I am a Filipino currently residing in the Philippines. I enjoy writing articles relating to travel, tech and photography.
Ilocos Norte Tourist Spots
Are you planning on visiting Ilocos Norte? Or, if you don't have vacation destinations in mind, why not visit the beautiful northern coastal province of the Philippines? Ilocos Norte has a ton of exciting places to explore. Whether you like sights that are rich in natural beauty or enjoy the culture and history of the destination, it's all here.
The province of Ilocos Norte is about 400 km north of Manila, the capital of the country. The province offers many popular destinations for tourists, locals, and foreigners alike. I would recommend at least a 4-5 day stay in order to properly visit and explore everything the area has to offer. This article will go over 15 of the most popular tourist destinations. They're all definitely worth the trip.
How to Get to Ilocos Norte From Manila
You can reach Ilocos Norte in a number of different ways from Manila. There's no proper way to get there, it's really up to you. Whatever makes you the most comfortable and is the most enjoyable for you personally is the way to go. Here are a few common ones to consider:
- By bus. Public buses are available day and night. Several bus companies, like Florida, Partas, Fariñas, and Maria De Leon, have regular trips directly to Laoag City. Normally, the travel time takes around 10-12 hours by day and 8-10 hours at night. The day trips take longer due to more traffic. I suggest the day trip for first-time visitors — you'll see a lot of beautiful scenery along the way this way. The deluxe busses have AC, inclined seats, and footrests, all of which make for a more comfortable and relaxing trip.
- By car. If you enjoy long drives, you can drive to Laoag City from Manila. In a private car, it will take around 8-10 hours, depending on you and your companion's preferences (bathroom, scenery, and rest breaks, etc.) Also, if you want to buy pasalubong, it'll be convenient for you to have your car. If you are not familiar with this route, you can check it out on Google Maps.
- By air: Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and Airphil Express all have daily scheduled flights to Laoag City. Check their websites from time to time to watch out for discounts and promo fares offered by these airlines. The travel time from Manila will be around 45 minutes, give or take.
Where to Stay in Ilocos Norte
There are plenty of hotels and inns for you to choose from while staying in the province. Ilocanos are especially well known to be hospitable, friendly, and accommodating. Likewise, they are articulate and comfortable speaking English to cater to foreign visitors or if you don't speak any Filipino language or the right dialect.
15 Must-See Tourist Spots in Ilocos Norte
Here are the top 15 must-see tourist spots in Ilocos Norte that you should definitely visit while you're in the province listed below, in no particular order.
1. The Sinking Bell Tower
If Italy has its leaning tower of Pisa, Laoag City has its own local version: the Sinking Bell Tower. This edifice is one of the tallest bell towers in the country and it's located in the heart of the city. As of today, it stands at 45m tall.
The tower is called a sinking tower because it's incredibly heavy, and it was built on sandy ground. So, the combination of the loose foundation and its weight made it sink considerably into the ground at a rate of an inch every year. Normally, bell towers are situated near a church. However, this tower is far away from the cathedral.
The tower is also especially beautiful at night when it's lit up.
2. Lapaz Sand Dunes
Ever want to visit the Sahara Desert in Africa or the deserts found in the Middle Eastern countries? Just come and visit the unique geological dessert environment found only in Ilocos Norte — the Lapaz Sand Dunes. These sand dunes, their heights ranging from 10-30 meters, were created as a result of the interaction of the wind, sea, and river.
These sand dunes are accessible by tricycle or jeepney. They're only 15 minutes away from the city proper. Due to its desert environment, it is a popular location for shooting films for both local and international films makers alike. Notable local films include Himala and Panday, while internationally or on the U.S. front, there are Hollywood films such as Mad Max and Born on the Fourth of July (both starring Tom Cruise).
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3. Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino
The Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino is a first-class hotel in Ilocos Norte, located in Brgy. Calayab, Laoag City — just 9km away from the city proper. Its design was inspired by Spanish colonial architecture. The main building houses a lobby, the casino, the arcades, the shopping arcade, and restaurants.
4. Malacañang of the North
Malacañang of the North was built as the official residence of the late President Marcos in Ilocos Norte. It is a two-story building located near the legendary Paoay Lake. The residence is complete with bedrooms, a dining area, a kitchen, an office, a spacious ballroom on the second floor, and even an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Also, it has an expansive terrace and a beautiful garden with magnificent views of the lake.
Currently, it operates as the Marcos Memorabilia Museum, which is open to the public with an entrance fee of P20.00.
5. Paoay Church
Paoay Church is a national treasure of Ilocandia and a designated UNESCO world heritage site. It was built in 1896 by the Augustinian friars using coral bricks, which can be seen from its massive walls. Also, as a prime example of a Baroque church, it brings along a picturesque view truly reminiscent of the Spanish era, with details like enormous and magnificent buttresses on the sides and back of the building.
From Laoag City, it is just a 30-minute ride to visit this tourist attraction in Paoay. Once you've visited the Malacanang of the North in Suba, go straight ahead here.
Food tip: Also, don't forget also to try the pinakbet pizza at Herencia Cafe just in front of the church!
7. Playa Tropical Resort
Playa Tropical Resort is situated in Currimao, Ilocos Norte. It's a Balinese-inspired beachside hotel haven where one can enjoy stunning sunsets and a constant, gentle ocean breeze, with a beach where the calm waves and fine sand reminds you of the infinite wonders of the world.
Playa Tropical also has an incredibly friendly staff, reflecting the brand of hospitality that Filipinos are known for. The suite rooms are very clean, large, and comfortable. The location is also close to all the popular tourist spots located in Batac, Paoay, and Laoag.
8. Marcos Museum and Mausoleum
Marcos Museum and Mausoleum is located in Batac City, Ilocos Norte, just a 30-minute ride from Laoag City. The museum can easily be found, as it is near the bridge where all the public buses stop.
- The museum houses memorabilia of the late President Marcos. It is incredibly well-organized, making it a very enjoyable experience for visitors to learn about his life. The entrance fee is P50 per person while children under the age of four are free.
- The mausoleum is on the other side of the museum and it houses the body of the late president. Picture taking is prohibited inside here. Upon entering the mausoleum, one will also hear Gregorian sounds. There is no entrance fee to visit this part.
9. Juan Luna Shrine
The Juan Luna Shrine is situated in Badoc, Ilocos Norte and houses the famous Luna family's memorabilia. This includes Juan Luna's paintings, namely his masterpiece, the Spoliarium.
The house has two stories, the ground floor used to be the basement while the second level is for the living room and bedrooms. Today, the ground floor displays different memorabilia not only of Juan Luna but also of Antonio Luna and the rest of the family.
10. Bacarra Domeless Tower
The Bacarra Domeless Tower is a 50-meter tower and was built in 1830, but was damaged in 1931 by an earthquake. Another strong earthquake (with a 7.8 intensity) in 1983 caused its dome to totally go down. Thus, gaining the romanticized title “Dignified Domeless Belltower in Asia.”
Bacarra is a town adjacent to Laoag City. It is just 15 mins away. Museo de Bacarra, which houses many artifacts, is right near the Bacarra Tower.
11. Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
The Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is situated in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. To get to it from the national highway, you'll have to traverse down a long and winding (and dirty) road. There's no public transportation that passes through the area, so a car would be very convenient here. Otherwise, you'd have to walk under the scorching heat of the sun.
The name of this formation is derived from its characteristically white color. In Ilocano, the word puraw means white. The rock also looks like a large dragon watching over the entire coast. Once you reach it, you'll be rewarded with the natural beauty of the erosion created by the years and years of crashing ocean waves.
12. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
Another national historic site in Ilocos Norte is the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. This lighthouse, with brick walls as is the style of many other lighthouses in the country, is one of the highest elevated Spanish colonial lighthouses in the Philippines. Currently, it still functions as an active and welcoming flair to ships that enter the Philippine Archipelago from the North.
13. Bangui Windmill
The Bangui Windmill is not only the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, but it's also right here in Ilocos Norte.
The windmill has 20 tri-blades that are 70 meters high, with windmills spread about in an arc formation along Bangui Bay. It is situated north of Laoag City and about a 45-minute ride.
As a result, Ilocos Norte is one of the few provinces in the Philippines that generates renewable energy. The Bangui wind farm provides for 40% of the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative's supply. Additionally, it generates 25 MW of electricity to power up an estimated 108,000 households.
14. Pagudpud Beaches
Pagudpud is popularly known for its beaches. Visitors may choose from the following:
- The Punta Azul Beach Resort was originally built as a family retreat to escape the hectic and stressful life in the city. Its design seamlessly blends with the natural beauty, and you're bound to be captivated by the stunning crystal blue water and pristine white sands at the foot of the Verdant Mountains. Much like a hidden treasure; this resort is a paradise at the northern tip of the Philippines.
- Hannah’s Beach Resort & Convention Center is the newest and most exciting vacation destination in Pagudpud. It is situated right in front of the famous Blue Lagoon (Maira-ira Beach) at Brgy. Balaoi, Malingay, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. It offers both exclusivity and luxury in an incredibly friendly environment. The Blue Lagoon, with its captivating crystal clear waters and white sand beach, will surely make your stay a memorable and enjoyable one.
- The Saud Beach Resort and Hotel offers overnight accommodations where each room has a sunset view. Its amenities include a private shower and toilet, a coffee table, a mini-refrigerator, a minibar, and sulo lights facing the beach area. There are also beach huts and beach lounges provided free of charge to check-in guests.
- The Kingfisher Resort, built in a traditional style, is your go-to destination if you want to kitesurf. Kite surfing, windsurfing and many other water activities can be experienced here.
15. Patapat Bridge
The Patapat Bridge is a 1.2 km long bridge that connects two barangay in Pagudpud. This zigzag-y bridge is often referred to by some as the “French Riviera of the North.” Visitors and motorists can enjoy the amazing view of the sea and the luxuriant mountains as they cross this bridge, which is 200 meters above sea level.
It is also the fourth-longest bridge in the Philippines.
If you have any questions or comments about Ilocos Norte, please don't hesitate to shoot me an inquiry below. Have fun on your trip!