Trek in Banaue’s ancient rice terraces
The rippled tiers of the Banaue rice terraces bring to mind polished malachite; layers of variegated green perfectly following the natural curve of the hillside. As a firm contender for ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, it’s mind-boggling to think that ancient hands, equipped only with basic tools, created these steadfast features in the landscape. Wandering along the ridges as you look down on the terraces below can be a pretty humbling experience...
What to expect as you explore the rice terraces...
Rising above an ever-changing world, the Banaue rice terraces maintain a sense of timelessness; something primal etched deeply into the land itself and permeating through the culture of the Ifugao people.
Some of the 2,000 year old terraces are still cultivated to grow rice and vegetables, nourished by the ancient irrigation system which diverts water from higher ground. However, much of the crop-free hillside has been eroded by the elements, and continuing conservation efforts are needed to preserve their beauty and historical significance for future generations.
Your adventure begins with a jeepney tour of Banga-an, a traditional village of the Ifugao tribe whose ancestors built the rice terraces. Many of their skills and customs, including intricate wood carving and textile work, as well as a rich heritage of epic and narrative songs, remain largely unchanged since those ancient times. You’ll be able to chat with the villagers about their way of life and be welcomed into a typical Ifugao home before getting your first sight of the terraces themselves. From an elevated viewing platform, you’ll look out on the vast terraced landscape beyond: a breath-taking introduction to the site.
The following days are full of highlights: a hearty trek to Batad, where the sounds of the forest are heightened in the terraces’ natural amphitheatre; a stop at the Tappiya Falls, to see the rushing column of water thunder into a calm pool; jeepney drives through swathes of dramatic scenery to the Tam‐An, Poitan, Matanglang & Bocos Villages.
A visit to Sagada on the last day presents you with a death ritual which pre-dates written history. Dozens of coffins have been hung from the cliffside or stacked at the mouth of the caves to bring the spirits of the dead closer to heaven. The sight of these fading wooden caskets suspended, undisturbed, for hundreds of years is a sombre sight to bring your exploration of this unique region full circle.
Location: Banaue and Sagada, Philippines
Duration: 3 nights/4 days
Accommodation: The Banaue Hotel, Ifugao
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'Seeing these amazing terraces and chatting with the people who live on them is like taking a step into a forgotten world. A bucket-list dream fulfilled!'
Good to know
There is a fair amount of uphill trekking involved in this experience, and access can be awkward in places, so your personal health and physical fitness ought to be kept in mind when planning your trip.