My husband and I have been to Ilocos many times. Between the area's history and natural beauty, we always find something new to explore.
Ilocos: The Gem of the Philippines
The Ilocos region is approximately eight hours away from Metro Manila via bus and around an hour away via plane. Despite its many beautiful sites, not many tourists have been there. Neither had we until, out of the blue, we were given a long weekend off work. We just couldn’t stay home, so we reserved the next available bus for Ilocos.
Three Must-See Places in Ilocos
My husband and I planned on seeing the main three attractions in the region on a limited budget of 5,000 pesos per person (food and souvenir shopping not included):
- Pagudpud, which is the farthest among the three and is already at the tip of Northern Luzon. This place is normally frequented by surfers for the huge waves. It is also visited for the Bangui Windmills, the largest in Southeast Asia.
- Laoag and Paoay are two towns, the latter of which is known for St Augustine/ Paoay Church—a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Vigan is primarily visited for the old heritage houses lined up at Calle Crisologo.
Note: Reservations for the bus must be made at least two days before departure, and the 'Sleeper' bus is only until Laoag. The best bet for a good rest if your first destination is Pagudpud is to take the 'La-Z-Boy' bus (a.k.a. Florida Bus). Alternatively, you can rent a van for hire from Manila to Ilocos and back, which often includes a tour of Ilocos.
Northbound Tour of Pagudpud
We hired a tricycle at the bus stop where we were dropped off. They have a very organized trip with locations and prices posted inside. There are two tours for Pagudpud—north- and southbound. One day is enough to finish both the north- and southbound tours of Pagudpud, but it would be a bit hectic and you might not have as much time as you'd like to see everything.
Note: The maximum number of people per tricycle is 3. The rates are the same for all tricycles.
Highlights of the Northbound Tricycle Tour of Pagudpud:
Saud Beach is lined with beach resorts. Since the weather made swimming a little dangerous, we just took pictures at the public beach. It had fine grey sand and a couple of small boats at the shore. We were the only ones at the beach during that time since there were heavy winds.
We had to hike for 20 minutes to see the magnificent Kabigan Waterfalls. It was a good hike, though, and we did not find it tiring since the air was fresh and there was a beautiful view of the mountains and rice fields. According to our tour guide, the waterfall was named after two lovers who hid near the waterfalls during the Japanese invasion.
Patapat Viaduct is a concrete bridge connecting Ilocos Norte to Cagayan Valley. We had fun posing for pictures in the middle of the empty street. The typhoon also brought large waves below us that we viewed with awe from the viaduct.
Our tricycle driver for the tour told us that Agua Grande is one of the highlights of Pagudpud during the summer season, as natural swimming pools fill up.
Not far from Agua Grande and the Patapat Viaduct, Paraiso ni Anton is located right next to the road. This tiny shrine to Mary is in a grotto—complete with a small spring—at the top of a short, mossy staircase. There isn't much to see there, but it's fairly charming as far as pit stops go. Nearby Timmangtang Rock is a big bell-shaped formation with a nice view of the ocean.
Bantay Abot Cave was shaped like a turtle from afar. When we came close, we saw there was a huge arch that one could pass through. The waves from the ocean were crashing by the cave during that time, but there were still locals diving.
We stayed at a resort by Blue Lagoon called Punta Azul and had lunch at Kapuluan Vista Resort. Blue Lagoon is considered the most perfect surfing area in Ilocos. Dos Hermanos Islands are two islands near the end of Blue Lagoon.
Southbound Tour of Pagudpud
Highlights of the Southbound Tricycle Tour of Pagudpud:
Bangui Windmills was a sight to see. Unlike the Danish Windmills, these tall windmills had a thin and straight bottom portion. These windmills supply electricity to all of Ilocos. There are at least 19 windmills facing the ocean.
There were a lot of people taking pictures at the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse when we arrived. The structure was created during the Spanish period (1892) and still stands in its original form. We weren’t able to go up the lighthouse since it was under maintenance, but taking pictures outside of the old structure was fun enough.
We were not able to visit the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation due to the strong rain. The road going there has not yet been cemented and the tricycle could not pass through the deep mud. We are planning to go back to see this site since it looks very wonderful.
Laoag Walking Tour
2. Laoag and Paoay
We took a bus to Laoag from Pagudpud. The trip was just short, approximately an hour away from Pagudpud’s Cape Bojeador. We stayed at Isabel Suites which was a good choice since it had a convenient location for touring Laoag. After lunch at La Preciosa we had a walking tour of the nearby tourist spots.
Walking Tour of Laoag City:
We heard mass at St William Cathedral, which was built during the Spanish era (1612). English mass times are at 9am and 6pm.
The Sinking Bell Tower was built along with St William Cathedral. It was a beautiful structure especially when the lights were turned on come nighttime, although we had a hard time taking a decent picture since there were establishments in front and at the side of it and electrical wires all over.
Tip: The best place to take a picture of the Sinking Bell Tower is by Aurora Park, which is just a few steps away from the bell tower. Also within the park is the Tobacco Monopoly Monument.
On our way back to Isabel Suites we also took a picture of the Ilocos Norte Capitol and the Ilocos Norte Oblation.
Paoay by Tricycle
Tricycle Tour of Paoay:
The next day we hired a tricycle for a tour of the nearby town of Paoay. Unlike in Pagudpud, one has to bargain for the price of the tricycle tour. There are a couple of tricycles for hire at Jollibee, which was just beside Isabel Suites.
The first stop was Malacanang of the North, which was unfortunately closed (as it is every Monday). We were about to leave when the guard told us that we could have a good view of the Paoay Lake at the back of Malacanang.
Tip: Ask your driver to pass by Fort Ilocandia, which is along the way.
We were supposed to do sand-boarding at the La Paz Sand Dunes of Pasuquin, but were advised not to by the owner of the 4X4 vehicle we hired since the sand was still a bit wet due to the rain the previous day. We still enjoyed running around the huge area full of sand and taking lots of pictures. It is definitely a must-visit when in Ilocos.
Another must-visit is the St Augustine/Paoay Church, which as I mentioned is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the best Baroque Churches. It was completed in 1710. We were in awe upon seeing the church; both its interiors and exteriors still looked original, unlike lots of other old churches which have been re-painted or cemented, making them look ‘off’ and modern.
Just beside St Augustine Church is the restaurant Herencia Cafe. We ordered three pizzas at 300P per box to go so that we could catch the earliest bus to Vigan. I loved the Bagnet Pizza and the Dinuguan Pizza, but when it was time to have a taste of the Pinakbet Pizza, it had a cockroach under the take-out box—such a disappointment.
Our Horse-Dawn Carriage Tour of Vigan
Upon our arrival in Vigan, we walked a bit until we saw a line for horse-drawn carriage rides (calesa or kalesa in Tagalog) near the Cathedral of Vigan. The prices were fixed for the tour, but it was on a per hour basis (150P per hour).
What We Saw on Our Kalesa Tour of Vigan:
The Belfry at the Saint Augustine Church was still mostly intact, but the floors were badly cracked and the bells were vandalized. We got stuck for a while by the second floor as the rain grew stronger. It was already flooding a bit. Nevertheless, the view at the top was beautiful, and it would have been nice to just stay there for a while if it wasn’t raining that hard.
We didn’t know what was inside the Mansion Syquia. Our kalesa guide just told us that it was owned by a prominent family. Upon entering, it was a bit dark and we saw a picture of a president of the Philippines; he looked vaguely familiar, but my husband and I weren't quite sure who he was. I was a bit nervous when my husband asked me ‘Who’s that in the picture?’ I blushed and guessed—President Elpidio Quirino. Thank goodness I was right. We just stayed there for a while and took pictures. There were lots of paintings and antiques on display.
Baluarte is owned by the governor of Ilocos, Chavit Singson. What caught our eyes were the small horse and carriage that one could rent and the dinosaur display with the name of the place.
For plant lovers, the Hidden Garden is a good place, although we skipped this as neither of us has a green thumb and we wouldn’t want to take home a plant.
We did stay for quite a while at the Burnayan (the Vigan House of Pottery). A staff member demonstrated how to make a clay pot, after which we had a chance to take a picture with the finished product as if we were the ones who made it. We also got some souvenirs from the place.
Our last stop was the Calle Crisologo or the street lined with heritage houses and souvenirs shops. We enjoyed riding in the kalesa as it passed through the cobbled streets. It was truly like we went back in time.
Recommended Itinerary for 3 Days in Ilocos
|Day||Time||Itinerary||Price per Person in Phil Peso*|
Arrive in Pagudpud
Tricycle North Bound Tour of Pagudpud
Arrive: Punta Azul Resort, Pagudpud
Lunch: Kapuluan Vista Resort
Blue Lagoon and Dos Hermanos Islands
Free Breakfast/Checkout Pagudpud Hotel
Tricycle South Bound Tour of Pagudpud
Ordinary Bus to Laoag
Arrive: Isabel Suite's, Laoag
Lunch at La Preciosa
St William Cathedral English Mass
Walking Tour of Laoag
Dinner at Isabel Suite's restaurant Cailian Grill
Free Breakfast/Checkout Laoag Hotel
Tricycle Tour of Paoay
Take out Herencia Pizza
Ordinary Bus to Vigan
Calesa/Kalesa - horse ride Vigan Tour
Mansion Syquia Entrance
Vigan House of Pottery - Souvenir Shopping
Vigan Empanada by the Plaza
Ice Tea at Café Leona
Partas Bus Terminal bound for Manila
For a detailed version of our itinerary, check out our Shared Google Tour Map. It shows the exact locations of all the places mentioned above, as well as quite a few more along the way.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 munchwaffle
lance rayco on September 01, 2017:
Next time you visit Ilocos Norte, there is an empanadahan near Marcos Museum at Batac where you can have the taste of Ilocano Empanada (a bit different from the empanada in Vigan), and Miki ti Batac (soup).
JOnJOn on March 05, 2017:
Very help and impressive! I'm planning of the same itinerary but you did it first! Thanks for the tip na rin! :)
Robin on December 09, 2016:
Thank you for your helpful very informative itinerary.
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on November 17, 2016:
Hi Kim, the numbers for the tricycle drivers are posted in the article - for both Pagudpud and Laoag as a 'trip tip'. For Vigan we took a kalesa tour. Hope this helps :)
Kim on November 09, 2016:
Hi! Do you have contact numbers of the tricycle driver for the tricycle tour? Thanks.
Joey on November 05, 2016:
Revising my itinerary...
Day 1 - Vigan
Day 2 - Laoag / Pagudpud
Day 3 - Pagudpud
Wll greatly appreciate suggestions...
Hope to hear from you guys... and hope to make some friends in this travel...
Joyce on October 21, 2016:
Partas bus with main hub in Vigan has regular trips to Baguio, Cubao, Pasay and other parts of Luzon
Vnez on October 13, 2016:
I copied your itinerary, we planned to go there some time in Dec... Thanks a lot.
Raine on October 08, 2016:
Just for infor, St. Augustine church & the bell tower is located in Bantay, a nearby town from Vigan
jeannelariosa on August 27, 2016:
Hi! Thank you for sharing you DIY itinerary, it really helped us in planning our trip to Ilocos, in fact we plan to copy some of it hahaha. Do you happen to know the earliest bus trip from Pagudpud to Laoag?
julius on July 25, 2016:
san po sinu bukan nyo ung 4x4 rides and sand boarding sir/ma'am kung gusto nyo po just txt me 09123714439
Ina on June 13, 2016:
What bus did you ride from pagudpud to laoag and laoag to vigan?
Aveccza on June 06, 2016:
hi!! We're planning to visit ilocos this 4th weekend of june. is it better if we make a reservation for our trip from VIGAN going back to MANILA? some says that its difficult to find a seat going back.
And may i know where to find the VIGAN-manila bus terminal? thanks! :-D
John Edmond on May 28, 2016:
Can I ask for your help because our family would like to spend our summer vacation in Ilocos. 4 days in Ilocos Norte and 3 days in Ilocos Sur, can I have a proposed itinerary? Kindly email it to email@example.com. Thanks!
victorsalazar on November 11, 2015:
Hi Munchwaffle, nice info.
This December right after Christmas, we're planning a road trip to ilocos (wife and 2kids) and I agree as well with the manila-pagudpud-laoag-vigan-manila route. Problem is we do not have any hotel or inns reservations, madali lang ba makahanap ng matutuluyan for a night in each tour? Any recommendation? Maraming salamat po.
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on June 15, 2015:
Hi Grace :)
Blue lagoon is a pretty place for surfing but not for swimming with young kids. There are resorts with pools though such as Kapuluan Vista - we brought our 2 year old there. If you are a group you can just rent a van so that it would be easier for you and the kids. You may contact Kuya Nat, he can recommend reliable drivers and he's a pretty nice guy. 7 nights is fine, so that you don't have to rush everything. I also highly recommend the Baluarte and riding the kalesa in Calle Crisologo for the young ones!
grace on May 22, 2015:
I plan to travel to pagudpud in july and was staying there for 7 nights - is the beach surf too rough for swimming with young kids? should I go in june instead? I will be travelling with young kids and possible other relatives, what is the best transport you can recommend? is it worth staying for 7 nights long? please email more details to grace_yasto@Hotmail.com. thank you.
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on March 17, 2015:
No problem deebee :) Thanks for the visit!
deebee on March 12, 2015:
Thank you very much munchwaffle! Your article provided the info that I couldn't find in other guides / blogs (and I've been reading daily for 2 weeks now).
I agree to the manila - pagudpod - laoag - vigan - manila route. Stay in Laoag, wake up early, go to Vigan / Pagudpud, go back to Laoag at night (as other blogs suggest) sounds like a waste of resources.
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on December 25, 2014:
Hi JP and Lazy sorry for the delay in response, I was in vacation.
@JP, since Vigan is the nearest going back to Manila, I think it would be better. Enjoy your trip!
@Lazy, sure! Just me your questions. We just went back to Vigan last week. Both Laoag and Vigan look great today with their Christmas decorations :)
Lazy on December 03, 2014:
Hiii! You're my life saver! I would love to know all the details about your trip, i'm a bit worried as i will be travelling alone next year and i do really need to know a lot, i mean a lot of questions in your vigan trip. Please do reply. :(
JP on October 16, 2014:
Do u think its better to spend our 2nd day in vigan then our 3rd day (before goin back to manila) in laoag?
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on May 08, 2014:
Hi Adette! The tricycle driver from Pagudpud brought us to the waiting shed just walking distance from Cape Bojeador lighthouse. We alighted at Isabel Suite's already. But since you will be going to the airport better ask the bus the driver.
Hope this helps. Have a nice trip :)
Adette on May 06, 2014:
Hi! How did you take the bus from Pagudpud to Laoag (i.e. from where in Pagudpud did you ride the bus, and where in Laoag did you alight)? I'm going to Ilocos next month with friends. However, I'm flying home ahead of them by a few hours and they might be staying behind in Pagudpud. Therefore, I can't use the van we'll be renting just to bring me to Laoag airport.
Thanks in advance for your help!
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on April 27, 2014:
Hi Jhopay! You mean the estimated calculation? Yes, it already includes the stay at Punta Azul and Isabel Suite's :)
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on March 16, 2014:
We only took an ordinary bus. For me it was fine, it was not polluted there; of course a van would be more comfortable if you don't want your hair on your face ;) But cost-wise it is more practical to just take the bus.
Thanks for visiting and enjoy your trip!
kai on March 15, 2014:
How was your bus trip going to pagudpod and back to vigan? My friend and I are planning for a DIY ilocos trip, and I'm torn between hiring a van that will be in charge for our laoag and pagudpod tour including transfers from laoag to pagudpod and back. Downside is it's a bit costly as compared to taking public transpo. I can forego the van rental if taking the bus isn't that much of a hassle. :)
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on January 26, 2014:
thanks for visiting Joy! Have fun in Ilocos :)
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on January 26, 2014:
Hi Sarah :) I think the peak time starts by March. Yes, there is a Florida bus straight to Pagudpud with lazy boy seats.
Joy on January 16, 2014:
Good Post! It makes sense...
Im excited now! Planning this March too (ilocos tour) with my family and in-laws.. :)
sarah on November 28, 2013:
Ah I see. We're planning to go there in February, do you think that season is still not a peak season? Is there a trip in Florida bus straight to Pagudpud? Because in your blog you mentioned that the best place to go first is in Pagudpud because it is the one farthest among the three.. :) Thanks for answering.. :)
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on November 26, 2013:
Thanks for the feedback sarah :) We spent three days for the trip - this excludes the bus commute. Have a nice trip!
sarah on November 25, 2013:
Hi!!! Thank you for the very detailed itinerary!! It helps me a lot!! I just want to ask if how many days did you spent during your tour in Pagudpud, Laoag, and Vigan (DIY Ilocos).. Thank you!! Me and my best friend are planning to go there this February.. :)
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on October 13, 2013:
No problem ronron ;) thank for visiting my page. Enjoy Ilocos!
ronron on October 12, 2013:
Thank you so much for this guide. I am planning to take my family to ilocos this coming march. Now I know more or less how much we'll be spending.
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on July 05, 2013:
Thanks for visiting and the feedback Mel Carriere, self-counsel, khairat1, and rondmrn! :)
Ron Mariano from Orange County, CA on May 22, 2013:
Wow! I'd love to visit Ilocos. I lived in the Philippines for quite a while and never got to see these places. I only got around Metro Manila, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, and Baguio. Great article! It makes me want to go and spend some time there!
ali khairat from Marrakech on May 22, 2013:
Great hub and thanks for the information.
self-counsel on May 17, 2013:
I've never been to Ilocos, but heard so many beautiful stories about the place. Thanks for the information. It truly is "More Fun in the Philippines!"
Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on May 15, 2013:
I was in the Philippines several times during my time in the US Navy, and I loved it. The people are wonderful. I long to go back someday. Thanks for the travel guide.
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on May 08, 2013:
Thanks for visiting janelle :) Enjoy your vacation
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on April 21, 2013:
Hi Riza :) The prices are as of September 2011. Thanks for your comment - I normally put in the 'date as of' rate, I left it out in this hub. I already updated appropriately.
Riza on April 21, 2013:
Hi! Just would like to thank you for posting this. This will really be a good consideration and guide. May I ask when did you had your trip?
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on March 20, 2013:
Hi Kenneth :) Sorry I don't arrange trips. The hub is based on what we spent and experienced during our Do-It-Yourself trip. You may use it as a basis in making your budget for your holiday at Ilocos.
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on November 28, 2012:
Hi ron :) Thanks for visiting. The price is per person. I would suggest to ride the Calesa in Vigan just around Calle Crisologo and take a tricycle tour instead. This would cut the cost. Also the calculation includes the souvenirs and the food we ate, so that's optional.
ron on November 27, 2012:
just to clarify budget breakdown, 6037.5php is for 2 people? :)
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on April 20, 2012:
Thanks for visiting dhey :D Enjoy Ilocos! We loved Pagudpud and the Sand Dunes at Paoay the most, it's a must not miss
dhey on April 20, 2012:
Wow this is great. Me and my hubby will be going here 1st week of May. :)
munchwaffle (author) from Philippines on January 29, 2012:
thanks hoteltravel :)
hoteltravel from Thailand on January 25, 2012:
That is lots of info. Voting up and useful!