Prior to heading to the Philippines, I knew I wanted to visit the famed UNESCO rice terraces in the north. The rice terraces were what my friend referred to as the “real Philippines”, and they were on top of my must-do list. Many people think of the Philippines and they think of the pristine white beaches, which definitely are worth doing too, but a trip to the Philippines wouldn’t be complete without traveling north to the province of Ifugao to visit Banaue and Batad.
Banaue vs. Batad
I had so many questions before leaving on my trip about the rice terraces. Was Banaue and Batad the same place? Which one should I stay in? As someone who likes to pre-plan my travels, it was frustrating to not be able to find the answers to my questions before I went, however, so many things made much more sense when I got there. First off, Batad has seen a lot of developments over the last 3-4 years like the building of a road which brings you significantly closer to the village, making it more accessible than before.
So what’s the difference? Is there one? The answer to that is yes. Batad is located in Banaue, and the two main spots for tourists to stay are in Banaue town and Batad. The rice terraces in Banaue however are not technically included in the UNESCO World Heritage list and the Batad ones are. However, I personally didn’t find one was significantly prettier than the other. Maybe people will find me crazy for saying that.
In terms of staying in one place over the other, it’s entirely up to you, however staying in Banaue town won’t mean you can’t easily get to Batad and vice versa.
How to get there
You can’t fly, you can’t take a train, and you can drive, but it’s expensive and not suggested. So how do you get there? The answer is the overnight bus. Two companies exist to take you to Banaue – Ohayami and Florida, from what I gather both are pretty bare bones. The difference is that Florida has a bathroom on board their buses and cost 80 PHP more.
Tip: Pack tons of warm clothes for the bus as they blast the air conditioning to an unbearable temperature. I had 2 shirts, 2 sweaters and 2 towels I used as blankets and still wasn’t comfortable.
You can book your tickets in advance online with Ohayami and Florida but you’ll need a printer to print your voucher. If you don’t want to buy online, it’s suggested you show up at the bus station hours, if not a day in advance to reserve your ticket depending on if it’s high season.
The bus will take around 9-12 hours with a few stops along the way, but i recommend you try and hold back from drinking too much as our bathroom stops were five hours apart from one another.
You can read more about my overnight bus experience here.
Where to stay
Don’t expect fancy resorts in Banaue or Batad. The main accommodations are homestays and small budget friendly hostels. You have the option of staying in Banaue or Batad however if you stay in Batad it’s important to know that there is no road that goes all the way into the village. No matter what, you’ll have to at least walk/hike around 20 minutes in and out. Batad also doesn’t have much cell service or WiFi, if any. So pack smart and be prepared to unplug.
Some of the popular places to stay are:
This is where I stayed while in Banaue and my heart actually hurt leaving it. Beatrice (the owner) was like the Mother Hen and took such good care of all her guests. The homestay truly was homey, had a fantastic view, great food, comfy beds and a warm shower. Plus the worlds best staff!
Rooms cost around $13 USD a night.
Another popular choice for budget accommodations in Banaue. Uyami’s was actually recommended by my friend who stayed there a few years back, however we ended up going with Banaue Homestay instead. Uyami’s is a great option for basic accommodations. You’ll have an excellent view of the terraces, combined with an onsite restaurant, and you even have access to massages after a long day of trekking.
Rooms start at $19 USD a night.
Highly recommended by many, including Lonely Planet because of this unique, rustic experience. At Ramon’s you’ll stay in a traditional Ifugao hut or a typical room if you prefer. You’ll have the option to be dressed up in traditional Ifugao clothing, and learn about some of the traditions of the area. Truly a unique experience for those looking for something different.
Rooms/huts start at $27 USD a night.
Although I didn’t stay there, I had the chance to eat at Hillside Inn after my trek in Batad. This basic restaurant and inn offers simple and clean rooms, hot showers, and a fantastic view of the Batad rice terraces.
Rooms start at $9 USD a night.
What to do
Banaue and Batad just aren’t a realistic place for you to visit if you aren’t one that’s into exercise and adventure because the main activity is trekking. There are several different treks you can do, ranging from a few hours, to a full day, to multi-day and all vary in difficulty.
All homestays can likely arrange treks for you with local and certified guides or you can visit the tourist information centres (Banaue’s is located here).
I was recommended to do the following with my two nights and three days:
Day 1 (after we arrived with no sleep off the overnight bus):
Trek around the Banaue rice terraces. This hike is around 3-4 hours.
Batad and Tappiya Falls.
Tip: Ride on the roof of a jeepney on route there if you are coming from Banaue for the best views!
Day 3 (before we left on the overnight bus at 7pm):
Trek to the Ha Pao terraces and hot spring. This is by far the easiest of these three hikes as the majority of the hike is flat.
However I wish I had one extra night to do Sagada instead of the Ha Pao rice terraces and hot spring as by then I was rice-terraced out and the hot spring was small and not impressive. The Banaue terraces and Batad terraces and waterfall treks are definitely must-dos on your stay.
It is also highly recommended that you take a guide with you on these hikes as they know the area the best and can not only provide local insights and information but also most of these hikes are hard to navigate solo. My guide, Dayton was fantastic and stayed with us for all three days. You can request him through Banaue Homestay, but you can also reach out to him via Facebook here.
Where to eat
Located just in the town, Sanafe has a beautiful view combined with delicious and inexpensive food. I had the pinakbet and a pop which cost 190 PHP.
Although I didn’t get a chance to eat here, it comes highly recommended and is located just down the road from Sanafe!
Located down the road from the Banaue Homestay, 7th Heaven also has a great view and budget-friendly food. I tried their honey glazed chicken with rice and a pop which cost 190 PHP.
I ate here after my hike in Batad and it was really good! I preordered my meal before the hike and ordered chicken adobo and a pop which cost around 200 PHP.
Since there are no standalone restaurants in Batad, checking out the top homestays and their restaurants are your best bet! Ramon’s for example is rumoured to have a tasty and fair priced restaurant.
Note that things in Batad can cost a bit more due to the fact that there is no road going there so they have to carry everything in. We came across one Filipino guy balancing two big baskets on each side of him of beer. I can’t even imagine how heavy that must’ve been!
For two nights and three days, I spent 7,490 PHP ($199 USD). Here’s the breakdown:
- 1,630 PHP ($33 USD) on food
- 940 PHP ($19 USD) on souvenirs
- 2,490 PHP ($51 USD) on treks/our guide
- 1,410 PHP ($29 USD) on our homestay for two nights (this is the total, it was divided between two of us)
- 1,020 PHP ($21 USD) return bus ticket
- Bring cash! There isn’t really banks or ATMs in town, so having the appropriate amount of cash on you is key.
- Take a guide with you on your hikes.
- Buy your bus ticket in advance to avoid missing out, especially in high season.
- Bring lots of water and healthy snacks on hikes to help keep your energy up.
- Order meals in advance, especially in Batad to avoid wait times.
- Be ready (and in shape) to hike!