SAGADA & BANAUE: Ultimate Travel Guide + Tips + Itinerary

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Sagada – Aside from all-year-round cold climate, Sagada is also popular because of its exciting activities including cave exploration, hiking, swimming, trekking, caving, and food trip, visiting historical sites and a lot more. Sagada is rich in indigenous culture and it’s also famous for its hanging coffins.

Bay-yo Rice Terraces.

Sagada nestled in a valley in the Central Cordillera Mountains, a place that everybody should visit at least once in their lives. The Philippines is absolutely blessed filled with great wonder, exceptional biodiversity, and extraordinary nature.




PEOPLE OF SAGADA

The people settled in Sagada are mainly Igorots – Kankana-ey. They generally speak a language called Kankana-ey but most of the residents can also speak Tagalog and English. I noticed that Igorots are hospitable, kind, tourist-friendly, approachable and respectful. I think this is also one of the reasons why tourists keep visiting Sagada.

MANILA – BANAUE TO SAGADA

It was another memorable experience for us heading to Sagada. Mesmerizing scenery, its forest, and its jaw-dropping attractions are really astonishing completely opposite on what we commonly see on urban buildings and skylines. We left Manila 15 minutes before 10 o clock. It was a long exhausting journey. We’ve passed several zigzag and curvature roads that make me dizzy. A dense of white fog greeted us at Banaue arc around 5:45 am. As usual, we took the opportunity to do photo ops. It’s difficult to take pictures not only because it was foggy but a lot of tourists doing photo ops.

I flew the drone over the hill of Banaue rice terraces covered with a sea of clouds to witness its majestic beauty from the above. We left the Banaue Arc around 7:30 am. The road going to Sagada is curvature, steep and a bit terrifying as some roads have no concrete barriers but it’s still amazing to witness such beautiful panoramic scenery from the car’s window. The travel time from Manila to Sagada is approximately 10-12 hours.



Sea of clouds above Banaue Rice terraces

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The beauty of mountain provinces through my lenses.

GETTING AROUND SAGADA

There are no tricycles or public jeepneys traveling around Sagada, if you want to tour Sagada, the best option is to book a package tour or hire a tour guide to work on a transportation schedule.

BAY-YO RICE TERRACES VIEW POINT

We all know that there are a lot of beautiful rice terraces in the Philippines but Bay-yo rice terraces in Bontoc really took my attention. The scenic view from our vantage point along the Bontoc – Banaue road was so breathtaking. You can also see a barangay Bay-yo, a small community situated in Bay-o rice terraces.

Small village in Bay-yo Rice Terraces.

This mountain turned into rice terraces is a home for the Bay-yo villagers. I have already seen this view before on the internet and social media. I never thought that I could also visit this place while heading to Sagada. In my own opinion, it’s much more appealing than any other rice terraces I’ve seen in Banaue. I just couldn’t resist myself to stare at the stunning vista of Bay-yo Rice terraces while flying a drone over its rice terraces to see its beauty much closer. This is indeed a paradise and a living heritage that we should preserve.

LUMIANG CAVE

Aside from the natural area with lush greenery, trails, cavern and the famous hanging coffins in the Echo Valley, you can also find numerous historical burial sites not only on hanging on the limestone at the bottom of the mountain but also inside the caves. More than 100 coffins were stacked and situated in the entrance of Lumiang Cave. As per our guide, the oldest coffin in Lumiang Cave is believed that it has been there for about 500 years. The dead body inside the cave was in a fetal position. Images of lizards were carved in their coffins symbolizing the long life and fertility. Today in our generation, this burial tradition is prohibited. Lumiang Cave is also the jump-off point when you want to decide to take the challenging “Cave connection”. It’s a 4-5 hour of spelunking starting from Lumiang Cave and will end to Sumaguing Cave.

Lumiang Cave Sagada
Entrance of lumiang cave – The cave connection jump-off point.

SUMAGUING CAVE

Most of the visitors opt for the Sumaguing Cave since it will only take 2 hours to finish the cave. I have been to many caves and mountains before but Sumaging cave is really tough and challenging. At first, I thought that was an easy and common activity where we just go through the cave tunnel from one point to another. You can experience stamina requiring activity such as rappelling, climbing, trekking, rolling and spelunking inside Sumaguing Cave.

Sumaguing Cave Sagada
Sumaguing Cave Sagada

Different limestones and rock formation slowly shaped by nature for a million of years that can be found inside the cave. These rock formations are like a bear, banana, elephants, and even a private part of a woman. Sumaguing cave also has the biggest chamber among the other caves in Sagada. We were in the cave for more than an hour entering a needle hole tunnels. It was a great adventure and experience indeed.

WATCH OUR SUMAGUING CAVE EXPERIENCE BELOW

ECHO VALLEY AND THE HANGING COFFINS

Echo Valley is one of the famous spots in Sagada where you can find the Igorot’s traditional way of burial through the hanging coffins. As per our guide, the burial process takes so much time from the preparation of the dead body up to its final resting place. The dead body covered in a white cloth is being carried traditionally by its family member up to its final destination. Volunteers that carry the dead body believe that the dead’s blood that will flow through their skin will bring them good luck and good fortune. Because of this belief, everyone tries to carry the body up to its destination.

Echo valley sagada

While being transported, Women and children should stay at the view deck enough to see the burial process below. Only men should go through. Once arrive the destination, one volunteer should shout that the dead has been already placed on its coffin. Then, they will run as they believe that spirit might follow them. Tribal folk believed that putting the dead in a higher place like in the Echo Valey made their loved ones nearer to the Gods. They also believe the body inside the coffin should be in a fetal position to symbolize the start of a new life.

Hanging coffins sagada
Hanging coffins sagada

As per our guide, the burial process also depends on the tribe. Based on my research, the Igorots are grouped into six ethno-linguistic groups, the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Isneg (or Apayao), Kalinga, and the Kankanaey. Some tribe mocks the dead body as they believe it has no purpose anymore.

MARLBORO BLUE SOIL HILL

Originally, Blue soil hill is not included in our itinerary. Since Bomod-ok Falls were closed that time due to ritual, it was replaced with Blue soil hill instead. The Kaman Utek Hills or popularly known as Blue Soil Hills is one of the Sagada’s hidden gem. It is located in the terrains of Bontoc mountain province surrounded by towering pine trees. Blue soil hills instantly becoming a tourist spot because of its natural beauty and very unique attributes.

Blue soil hill sagada
The blue soil mountain.

Are you also wondering why it’s called “Blue soil hill”?. Basically, it’s because the color of the soil is blue due to the high copper sulfate content of the soil coming from the mine chemicals underground. As per the local tourism of Sagada, they have already examined the blue soil hills and they said that it’s safe for the tourists. The Blue color is more noticeable when wet or after the rain. It took us approximately 30 minutes of trekking before we arrived at the Blue Soil Hills mountain from the jump-off, it’s probably easy for those who are used into hiking.

Blue soil hill sagada
Aerial shot of Blue soil hill – Photo captured by DJI Mavic Pro
Blue soil hill sagada

The place was truly amazing and out of this world seeing such a rare soil condition situated in the middle of its mountainous terrain. Nevertheless, there are many species of plants grows around blue soil hill even if the content level of copper sulfate is high.

LAKE DANUM + SUNSET VIEWING

Lake Danum is a small picturesque lake surrounded by pine trees located 4 km away from the town proper. The view there is simply majestic. The thin mist in the air welcomed us upon arrival at Lake Danum. I highly suggest bringing your jacket.

Lake Danum Sagada

The best time to visit Lake Danum is around 4:30 PM onwards so you can catch the sunset on the other side of the lake. The weather was not with us when we were in Lake Danum. It’s raining and the temperature hits approximately 15-18°c. It’s too cold and we haven’t seen the sunset because the weather is gloomy. We might not lucky that day nevertheless, we were so happy that we have experienced the cold weather of Sagada.

Lake Danum Sagada
Lake Danum Sagada

Swimming is prohibited in Lake Danum but it’s the best spot for picture taking. You can also see food vendors on your way to Lake Danum. We opted to try the Sagada’s famous yogurt and the champurrado. It’s indeed delicious and really worth a try.

MARLBORO MOUNTAIN – SEA OF CLOUDS

We woke up around 4:00 AM then we started to trek at 4:30 AM. It was dark and a blanket of a cold mist covered the trail going up to Marlboro mountain. We had a limited sight as the view along the trail was covered by thick fogs but it is a beginner-friendly mountain since the trail is quite easy. The temperature here could lower around 10°C.

We arrived at the summit after an hour, there were already a bunch of people on the summit waiting for the sunrise. Actually, we were so unlucky that time because we missed sunrise due to the fog and haven’t seen a sea of clouds aside from the surrounding covered in plain white.

There are vendors on the Kamanbaneng Peak selling instant noodles, coffee, champurrado, soup, bread and etc. I saw a lot of photos of Marlboro mountain around the internet and it’s really stunning. We will definitely go back to this place soon.



BEST TIME TO VISIT SAGADA

Under the Köppen climate classification, Sagada features a subtropical highland climate (‘’Cwb’’). The area averages 900 mm of precipitation annually, the bulk of which falls between the months of May and October. Temperatures are relatively consistent throughout the course with average daily temperatures ranging from around 17 to 20 degrees Celsius. – Wikepedia.

Based on my research, the best time to visit Sagada is from October until February during its coldest where hiking and trekking activities would be ideal. Avoid raining seasons which typically occurs from May to September.

Between the driest and wettest months, the difference in precipitation is 487 mm. During the year, the average temperatures vary by 3.4 °C.

BEST THINGS TO DO IN SAGADA

  • Visit the famous hanging coffins.
  • Try Sagada Coffee.
  • Catch sunrise at Kiltepan.
  • Visit echo valley.
  • Picnic in Lake Danum.
  • Food trip.
  • Try caving or spelunking.

3 DAYS 2 NIGHTS ITINERARY

PLACES TO VISIT IN SAGADA

Sagada has many natural wonders which include the Bokong and Bomod-ok Falls. Here are the list of tourists destination in Sagada that you might want to check:

  • Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves
  • Bomod-ok and Bokong Falls
  • Rice terraces 
  • Echo Valley
  • Kiltepan Tower
  • Underground River
  • Lake Danum
  • Hanging Coffins
  • Pongas Falls
  • Mount Ampacao
  • Marlboro Mountain
  • Fortune Express
  • Latang and Matang Caves

TRAVEL GUIDE & USEFUL TIPS

  • STRICTLY NO LITTERING (put your garbage inside the car or inside your pocket until we find a trash bin).
  • If you are on a solo traveler or DIY, you can get a guide on the tourist-office in Sagada Proper. Most of the guides are natives, also known as Igorots.
  • Do not take pictures of individuals without their permission.
  • Minimize your noise at night as many of the places in Sagada are sacred to the locals.
  • Make sure to bring extra cash since there is only one ATM in the town.
  • Always bring money on every activity and places that you will be visiting in case there is an environmental fee or entrance fee.

THINGS TO BRING

SIGHT SEEING / TREKKING:

  • SUNBLOCK – always bring and apply your sunblock whenever you go out for a hike or a tour around SAGADA.
  • Hiking Shoes or Sandals – Sagada is all about hiking (requires your body to be on top condition because there is a lot of walking to do). The terrain is not made for your pleasure so you have to prepare for it. (Try jogging at least 3x a week until the target date).
  • FOOD and WATER – have something to refuel your body and have it placed on a backpack during hiking.
  • HAT – even if It’s cold the sun still stings you with its rays, so have something to protect your head and skin.
  • JOGGING PANTS / LONG PANTS – short pants are for caving, but for hiking, it’s a different story. you need to protect your lower body from getting scratched and sliced by grass and ferns.
  • COMFORTABLE SWIMWEAR.
  • CAMERA – The Greatest Souvenir you could get are photos proving that you made it to the place.
  • MEDICINE

CAVING / SPELUNKING:

  • SHORT PANTS/ Leggings – this is to reduce the additional weight carried when soaked with water inside the cave and for easier movement.
  • RUBBER SLIPPERS – actually, any type of foot wear you would use will be useless against the slippery terrain of the cave. Hiking shoes or Sandals as many people think is the best gear for spelunking but it is not. Slippers still are so far the best.

What NOT TO bring when inside the CAVE:

  • LARGE AMOUNT OF WATER – as guides, we have observed that due to the excitement, tourists would forget drinking water when inside the cave, only after they exit. Just get the smallest amount to reduce weight you will be carrying.
  • JACKET – The cave is cold and freezing alright, but you won’t feel that when you are inside, you will be perspiring when you get there anyway.
  • HAND-HELD FLASHLIGHT – The guides have enough light to brighten your path, you won’t need one because you need both hands to make your way in and out of the cavern.
  • LARGE or HEAVY BACKPACK – this limits your movement and further gives additional weight for you to carry.
  • No MAONG pants when going inside the cave.

WHERE TO STAY IN SAGADA

VIA AGODA

VIA AIRBNB

SAGADA ADVENTURES PACKAGE TOUR

  • Roundtrip van Transfer from Manila-Banaue-Sagada-Baguio-Manila All-Inclusive of fuel, drivers meals, allowances and accommodation, Parking Fees, toll fees.
  • Transfers to all tour sites (worth of 300 per person going round trip cave, Lake Danum, hanging coffins, Bomod-ok falls, Kiltepan sunrise viewing)
  • 3 Days and 2 nights accommodation.
  • All registration fees and entrance fees are included.

CONTACT AND BOOKING

You can contact Sagada Adventure directly at their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sagadadventure/

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This is a developing story. This article will be updated time to time.

If you have questions or you spot something that needs to update, let us know in the comments section below.

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