A Guide to Batanes

Batanes had always been a dream destination for me (second to Florence). Why? Because it embodies the qualities of a lover – beautiful, mythical, mysterious and warm.

Whether I write a thousand adjectives of how I felt or what I saw, it would never compensate the “you in that scene”.

Due to demands, here is an account that replicates an itinerary. A guide of some sort in your own discovery of Batanes.

*****

My trip was not planned so there was no initial online booking for airfare. I took a look at the existing regular and on-sale rates of PAL (Mla-Basco) and rolled my eyes. It was expensive. There is no chance I can be able to afford it. However, seat sales are available all-year round and thru Travel Expo’s.

The easiest and time saving way to go to Batanes is flying directly from NAIA to Basco, a town in Batanes, via PAL – the only airline that offers daily trips in and out of the island with1 trip per day.

But there is still a chance I can visit Batanes with half the fare. How? via land transfer then a charter to the island. This is a time consuming way but road trips are my most happiest times – eating hotdogs, chicharon, siomai, siopao, itlog pugo and anything they sell on the bus or at bus stops.

Since I had time on my hands but nowhere to go, I packed my bags, several necessities and hit the road.

I rode the Victory Liner bus bound from Manila to Tuguegarao, Cagayan (search the web for other options). Fare ranges from Php 600-650/one-way.

From the bus station, the local airport is just a few kilometers away and tricycles abound the station. You’ll be approached and hounded but take it easy, negotiate the fare first. The regular fare is Php10 however, special rides ranges from Php30-50.

Sky Pasada and Northsky charter rides and transport locals to Basco from Tuguegarao City and vice versa at Php4,000 – 4,500 one-way. Weighing-ins of baggages starts as early as 7am. Their staff both at Basco and Tuguegarao airport are friendly and accomodating (and cute) so there is no hassle. They have a systematic system on ticket issuance and weighing of baggages.

Their planes can seat 20-25 and the engine can be heard all throughout the almost an hour ride. If you are claustrophobic, you’ll die.

Once strapped in, you can watch the endless sea of clouds, the Cagayan river as its snakes its way through the towns and cities of Region 2, the quilt-like ricefields and after a few miles just the sea, sky and clouds.

Sleeping during the ride is not advisable because you might miss the bird’s eye view of Batanes as the plane circles the island towards the landing strip. For me, one-fourth of the adventure had already began, the island viewed from the air is breathtakingly beautiful and picturisque.

*****

● Day 1 started with South Batan tour after a sumptous lunch of fresh seafoods as soon as I stepped at Basco.

● Day 2 was compacted with a half day tour of Sabtang island and North Batan

● Day 3 was alloted for climbing Mt. Iraya which took us three hours up and two and a half hour down.

READ The Full account of my visit here

I opted for a travel agency who personalized my stay and tour according to my (very low) budget and needs. However, DIY can still be done in North and South Batan by hiring a tricycle which ranges at Php1,000-1,500 for a day tour or if you have the stamina for cycling (rent at php 200/day) you can do that too.

The tricycle driver will also serve as your guide but I don’t recommend a DIY since they are not registered under the local Tourism office. A huge risk on your mortal body should there be any accident. Also, the historical facts are lost to them.

For Itbayat and Sabtang Island Tour, if you are a solo or duo traveler, it is highly suggested that you join a group tour to half your expenses. The tourist spots on both islands are kilometers apart – the arrangement for guide, food and transport will dampen your perfect vacation. Tour for Sabtang Island cost Php2,000 which will cover environmental fees, tour guide fee, falluwa fare, lunch and transport.

While Itbayat can cost around Php4,000 or more depending on days of stay. This is the farthest island of Batanes and it takes half a day to reach it.

Options for accomodations varies from homestays, inns, lodges to hotels. Room for homestay starts at Php300/night.

Food in Batanes is highly expensive, joining a group will help alleviate food expenses. Dinner – meal and table, should be reserved an hour or two beforehand. If you are in a group cost for meals ranges from Php150-200/pax. While solo may cost you Php350/pax or more.

However, homestays offers free use of cooking utensils – that includes gas, so you can whip out your own meals. This is good for breakfast and packed lunch if you are into DIY. If you are on a tour package, lunch is included on the fee.

According to Art, the peak season is from February to June. But due to global warming, the seasons had been topsy turvy in the last few years. I went on the first month of the year and the weather was fair enough.

Aside from visiting the historical and scenic spots, Batan island offers almost a 100km (an estimate) of concreted road that circumvents the island, a haven for road bikers / cyclist with its sharp curves and varying road elevations. I can only imagine the sea-side panorama breezing past as one pedals at the speed of maybe 20km/hr with the wind on your face.

It is also in Batan that one can access the highest mountain on the Island that is Mt. Iraya. If you have passion for mountain climbing like me, viewing Basco and its pristine and untouched beaches is a must.

Swimming can be doable but the currents are too dangerous and a good swimming spot is also rare.

So what are you waiting for? Book that trip now and make that dream a reality like I did.

*****

For a Travel and Tour Agency you can contact Ryan Cardona. Drop him a message on his facebook account, I assure you he replies. If he doesn’t, you can always ask me.#

live and love without regrets

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