycles (3 persons per tricycle). Bear in mind though that due to its remoteness, fuel in Batanes is relatively more expensive than other parts of the Philippines.
If you are visiting for the first time and want a certain level of comfort, you can choose a guided tour for small groups. This is a favorable option if you have limited time and want to get the most out of your trip. Also think of it as a way of supporting local guides and tour companies and a means of getting to know Batanes from a local’s perspective.
We availed the 3-day tour package of Bisumi Tours and Services and I will have no hesitation recommending it. Our Day 1 comprises North Batan attractions, Day 2 - Sabtang Island and Day 3 - South Batan. You may check out other DOT-accredited travel and tour agencies here.
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