*Due to the influx of tourists in Batanes, we recommend using the services of licensed tour operators such as bisumitours.com or lodging that offer packaged deals (covering food, lodging and airport transfers) that include the North and South Batan Tour, as well as a trip to Sabtang and even further to Itbayat.
Where to stay
Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge, Brgy. Chanarian, Tukon Basco; +63939 901 6353 or +63917-8559364; www.fundacionpacita.ph. As a splurge, stay at the charming Fundacion Pacita. The compound sits on top of a hill overlooking the unique Batanes terrain and surrounding sea. It was the home of world-renowned Ivatan artist Pacita Abad, whose works are on display at the in-house museum and its restaurant, Cafe du Tukon.
Marfel’s Lodge, Reyes Street, Kayvaluganan, Basco (Main) and National Road, Kaychanarian, Basco (Annex); +63 917 883 3249 or +63938 976 2237; fb.com/marfellodgebatanes. Marfel’s Lodge, run by “Ate Fe” to many, is one of the most popular home stays located in the Basco town proper and near the airport.
Papang’s Homestay, Kaychanarianan, Basco; +63 912 430 2041 or +63 997 983 1616; Papang’s is strategically located in the heart of Basco town, facing a bank and around the corner from the artist-run Harbour Café.
Where to eat
Café du Tukon, Fundaction Pacita, Brgy. Chanarian, Tukon Basco; +63 998 972 0028; www.fundacionpacita.ph/cafe-du-tukon; Fundacion Pacita’s farm-to-table restaurant takes pride in supporting Ivatan farmers and organic produce from local cooperatives. Try Café du Tukon’s Luñis pizza or Tukon burger for a taste of Ivatan dishes with a twist.
Harbour Cafe; National Road corner Contra Costa, Kaychanarianan, Basco; +63 929 316 3684; one of the newer cafés has a great sunset view of the harbour and serves pasta, sandwiches, shakes and, of course, coffee. Must-try: Pomodoro and Grana Padano. Their interiors feature artwork from local artists.
Ji Panda Wine and Grill; National Road, Sitio Panda, Kayvaluganan, Basco; +63 946 0727070 or +63936 036 4377. Ji Panda serves classic silog dishes, sisig and burger steak and offers free delivery during store hours, from 8am to 12am. Their local wine selection includes the Tanyud mulberry wine, which is produced from the area’s abundant mulberry trees by the Batanes State.
Pension Ivatan Restaurant, Sta. Maria St. Basco; +63 78 799 8523 +63 78 957 0222, www.batanespensionivatan.com. Pension Ivatan offers traditional Ivatan cuisine. Try their organic beef or their seafood catch of the day, including their version of payi (lobster) as an alternative to the well-loved tatus (coconut crabs), which have now been declared ‘threatened species. Allowing the coconut crabs time to reproduce to a healthier number will give the species a better chance at survival.
Vunong Dinette, Taytay Road, Bgy. Kayhuvokan, Basco; +63 999 991 9447. Vunong Dinette serves traditional Ivatan cuisine served the traditional way: uvud balls made from banana pith, or fish caught for the day, or (organic) beef steak, depending on what’s available. The main dish is served wrapped in kabaya leaves, with turmeric rice served on the side. Vegetarian options include the pako (fiddlehead fern salad), while those with a taste for the exotic can try marida or the deep forest snail for special occasions.
What to do
Basco Lighthouse. It’s walking distance from the center of town. There are other lighthouses, but Basco’s is the only one that visitors can enter and climb all the way to the top.
Honesty Coffee Shop. The unmanned sari-sari store sounds almost too good to be true — at the Honesty Coffee Shop, simply pick up what you need and head over to the counter to list the item and the corresponding amount in a logbook. Then drop your payment in the box next to it.
‘Marlboro’ and Vayang rolling hills. ‘Marlboro’ or Racuh a Payaman faces the east and is good for sunrise views, while Vayang faces the west, making it the perfect spot for watching the sun set. Think Scotland or New Zealand: nothing but lush greenery, a few cows and the blue sea as far as the eye can see.
Stone houses. There are a few of these traditional Ivatan houses still intact in Batan and Sabtang. The stone houses are made of thick blocks of limestone for the walls and layers of thatch as roofing, these houses are extremely durable and can withstand the region’s strong winds as well as the regular onslaught of typhoons. Built according to vernacular architecture — architecture that uses materials locally available to the island — they are also remarkably photogenic. Newer houses in Batanes are no longer made in a similar manner due to environmental concerns.