Usually travelers know Philippines for its beautiful islands but there’s more to the famous white sand beaches of the archipelago–Sagada in the Mountain Province. It’s one of the best destinations in the Philippines as it’s a province where the Igorot culture is still intact, the caves are quite an adventure to explore, their arts and crafts are simply beautifully made and there’s so much more waiting to be discovered about this place.
So despite a grueling land trip from Manila, we drove our own vehicle and ventured to a different destination between 12 to 13 hours. If you’re dreading because of the long land trip, it’s best to leave at night around 10pm so you can sleep throughout the travel period and wake up when you’re at the destination. You can also commute from Manila but you have to transfer from Baguio to Sagada.
The view en route to Sagada, Banaue Rice Terraces.
Recently, the news said Coda Lines will offer direct bus service from Manila to Sagada but when I checked their website, there’s none. Perhaps you can inquire with them in case the website isn’t updated.
Here are the list of buses you can take:
From Manila: (from Baguio you can transfer to other buses going to Sagada)
Victory Liner: Php455 per ticket; Departs from Manila to Baguio; Terminals in Cubao, Manila, Pasay & Caloocan
Dagupan Bus: Php 430; Terminal in Cubao
Genesis Bus: Php420; Terminal in Cubao
From Baguio: Travel time is 6 hours
GL Trans/ Lizardo Bus: Php230
For complete bus schedules, visit the website of GL Trans/Lizardo Bus.
Despite the long drive, you won’t get bored because if you travel during day time, you’ll see the view of the mountainside especially the rice terraces of Banaue before you reach Sagada which is utterly amazing. You can even make a short stop and take pictures of the terraces. It’s really admirable how the locals there made them without the use of big machinery and it’s good that until now we can still see them.
There are several restaurants and gas stations along the highway so you can take a rest from driving, eat, buy snacks or use the rest room. Some roads have locals selling fruits, vegetables or household items such as brooms so if you want to buy something from their stalls, simply make a quick stop at one of the stores you’ll pass by the area.
One of the interesting things you’ll see are Jeepneys, a local public transportation distinctly unique in the Philippines, with people riding on top of the roofs with chickens, baskets of vegetables, sacks of rice and all sorts of their belongings. Anyone can ride those Jeepneys (not just the locals are allowed) if you’re more adventurous. We were able to do the top load (which is what they call people riding on top of the Jeepneys) but inside Sagada already. Going up the mountains or exiting Sagada, you’ll see them using this as a mode of transportation too. Usually they bring several harvested produce to nearby provinces in the Mountain Province, particularly Baguio, Benguet and Banaue.
It’s not an easy drive going up as your driver has to be very careful with the winding roads and one wrong move can result to an accident, which you would want to avoid. Best to have a great driver who’s alert, used to driving in roads like this and have another person beside him to keep him awake or who can switch with him in driving in case he gets tired. Of course, praying for a safe trip is also good. Nonetheless, enjoy the scenery and the fresh air because it’s really one of the best places to see in the country.
Arriving in Sagada, the pine trees and some of the locals’ houses welcome you first. A little bit further, you’ll see the bus terminals where a lot of locals and travelers are waiting to either get off or load the buses. There are several stores and accommodations there that are available to all travelers.
Photos courtesy of Saint Joseph Resthouse
We proceeded to our accommodation, Saint Joseph Resthouse, a simple old house sitting on a hilltop. It’s simple and when we stayed there before, they didn’t have a hot and cold shower. It was cold when we went to Sagada so taking a bath was a bit of a challenge. Despite that, it was a good accommodation because of their clean rooms and friendly staff.
There’s no aircon but really you don’t need it since Sagada is cold especially in December and January. They’ve improved and expanded because now there are cottages apart from the rooms in the main house and also there’s a hot and cold shower so lucky for those who are staying there now.
Photo courtesy of Saint Joseph Resthouse
Other accommodations you may want to check out are Rock Inn and Cafe, George Guest House, Sagada Home-stay among others. There are quite a lot now but don’t expect big hotels. It’s really better for Sagada to stay this way to avoid too much commercialization.
If you’re going to eat at their restaurant, make sure you tell them in advance because based on our experience, we were supposed to eat somewhere else but one of our friends forgot to call the other restaurant for reservation so we decided to eat at Saint Joseph’s restaurant instead but since we told them at almost dinner time, their food was limited as there were other diners who ordered ahead of us.
We were still able to eat but there were only Fried Chicken and Chopsuey with side salad left available. Good thing though they have delicious food there and the portions were good enough to satisfy your hunger–oh and their red rice was really good too. Since we arrived late afternoon, our adventure will start the next day. We ate dinner and rested to prepare ourselves for the next few days we will spend to explore Sagada.
We tried Masferre Country Inn & Restaurant for breakfast Their food was pretty good and hefty to fill your stomach for the long day ahead, which will be full of physical activities. We had some Longganisa, Fried Bangus, Tocino and bread. Their meals all came with eggs and mango. We tried their hot chocolate and coffee to warm our palate. The prices were alright and not too expensive.
They have an inn also where you can spend the night. The interiors were designed with a cabin log ambiance because of the wooden walls, doors, tables and chairs. The windows on the other side of the restaurant has a view of nature while the other side faces the road where other houses and restaurants are located.
Its interiors were made in wood, perfect for the mountain theme of Sagada. Wooden chairs, tables and walls emphasized the restaurant. Only a few diners were present the time we had lunch at Yoghurt House so we had the place entirely almost to ourselves. They served pretty good Tocilog though the portions were only good for one so for heavy eaters, you may want to order extra dishes to share with the group. Their lettuce and cucumber for the salad was quite fresh.
We ordered their famous Strawberry Yogurt and true enough it was really delicious as it was cold and freshly made. It wasn’t too sweet overpowering the sourness of Yogurt. The Strawberry Jam blends well with the Yogurt. True enough this restaurant is a must-try if you’re visiting Sagada.
The Sagada Lemon Pie House is another must-visit restaurant as it’s perfect for merienda (coffee break/tea time). Inside a small yellow house sits the best Lemon Pie in Sagada. We ordered slices for everyone with coffee. The Lemon wasn’t too sour and it blended well with sugar. The crust was oven baked to perfection and it wasn’t too hard. It was crispy and not too thick.For other restaurants and cafe, you may try also dining at Strawberry Cafe, Pinikpikan House or Native Village Inn and Restaurant. Most definitely your options are not limited as every year new restaurants open their doors to locals and travelers alike.
Accommodations and restaurants are quite a lot in Sagada so the choices are endless. It’s best to stay at a local hostel or a mountain lodge and eat local cuisine at restaurants owned by the locals themselves. Even better if you know locals who will show you around their town.
For more info about Sagada, you may visit the following websites:
Facebook: Visit Sagada