5 beautiful hikes in the northern Philippines

31st May 2017 | by Danielle

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Hiking in the hills and forests of Luzon, beyond Manila’s urban hubbub, takes you through some of the most picturesque scenery in the northern Philippines. While the rice terraces take centre stage, there is a strong supporting cast of woodland walks, mountain treks and lakeside strolls to be explored too. If your feet are already eager to hit the trails, here are a few paths they might like to tread.

Batad to Banga’an

Approx 3 hours. Moderate to challenging.

Starting from the secluded village of Batad, this trail plunges you straight in at the deep end of rice terrace trekking. The paths which lead you around the edges of the terraces are less than a metre wide and can get steep, so strong legs and good balance are needed (especially when the mountain mists dampen the ground.) However, the up-close perspective on the terraces makes all your efforts worthwhile. As you descend through the valley towards the tiny hamlet of Bangaan, you are flanked by the vibrant rice fields winding their way around the curve of the hillside. Instantly immersed in the sights and sounds of this unique landscape, your journey mirrors the way local people have traversed the terraces for thousands of years.

Batad to Tappiya Falls

Approx. 2 hours. Moderate to challenging.

Rice terrace trekking should never be undertaken lightly, but the trek from Batad to the Tappiya Falls can be especially tough. As well as navigating the narrow paths between the fields, there are ‘steps’ (which are simply rocks jutting from the wall) to be climbed up at a sharp angle as you hike down into the valley. When you get near to the falls there is a steep descent down hundreds of stone steps, which must be tackled again on the way back up – great for those thigh muscles! This is an interesting option for experienced hikers, or those with an enthusiastic sense of adventure, and the sight when you arrive at the falls themselves is exceptional: gallons of river water thundering into the still pool below, creating a picture-perfect rainforest idyll.

Hapao Terraces and Hot Springs

2-3 hours. Easy to moderate.

If both of the above sound a bit full-on, but your heart is set on experiencing the terraces, the shorter trail at Hapao might be tempting. An hour and a half’s drive from Banaue, and less touristy than Batad, the Hapao terraces are wider and the terrain has a gentler incline. This makes for a lighter trek which is much more suitable for beginners, and it allows you to enjoy your surroundings at leisure as you look down on the sparkling curves of the Hapao river. And the icing on this particular piece of cake? A hot spring pool, overlooking the terraces, where you can soak away any of the trail’s aches and pains before making the return journey. Make sure you pack your bathing suit and a towel if you want to take a dip.

Sagada and Mt. Ampacao

A full day’s climb. Moderate to challenging.

The town of Sagada, deep in the Cordillera Mountains, offers plenty of tempting trekking opportunities. Scramble over limestone outcrops to see the famous hanging coffins, go spelunking through caverns, or take on the challenge of a more demanding mountainous climb. If you’re feeling particularly intrepid, why not join a climb to the top of Mt. Ampacao? Though not compulsory, we recommend hiring a guide as the trail isn’t clear in places especially during the final ascent to the summit itself. Taking you through dappled pine forests along a winding track, the trail eventually leads you out to a clear summit where you can sit and take a breather as you look across the rugged, undulating landscape below.

Taal Lake and volcano

45 minutes each way, plus boat ride. Easy to moderate.

A couple of hours south of central Manila, Taal Lake nestles serenely between the mountains; a smooth expanse of deep blue water just aching to be explored. And there’s a hidden treat at its centre. The world’s smallest active volcano sits in the middle of the lake, and a 30-minute boat ride brings you to right to its feet. From the shore, your guide will lead you up the blackened slopes to the rim of the crater. You’ll pass the sulphuric steam vents as you hike through the low vegetation, perhaps stopping to sample some freshly-picked sweet tamarind fruit along the way. This gentle climb is ideal for beginners, and the view down into the mineral-green crater lake is well worth a little huffing and puffing to get there!

These are just a few ideas to get you started, but the varied landscapes of northern Luzon offer many more routes to explore. Contact our Destination Specialists for advice on which treks and trails would work best for your ideal hiking getaway, and you can start dreaming about those wide, sweeping views.