Hiking the Rice Terraces of Banaue Philippines
Nathan Sado | Nov 07, 2016
Have you ever seen images of the rice terraces in Banaue Philippines? They are awe inspiring to say the least. Believe it or not, they are also some of the most spectacular places to hike. Banaue is about 8 hours north of Manila. This place is world renowned for their beautiful rice terraces. It actually consists of multiple villages with different terraces in the area.
Banaue is a village many use as a jump-off point to explore the region. There are various hikes, villages and outdoor activities you can explore in this area. I would recommend a fairly good pair of hiking shoes and a good camera. In this article we will touch on a few.
History of Ifugao rice terraces
The Rice Terraces are carved into the Ifugao mountains by the indigenous people of the Philippines 2,000 years ago. They sometimes refer to the Rice Terraces as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The terraces were built using primitive equipment and mainly by hand. There is an ancient irrigation system that feeds into the terraces from the rain forests above them.
A fun fact is that if the steps were put end to end, it would circumvent half the planet. Locals to this day still plant rice and vegetables on the terraces, mostly by hand.
Now Banaue has their own terraces, but many agree that some of the surrounding villages have more picturesque terraces. It is worth a quick ride up to the Banaue lookout to take a couple shots of Banaue’s terraces while you are there anyways.
Native Village Inn in Banuae
Getting to Banaue Rice Terraces and what to expect
You can get to Banaue by overnight bus from Manila. Upon early morning arrival you will be taken to a hotel in town. There you will be advised that it is in your best interest to purchase a tour right away. No need to be pressured into a tour right away. Sometimes you can get a better deal by negotiating for a better rate or getting a small group together on your own with other tourists.
Depending on how many days you plan on staying in the area and what exactly you want to do, you may want to bite the bullet and go to one of the rice terraces the day you arrive. That is what we decided to do.
Amenities in this area of the Philippines is fairly simple. Power is a hot commodity and the hotel we stayed at had no electrical outlets in the rooms. The only ones available were in the dining room, and that was only one outlet. Many places charge a fee to power up your electronic devices. There also seems to be a curfew in this area. At our hotel they closed and locked the doors at 9pm and lights out at 10pm. They actually knocked on the door one night just after 10 to see if we were in.
Hapao Rice Terraces
This was the first terraces we explored. We decided to do this on the day we arrived. One reason was it was very close to Banaue, we a little tired and we had heard that the terrain was not nearly as difficult as Batad. We also had bargained a deal by splitting the cost with two other travelers.
I would say this is a must see if you are in the area. Such a beautiful landscape. Unlike some other terraces in the area these are not very steep and very wide through the valley. Great for a leisurely hike with plenty of time for photo opportunities. With a guide you descend into the terraces slowly and before you know it you begin making your way through the terraces along the built up walls. Be careful as a misstep could mean a plunge into the water. It is remarkable traversing from terrace to terrace and meeting the local villagers along the way.
These people still do almost everything by hand. Tradition passed down from generation after generation. After a couple of hours of exploring, taking a hundred photos and winding your way through the maze of walls and walkways you finally come to a natural hot spring. Hopefully you brought your swimming gear because here is your chance to take a dip and soothe your legs and relax before your journey back. Top of my list for scenery and real local feel.
Batad Rice Terraces
The Batad terraces are much steeper. Just as beautiful as Hapao, but not as vast and more contained. It has a small village in the bottom of the valley. Instead of hot springs at the end you get a wonderful waterfall.
After arriving at Batad, your journey begins by descending into the valley. There is a restaurant a little ways down. Be sure to stop here for something to drink and a snack if you are hungry because you will burn a lot of calories on this hike. You can also pre-order a meal for your return if desired.
After a quick break you continue into the valley until you reach the terraces. You then zigzag your way across the terraces and through the small village in the center. Continue through the terraces around the left side of the valley.
Towards the end of the terraces you will begin to climb up. It is a fairly steep climb to a lookout and rest point.
From there you again descend down around the outside of the valley into a small canyon. This again is a very steep climb down, remember you will have to climb back up on the return. Eventually you will come to the waterfall. Here you can take a dip in the water to cool off if needed. Snap some pictures and if available from a local, grab a drink or snack. To return you retrace your steps back to the restaurant. A guide is recommended as the terraces can be a maze to get through.
Sagada is a great day trip or even an overnighter. Cute little village with many outdoor activities. It is about a 3-hour journey and again it is best to find some others to join your group to work out the best deal. Upon arrival you can choose many activities and hire a local guide for very cheap to show you around.
We chose to go see the hanging cliff side coffins. It was a fairly easy but beautiful hike with various small cave coffins and finally the cliff side coffins at the end. It is great listening to the local guide explain the history of these types of burials. If you have time there is also a large cave with burial sites to explore, rock climbing, hikes to waterfalls and white water rafting.
When your hunger strikes make sure you head back to the main street in the village. I can recommend the balcony at the Yogurt House restaurant and end with some local lemon pie. If you are on a day trip it you will need to meet back up with your driver mid afternoon to head back to Banuae.
If you are curious as to the itinerary for the 2 nights we had there, here it is.
Day 1 – Arrived early morning to Banaue after overnight bus from Manila. Checked into the hotel and immediately booked and left for a day trip to Hapao terraces. After returning we hung out at the hotel, grabbed dinner in town and headed to sleep.
Day 2 – Headed in a group van to Sagada for a day trip and arrived back in the late afternoon, early evening. That night again we went to the same yummy restaurant and headed back to the hotel for bedtime.
Day 3 – We locked are luggage up with the hotel after we checked out. Then we took a tour to Batad. Arrived back to the hotel later that afternoon and hung out at the hotel until it was time to catch the overnight bus back to Manila.
So if you plan on traveling to the Philippines, I would highly recommend going to see the rice terraces. It can be a bit hectic with the overnight buses and lack of power, but you will be rewarded with some very unique hiking and scenery. Check out another this article on Jungle Treking in Koh Pangnan Thailand for more adventure.
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