Photoholics, get your cameras ready. There are countless Instagram-worthy places to capture in the northernmost province of the Philippines. To help narrow it down to the essentials, we asked local expert Ryan Lara Cardona to give us the lowdown on absolute must-visits on your first trip to Batanes:
1. 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. Remember to bring your windbreaker — it can get blustery up there.
2. ‘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.
3. Stone houses
There are a few of these traditional Ivatan houses still intact. 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.
4. Honesty Coffee Shop
You’ve probably heard of it before, that unmanned store that sounds too good to be true. Now’s your chance to live the utopian dream of an honest world: 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.
5. Vunong Dinette
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 or fiddlehead fern salad, while those with a taste for the exotic can try marida or the deep forest snail for special occasions.
Ryan Lara Cardona has almost 10 years of experience in the local tourism industry and is now the owner of Bisumi Tours and Services that provides eco-adventure activities for visitors in Batanes. For bookings or further inquiries, visit www.bisumitours.com.