The Banaue Rice Terraces are a trekking lover’s paradise for many reasons. A big one is the fact that Banaue and the area around it are still quite unknown, which is a nice contrast with many other places in the Philippines which have already been taken over by tourism. The scenic landscapes, healthy vegetation, and raw wildlife make the Banaue Rice Terraces easy to fall in love with. In this guest post, fellow adventure traveler Christian writes about his experiences doing the 2-day hike through the terraces with tips, practical information, and photo impressions.
So from here on out, Christian takes over this article. But not before he introduces himself:
The Philippines is more than just picture-perfect beaches
If you’re traveling to the Philippines for the first time, I would recommend adding a trekking tour to your itinerary. Many tourists only visit the beautiful islands, beaches, and lagoons… Fair enough! But you would be surprised how much more this country has to offer: wonderful mountain ranges, active volcanoes, deep jungles with little-visited villages and perhaps the perfect proof of its versatility: the Banaue Rice Terraces.
It’s worth avoiding the typical tourist areas and instead discovering the remote areas of northern Luzon, which is where Banaue and Manila, the country’s capital, are located. I promise, if you make your way up to the north, it will definitely be worth the effort.
How to go to Banaue Rice Terraces from Manila
The Banaue Rice Terraces have a long history. The main areas for visiting are the Batad and Bangaan Rice Terraces. Built over 2.000 years ago, these giant pieces of brilliant ancient architecture still do the intended job for the local community. They have been set in the middle of scenic valleys, surrounded by huge mountain ranges, full of vivid vegetation.
To get there you will have to take the Ohayami Trans night bus from Manila Sampaloc station to Banaue. You could also make it up to the north by motorbike or scooter, which would give you the freedom to stop at different other beautiful spots along the way. However, if you’re not an experienced driver, I wouldn’t recommend doing so, because the Filipinos have a very different style of driving and the roads are not in the best condition.
The journey will take about 10 hours in total and cost about 8 USD. The buses are comfortable but if you take a night bus, make sure to put on some warm clothes, as the air conditioning is freezing cold.
Once you have made it to Banaue, I would recommend anyone to book a tour. Getting to the Rice Terraces on your own might cost you less, but is still way more difficult as you will also have to find accommodation and follow the right tracks on your own. Booking a guided tour is definitely the better option since they are cheap, informative and generally a lot of fun. You can choose 2-day, 3-day or 7-day tours; I choose the 2-day tour and in hindsight, that seems to me like the perfect length to do the trek.
You can choose 2-day, 3-day or 7-day tours; I choose the 2-day tour and in hindsight, that seems to me like the perfect length to do the trek.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about the weather in this area. It’s always humid and warm. The sun is out most of the time, but I would still recommend bringing some good trainers or trekking shoes. This is what I usually pack for my trips.
Where I stayed in Banaue
There are around 10 guesthouses to choose from in Banaue, which in my opinion are very similar. I stayed at the Batad View Inn, which provided all I needed for the 2-day Rice Terraces trek. I didn’t book the hotel ahead but instead booked it on the spot.
Map of the Banaue Rice Terraces
Navigating around Banaue is pretty straightforward, and when you book a guided tour, you don’t have to worry about the route along the rice terraces either. It could, however, be useful to have a map of the Banaue Rice Terraces, so I will provide you with just that.
The Banaue Rice Terrace Trek: Day 1
The first day starts with a walk from the bus drop-off point straight to the local village, right at a slope next to the Batad Rice Terraces. Depending on what tour you have booked, you will be brought to one of the many different guesthouses. These guesthouses are very basic and authentic wooden huts with a small bathroom. Very simple, but they do the job. You probably didn’t come here to have a wellness weekend, right?
These guesthouses are very basic and authentic wooden huts with a small bathroom. Very simple, but they do the job. You probably didn’t come here to have a wellness weekend, right?
After dropping off your luggage, you get introduced to the guesthouse owners, which tell you a little bit about their homes and the area. It’s the same procedure at every guesthouse, but the locals are incredibly friendly and polite. They welcome every visitor with open arms and take care of their needs if you only ask them.
The view from any of these guesthouses is phenomenal. You look right onto the dreamlike valley and the Batad Rice Terrace. Shortly after you leave the village, the guide will lead you straight into the jungle, which is where the real adventure begins. you will walk on the top of the rice terraces, cross some hidden bridges right next to big waterfalls, meet locals at their tiny kiosks and see a couple of other smaller rice terraces until you reach an even smaller village than the one you just came from.
It literally feels like you are in the middle of nowhere. This village counts less than 30 people and it’s also the place where you will stop for lunch. Honestly, I have rarely eaten something as good as the meal from the restaurant you that the guide will bring you to. The dish, rice with veggies and a fried egg, is completely fresh, without any additives and only costs about $2.50. Once you have filled up your batteries, you will be going back to the villages from the beginning of the trek to rest. The whole hike takes about 6 hours. Although it’s not tough, I cannot call it easy either, especially when it starts to rain. The path can be slippery at times, so be careful.
Quick note: When you walk on the walls of the rice terraces, make sure not to step into the fields, because you will get a huge fine for damaging them.
The Banaue Rice Terrace Trek: Day 2
The second day of trekking around the Rice Terraces at Banaue starts with one of most amazing sunrises I have seen so far. When you open your curtain you will have the Batad Rice Terrace right in front of you, and what you will witness on a sunny day is simply astonishing. The sun shines right onto the rice terraces and reflects up in the air and onto the surrounding mountain ranges. Every centimeter of the whole valley basically starts to shine in gold. A moment that really seems too good to be true…
After breakfast, your journey will be continued. This time the guide brings you down to the bottom of the valley where you can really see the magnitude of the Batad Rice Terrace. It is massive!
You will quickly realize that you will have to climb to the top again in order to get to the path that leads you to the next big highlight – The Tappiya Falls. These waterfalls lie at the end of a light blue river, which effortlessly floats through the valleys. The Tappiya Falls has a height of about 25 meters and they are a perfect spot to get some great pictures for your Instagram. Besides that, you also have the opportunity to go for a refreshing swim before you get back to the village.
The next and last spot on the list is the Bangaan Rice Terraces, which are a little different than most of the other ones you see. These are formed and designed in a circle with a tiny 10-house village in its middle. They look as stunning as the ones in Batad. These terraces are a 30-minute bus ride away, so you will have to pack all your stuff.
Unfortunately, the Bangaan Rice Terrace also represent the end of the 2-day trekking tour. You also have the opportunity to go for 7 days, which good for people who have a lot of time in the Philippines and want to explore this area even more. Personally, I think that two days is enough to get a good impression of Banaue. It’s a good timeframe to see all the highlights without getting bored of seeing the same kind of things for 7 days.
As you have read, I can only highly recommend to do this trip yourself. It’s a unique experience, and very different to the things you would normally find in Southeast Asia. So why not give it a go? 😉