Located in the mountainous region of central Luzon, the ancient rice terraces of Banaue and Batad is just 10 hours away from Manila by bus. With some terraces dating back to 2,000 years ago, these man-made marvels are among the elite group of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Amazingly, these rice fields are still used for agriculture today. The local Ifugao people, who have inhabited these lands for the past two millennia, continue a tradition of farming in this remote and hilly terrain.
This guide will explain how to get to Banaue, and then on to the picturesque landscape terraces of Batad.
Getting to Banaue
For most travellers, an overnight bus is the easiest way to get from Manila to Banaue. Ohayami runs a daily long-distance service between Manila and Banaue, starting at 10pm and reaching Banaue at around 7-8am. Tickets cost 490 Pesos each way, and you can make reservations online.
Alternatively, you can board a bus from Baguio City to Banaue. The Ohayami bus does pass through Baguio City, but there’s no option to book it online. Instead, drop the company a message to arrange for it.
What to see and do in Banaue
Banaue is relatively easy to get around on foot, although it is built on slopes that are pretty steep at some stretches. Located near the centre of town, the Tourist Information Centre should be your first stop to pay for the 20 Pesos environmental fee. While you’re there, you can hire local guides to tour around the area, get information on sightseeing spots, or arrange for transportation onwards to Batad.
Generally speaking, the main attraction in Banaue are the massive rice terraces located along the slopes. You can easily see them from any vantage point in town, although you can get the best views from scenic lookout spots nearby.
Banaue is also a staging point for further exploration into smaller and more remote rice growing villages. The most popular ones are Batad and Bangaan.
Where to stay in Banaue
There are many guesthouses in Banaue, all centrally located near the Tourist Information Centre. For a comfortable stay, book a room at Rice Homestay right in the middle of town. The rooms are clean and affordable, and the staff are really friendly. Check the latest rates and available rooms here.
Booking.com has more options for accommodation. Check here for the latest deals on rooms and beds.
Getting to Batad
While getting to Banaue is relatively easy by direct bus, Batad is a small village that takes a bit more effort to reach.
Step 1a – Take a tricycle to the end of the road
You’ll first need to arrange for a tricycle at the Tourist Office, which will cost 700 Pesos each way. Enjoy the 45 minute ride along a winding and occasionally very steep road. At certain stretches, you may need to exit the tricycle and walk some distance on foot, ostensibly for your safety. Eventually, you’ll reach the end of the road (quite literally). From this point, it’s a 20-minute walk downhill to the village proper.
Step 1b – Take a jeepney to the saddle and walk in for 30 minutes
Alternatively, a jeepney leaves for Batad in the morning and up till around 2+pm in the afternoon. Tourists need to pay 150 Pesos per person for the ride there. You may be dropped off midway at a location called the saddle. It’s a 15 minute walk from here to the end of the road. For unlucky tourists, the jeepney may drop you off even earlier at a location called the junction. This is 3km away from the saddle, and will add on an additional 30 minutes to the journey.
Step 2 – Walk in for the last 15 minutes
The last bit of walking downhill may be tricky, as Batad is built across the face of a hill. Double check with locals on the way down to make sure you’re on the right track towards your guesthouse. Also, try to reserve a place higher up, since it’s a pain to make the journey back up on your return journey.
What to see and do in Batad
You’d think that after visiting the manicured rice terraces of Bali and Vietnam, it’s going to be the same everywhere else. Well, Batad will very likely astound you nevertheless.
Over two millennia, the local Ifugao people have carved rice terraces across the face of a hillside 1500 above sea level. From the gentle valley floor to the steep slopes in the middle of the hill, the resulting landscape is absolutely astounding in beauty and scale.
Most tourists will hike along the terraces, climbing up or down the terraces to get around. You’ll be better off engaging a guide to lead the way, as the maze of terraces are deceptively complex. It’s easy to get lost and find yourself facing a mound of soil at a dead end, while you gingerly avoid fragile banks and rice samplings. A guide will also help explain more about the unique Ifugao culture and the traditional process of rice growing.
Most visitors will take a circuit that leads first to the lookout point near the end of the terraces. This offers a sweeping view of the valley below, while mountains part in the distance to reveal rugged mountainous terrain stretching outwards.
If you’re up for a bit of exercise, you can then carefully climb down steep and narrow stone steps to the floor of the valley. At some parts the steps do not have any railings to hold on to, so you may want to carry along a trekking stick for balance. At the bottom, the Tappiya waterfalls thunders down into a river, and brave (or foolish) visitors can take a refreshing dip into the waters after the strenuous hike.
The last bit will be to head back to your guesthouse, walking a different route across the valley floor. Here, rice terraces are wider and you’ll get a different feel as the surrounding mountains loom over you. For most hikers, the round trip will take 3 hours, which is more than enough to make your thighs feel the strain for the next few days.
How do I engage a guide in Batad, and how much is it?
English-speaking Ifugao farmers supplement their income by guiding visitors. Many station themselves at the start of the walk into town, so they have a 15-minute head start to follow you and pitch their services. If you rather not engage a guide, or prefer to have one recommended by your guesthouse, just tell them firmly that you are not going to hire them. Some can get pretty persistent though, as they have all day to wait for a client.
A guide can cost 1,000 Pesos for the standard 3-hour trek, but you can bargain for a cheaper price if you’re serious about engaging them. But considering that this money goes directly to the community, sometimes the extra dollar goes a long way to encourage the Ifugao to keep their traditions alive.
Unfortunately, mobile reception is almost non-existent in Batad, so you can’t call ahead or arrange for a local guide. That also means you don’t have internet or cell phone service while chilling in your guesthouse – which can be a good thing, as you take in the view and just take a break from the chaos of the urban world for a day.
What to eat in Batad
Food and drinks are generally more expensive in Batad, as everything has to be carried in on foot. Most guesthouses and restaurants cater to tourists, so ingredients for western dishes like pizzas need to be purchased elsewhere.
It’s not too exorbitant though. 300 Pesos can get you a full meal with beverage, and then some change to spare.
Of course, do try the rice dishes. Most of the harvest in Batad is meant for local consumption, so you probably can’t get it anywhere else in the Philippines.
Where to stay in Batad
If you’re looking for a unique experience, head to the Batad View Inn and stay in one of the unique Ifugao huts. Built on stilts and accessible only by a ladder, this is one of the more interesting places to spend the night. There’s no electricity, so illumination is provided by a candle. You’ll need to walk out to use the bathroom in the main guest house compound, so make sure you clear your bladder and bowels before turning in for the night. It may sound tedious, but this is definitely a memorable experience, and a change from bland dormitories and generic hotel rooms everywhere else.
The Batad View Inn also has private rooms, if you prefer the convenience of electricity and a nearby bathroom. Check here for the latest prices and available rooms.
Visit Booking.com for more accommodation options. These are some of the latest deals:
Tips to staying in Batad
Note that the Batad View Inn is located higher up the village, so you walk less to get in and out. That’s a good thing. If you end up choosing a place lower down the hill, prepare to trek up steep slopes with your backpacks when you arrive and depart. And yes – it’s best to bring a backpack, unless you feel strong enough to lug a trolley luggage up and down narrow stone steps.
Also, book your accommodation in advance. As there’s no internet in the village, the guesthouses need to send someone to Banaue every other day to receive new reservation requests online. If you book a place at the last minute, there’s a high chance your reservation may not be received.
Otherwise, you can also take the chance and find a place to stay when you’re in Batad. Just be prepared to deal with the local touts urging you to their aunt’s / uncle’s / cousin’s guesthouse, while you trudge down the village enquiring about available rooms.
Getting out of Batad
From Batad village, it’s at least a 20 minute climb uphill back to the road. There’s no bus terminal or frequent service, except a regular morning jeepney every morning at 9am. If you’re planning to leave at any other time, make sure to arrange with your tricycle driver to pick you up at the same place he drops you off. Otherwise, there really is nothing but a few hours of walking on steep slopes to get back to Banaue – just this one time, the ubiquitous Uber and Grab apps can’t save you, even if you’re willing to pay 100x for surge pricing!
For an exciting budget backpacking trip in Philippines, check out our 10-day adventure-packed itinerary.