“If you want to see the best rice terraces, then skip Banaue and go straight to Batad.”
This was the best piece of advice I was given while backpacking in the Philippines. And now, I gift it to you.
The Batad Rice Terraces, a secluded community up in the heart of The Cordilleras, is a secret backpacker Mecca. It is home to the remarkable amphitheater of rice. A UNESCO Heritage Site, surrounded by formidable mountains, Batad is a paradise safely tucked away from the prying eyes of the outside world and only those who brave the unknown experience its exquisite beauty. The locals still practice their traditional rituals, speak their olden tongue and remain unchanged amidst the surge of foreign influence.
We spent 2 days trekking through these incredible terraces and then a day exploring the areas around Banaue. We were lucky enough to watch a huge electrical storm over the mountains at night from our homestay. It was definitely one of the highlights of our whole Philippines trip.
“Skip Banaue and go straight to Batad”
Well this is great advice… except you can’t actually get to Batad without going to Banaue. Batad is a tiny, remote village within Banaue that’s accessible only by foot, but my god is it worth it!
From Manila to Banaue
There is a 9-hr overnight Ohayami Trans bus to Banaue. It leaves at 10PM from the Ohayami station. The fare each way is PHP 470 and it gets you into Banaue at 7AM the next day. We had our hostel, Z Hostel, book ours the day before and organise a grab car to take us to the terminal. But you may want to organise your ticket further in advance during peak season.
To go back to Manila, the Ohayami bus leaves Banaue at 7PM and arrives in Manila around 5AM. During peak season, they have another bus leaving at 6:30PM. With just one or two buses a day, it’s best that you reserve your return ticket in advance as well.
Banaue to Batad and back again.
When you arrive in Banaue you will need to register at the tourism office and pay the PHP 50 environmental fee. From there, the guide on the bus took us all to the tourist center where you can have some breakfast and plan your hike. We decided to do a two day hike leaving after our breakfast. Our hike took us through the town of Cambulo, similiar to Batad, where we stopped for lunch. After refueling on a simple but delicious home grown rice and veggies dish we trekked through the mountains and arrived in Batad by nightfall. The next day we hiked back from Batad to the saddle – the closest point a vehicle can reach and caught a ride back to Banaue.
7AM – Arrive in Banaue
8AM – Breakfast in Banaue – Organise & pay for your hike, meet your guide and lock your pack away.
9AM – Tricycle to drop of point for hike
12Noon – Lunch in Cambulo
1PM – Trek to Batad
6PM – Dinner and relax
7AM – Breakfast
8AM – Trek to Tappiya Waterfalls
1PM – Lunch
2PM – Check out and trek back to the Saddle
3:30PM – Hire a jeep or tricycle back to Banaue town proper. From here you can either go back to Manila, stay in Banaue, or move on to another destination like Sagada.
If I did this trip again I would stay in Banaue overnight upon arriving. Hiking through the rain and humidity into Batad after a night of no sleep on the bus was a bad idea. Seriously, if you take only one thing away for this it’s not to go hiking after a night of no sleep. We chose to stay over night at the Tourism Office once arriving back in Banaue. I don’t recommend this place to stay over night. While it was cheap, the bed was the worst I’ve ever experienced and it was noisy. Zero sleep had. We had dinner at Sanafe Lodge which was awesome and met some people who stayed here who highly recommend the place.
- Make sure you only take a small backpack with you. The trekking is pretty full on as it is, never mind with 10+kgs on your back. Pack light and leave your gear in a locker in Banaue.
- There is no water, no WiFi, No phone reception. Really there is not a lot of anything, but that’s the point. Make sure you let your family and friends know where you are before you head off. Oh, and make sure your portable charger is full of juice.
- Best time to visit is when the terraces are at their greenest. We went in May and they were perfect!
- Good shoes and waterproof gear are recommended. Don’t come unprepared.
- Hire a guide. You will seriously struggle to navigate your way around the terraces without them. Plus you’re also giving back to the local community!
- Bring cash – There are no ATM’s once you leave Manila.
What to bring:
- Mosquito repellent
- Good shoes and a raincoat
- Medicines for minor cuts, stomach aches, flu and fever
- Bottled water