Imagine yourself surrounded by pine trees with endless views of the mountain and the cool mountain breeze touching your skin. You must be somewhere outside of the Philippines - but you are in the mountain town of Sagada. An ideal destination for those interested in the outdoors, Sagada will be a worthwhile trip with an itinerary full of natural wonders to visit.
Located 275 kilometers north of Manila, Sagada is a small town nestled in a valley in the Mountain Province. The town saw little Spanish influence as only a few Spanish conquistadors have not set foot in the town due to Sagada’s remoteness and challenges in transportation. Due to this, Sagada has mostly kept its indigenous culture intact.
Today, Sagada is frequented by both local and international tourists, but getting there will require a lot of patience. Sagada has blown up in popularity after the film, That Thing Called Tadhana was shot in the province.
Another fun fact worth mentioning about Sagada is that it was once underwater. There are a lot of limestone mountains in the province and fossilized seashells can still be found in Sumaguing Cave’s walls if you look close enough.
Currently, there are no direct bus routes from Manila to Sagada, however, it can be approached via two ways - either through Baguio or Banaue.
Plenty of bus companies travel the Manila to Baguio route. The most popular transport company is Victory Liner. From Baguio, hail a cab that will take you to the GL Liner Station in Dangwa - but best to ask the driver that you’re headed to Sagada so he may take you to the right station.
Meanwhile, there are two popular bus lines that ply the Manila to Banaue route: Florida Bus Line and Ohayami Transport. The overnight bus rides last for about 10 hours. From Banaue, you may arrange for a seat in one of the waiting vans at the bus station that will take you to Sagada.
Don’t expect the convenience of tricycles to ferry you around Sagada - and be prepared for a lot of walking. There are a quite a number of attractions that can easily be visited on foot, and some of them are just a 15 to 20-minute walk from the Sagada town square. However, you’ll still need guides when visiting Sagada’s famous caves. For larger groups, private jeepneys can be hired to shuttle you around town.
A lot of natural wonders are waiting to be discovered in Sagada, making it a backpacker and nature lover’s paradise. Learn about Sagada’s kankanaey roots at Ganduyan Museum. The privately-owned museum features furniture, artifacts, jewelry, clothing and more.
Another part of Sagada’s culture is the manner in which they bury their dead. A visit to the famous hanging coffins is a must - and is a ritual that is still being practiced. The coffins are near St. Mary’s Church. Walk past the cemetery and it’s a 15 to 20-minute hike to the coffins.
Those who love chasing sunsets (or sunrises, whichever you prefer) will enjoy viewing it from Kiltepan Viewpoint. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the sea of clouds. However, the area has become famous as it was featured in a scene in the film, That Thing Called Tadhana, so expect quite a number of tourists in the area.
One of the most popular activities to do while in Sagada is to go spelunking. There are three caves to visit including Crystal Cave, Lumiang Caves, and Sumaguing Caves, with the latter being the most popular. At Sumaguing Cave, visitors will not only enjoy the trek but be challenged as well as they pass through a network of caves that features towering stalagmite and stalactite rocks.
Another worthwhile activity to do at Sagada is to go hiking. Get your cardio on as you walk through Sagada’s beautiful mountain sceneries and the rice terraces of Suyo, Ankileng, Balugan, and Bangaan, which is on the way to Bomod-ok Falls. If rice terraces aren’t your thing, you can also enjoy a hike up Mt. Ampucao. Another area worth mentioning is Sagada’s Blue Soil Hills. Yes, you read that right - blue soil. The texture of the soil is similar to grains of sand and the composition is mostly copper. This can be explored with a trek to Kaipitan and Balangagan Cave.
Weary hikers can also enjoy a dip in Bomod-ok Falls or Bokong Falls. Bomdok-ok is a famous destination which involved about an hour’s hike down to the foot of the falls. It towers at 200 meters tall and getting there involves passing through rice paddies and a slippery descent.
Visit Sagada's pottery houses and learn the art of making local pots and crockery! You can also buy and take home as souvenirs excellent pottery pieces at decent prices.
After a full day of trekking, walking around and burning calories, visitors can fuel up in Sagada’s famous eateries to try out the local fare. Yoghurt House is one of the most famous in the area, and of course, the must-try item on the menu is the restaurant’s own version of homemade yogurt.
Another establishment that’s worth visiting is the Sale & Pepper Diner. A must-try is the dinakiw, a pan-fried pork dish that comes with a lot of onions. The restaurant serves a lot of reasonably-priced rice meals from chopsuey to rosemary chicken.
If there’s one dessert you can’t miss, it’s the lemon pie at Sagada Lemon Pie House. Apart from this, there’s also blueberry and egg pies to try which go great with a nice warm cup of lemon tea.
Night owls looking to party might find out Sagada might not be the place for them as there is a 9pm curfew. However, if you insist on getting a drink, you can opt to purchase a bottle of bugnay, a wine made from crushed wild berries. It has a strong alcoholic taste which will warm your body up as you fight off the cold Sagada weather. It’s best enjoyed with friends.
Sagada does not fall short on accommodations and are quite affordable with the cheapest rates starting at P200 but do expect the most basic rooms. One of the most popular accommodation options in Sagada is Misty Lodge and Cafe. It offers cozy lodging and features a fireplace to warm up to during those cold evenings. Another recommended lodging in Sagada is Isabelo’s Inn and Cafe. It features very basic amenities including hot and cold showers, an in-house restaurant, laundry services, and Wi-Fi access.