Midtown Inn, Dive Batanes Lodge and Restaurant
Basco Airport (BSO), Fundacion Pacita
Currently, there are around 40 hotels that you can book in Basco
A secluded paradise surrounded by majestic seas, Basco is sure to give travelers a much-needed relief from the hustle and bustle of city life. Verdant trees and cobblestone-walled houses with thatched roofs dot the green rolling hills and rugged mountains of this quaint destination in the northernmost province of the Philippines. Truly, it is a charming municipality that has so much to offer.
At the northern tip of the Philippines in Batan Island is the capital of the archipelagic Batanes Province. Also known as Santo Domingo de Basco, the town takes its name from Capitán General José Basco, a governor general who led the Philippines to freedom from New Spain.
Peaceful and quiet, this municipality is home to beautiful boulder beaches, scenic hills and mountains, and fascinating landmarks like the iconic Basco Lighthouse. It is the perfect place to enjoy the sublime magnificence of nature, whether one wants to do so at rest or during an adventurous trek through the hills.
The vast waters of the Bashi Channel and the Balintang Channel surround Basco, so the fastest and safest way to reach this municipality is by plane. From Manila, you can book flights with either PAL Express or Skyjet to reach Basco Airport. If you’re coming from Tuguegarao in Cagayan, you can choose the regional airline NorthSky Air or book chartered flights with Air Republiq.
Those who aren’t on a tight schedule can take an 18-hour ferry ride from Currimao, Ilocos Norte, to reach Basco. However, strong waves and bad weather are quite common, so ferry trips are often canceled.
Basco doesn’t cover that large of an area; thus, it is easy to get around. With tourist spots being close to one another, most visitors opt to rent tricycles or motorcycles. For those who have the stamina to ride through rugged terrain, a bicycle is a good alternative and is the cheapest choice for transportation.
The natural beauty of Basco is the main attraction itself. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to see. A number of historical and heritage sites are can also be found in this town. One significant cultural destination is the Nakamaya Burial Grounds. The Ivatan people believe in life after death, and their constructed graves reflect this. Burial markers shaped like tataya (traditional wooden boats used in Batanes) face the sea, which the Ivatans believe to be man’s final resting place.
Visitors can see even more of Basco’s historic roots by exploring sites like the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel in Tukon Hills, a 5-door tunnel built during World War II as a shelter for Japanese soldiers. Other spots to stop by in the Tukon Hills area are the PAGASA Weather Station, which offers a 360-degree view of Batan Island, and the Tukon Church, a small but lovely traditional chapel that has stained glass windows, boulders for walls, and carved wooden doors.
And of course, don’t forget to stop by the Basco Lighthouse at Naidi Hills. It is one of the three lighthouses constructed in Batanes and has become a popular symbol of Basco. This 6-storey lighthouse has its own gallery and a viewing deck where one can see Mount Iraya, Basco Town Proper, and the West Philippine Sea without obstruction.
One of the best things to do here is to enjoy the stunning landscapes, seascapes, and both the day and night skies. Blessed with magnificent and awe-inspiring sceneries, Basco is a photographer’s heaven. Here, you can capture stunning pictures not only of verdant green hills and bright blue seas, but also of sunrise and sunsets, as well as of the Milky Way unsullied by light pollution from the cities.
Although water encircles Basco, swimming in its beaches is not recommended. Powerful waves and the strong currents of the surrounding sea aren’t suitable for water-based activities. In addition, instead of white sand, rocks and boulders line the coastlines of northern Batan. However, this makes beaches like the Valugan Boulder Beach in the eastern foot of Mount Iraya and the Chadpidan Boulder Beach along the western coast of Basco a surreal and impressive sight to behold. Spend an afternoon in these places just taking in the views while snapping some postcard-worthy photos.
The entire northern part of Batan Island is mountainous and hilly, so recreational hikers and trek lovers can also have a good time exploring these areas.=. Breathe in some fresh air while trekking through the terrains of the Vayang Rolling Hills and the Naidi Hills.
Another activity travelers can try their hand at is fishing. Ivatans are skillful fishermen, and they offer boat and fishing equipment rentals for visitors who want to catch game fish in the sea. Those who don’t want to rent boats and have their own fishing gear can cast lines near the shore.
The Basco Town Proper is home to many good restaurants, eateries, and cafés for famished visitors to dine in. One such place is Pension Ivatan, a restaurant & hotel located across Basco Airport. This restaurant serves delicious Ivatan dishes like uvud balls (pith of a banana mixed with minced meat), vunes (dried taro stalks), steamed payi (lobster), and luñis (adobo with an Ivatan twist) among other delectable food choices.
For those seeking amazing meals while enjoying a magnificent view of the sea, Pacita Fundacion Nature Lodge is the place to go to. Their menu includes classic Filipino dishes like pork sinigang (sour pork stew) and Ivatan cuisines such as turmeric chicken.
Of course, don’t forget to taste the local delicacies sold in various food stalls in the municipality. Batanes is rich in tubers and root crops, so many beloved snacks such as kakanin (traditional Filipino cake) and even cookies are made with yams.
Don’t expect the nightlife in Basco to be loud or lively. It is a quiet and tranquil destination after all. But there are a few establishments that are sure to please travelers looking for a nice night out. Various cafés like Hiro’s Café have good drinks as well as karaoke machines for guests who want to sing their hearts out.
North Spirit Café is another establishment worth visiting. This bar is only open at night and has cheap cocktails, wines, and beer available. This place is also popular with locals, so tourists can mingle with the residents of Basco here.
Basco has a good selection of cozy lodgings that you can choose from. For budget travelers, book affordable rooms with Savatan Homestay on Caspo Street, Midtown Inn on Lizardo Street, or Marfel’s Lodge on De Padua Street. These accommodations offer clean rooms, tasty meals, and other services for a good price.
If your budget allows it, then a stay in Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge is a definite must. Situated on a high hill overlooking the vast seas around the island, this hotel was once the studio of acclaimed artist Pacita Abad before it became a lodge. Today, it is regarded as the most outstanding and most beautiful hotel in the province of Batanes. With its top-notch facilities and amenities, fantastic food, and great service, the steep price to pay can very well be worth it.
Take home some souvenirs. Aside from taking pictures, remember your trip by purchasing items unique to Basco, like the vakul for women and the kanayi for men. These headwear, made from Philippine date palms or voyavoy leaves, are worn by the Ivatans to protect themselves from harsh weather. Also consider getting some tubho, a type of locally grown tea that is supposed to lower one’s blood pressure.
Be careful in choosing your flights and dates. Basco often experiences heavy rains and storms due to its geographic location. It’s best to set your visit during the dry months between December and May. Also, flights to this municipality can get expensive, so try to buy tickets during seat sales or promo fares to save money.
Have on-hand cash ready. Make sure to carry money as most establishments don’t accept credit cards.