Four things you must do during your summer stay in Ilocos Norte
It’s an eight-hour drive from the metro by land but we tell you, it’s definitely worth the long trip.
When you think of Ilocos Norte, you’ll probably think of its infamous windmills or the ever unique yet appetizing empanada. But the agricultural province located in the northern part of the Philippines is a place where you can not only find the usual activities you’re looking for, but at some point, you will find yourself experiencing the peace and the rest you’ve always wanted to have.
More than that, you’ll get to see its world-class, beautiful Pagudpud Beach that will give you the Boracay feels. Ilocos Norte has a lot of things to offer more than we could think of, you just need to discover these gems.
The Manila Standard team is here to help you figure out the things you should and must try on your next visit to the province of Ilocos Norte.
Get closer to nature
Who cares if it’s already May and you are just about to start your summer getaway? It’s never too late to get yourself some vitamin sea. First on the list is the well-known town of Pagudpud with its pristine beaches you should not miss out such as Saud Beach, Pannzian Beach, and the Blue Lagoon which offers white sand comparable to Aklan’s Boracay Island.
Hailed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by Travel+Leisure, wake up to the sound of Saud Beach’s peaceful waves where you can spend your stay in any way you want—with its clear-as-glass water, you can have a quick dip while beating the heat of summer, or if you just want to chill, you can stay under the palm trees while sipping your fresh buko juice, and if you’re an adventurous one, you can have a tour around the cove by renting a boat.
When it comes to surfing, you should visit Pannzian Beach or Blue Lagoon during your stay. With its strong waves comparable to other famous surfing spots, it is also located in the town of Pagudpud. Be in awe as you witness the true beauty of nature after a short trek in a tropical rainforest with the scenic landscape of Kabigan Falls. The 87-feet waterfall is perfect to spend the scorching heat of summer with its refreshing, clear waters. You just need to prepare yourself with sturdy aqua shoes or even flip-flops that can withstand the short trek.
But if you are that person who wants to spend your time privately and on a more secluded beach, try the virgin island of Badoc. Popular for water activities like snorkeling, free diving, scuba diving, surfing, or even boat rides, Badoc Island is definitely one of the best beaches to have an intimate time together with your family under the trees.
Now that you have gone hitting beaches and island hopping, give yourself a break by spending the rest of the remaining days of summer with the beauty of landscapes at Salsona-Apayao Road.
The newly-opened highway offers viewing decks and campsites where tourists can have their picnic while looking at the picturesque sea of clouds. But if you are not yet ready to give up the sea, opt for Kapurpurawan White Rock Formation or the EDC Burgos Wind Farm both located in the town of Burgos.
You cannot leave Ilocos Norte without striking some poses to its hundreds of windmills.
Considered the largest wind farm in Southeast Asia, the EDC Burgos Wind Farm consists of 103 windmills where you can give your best shots using it as your backdrop featuring the panoramic view of Ilocos coast.
Breathe into the fresh air as you get mesmerized by Kapurpurawan White Rock Formation. Have a stroll to the beauty of white rock formed by sea waves and wind over time. This masterpiece created by the nature itself is worth the sight as you can also see the Bangui Bay as you pass the way towards the rock formations.
Satisfy your Ilocos dish-cravings
We have known the empanada, bagnet, and longganisa as Ilocos Region’s must-try food (and yes, it is a must during your stay), but don’t forget to try other Ilocano dishes, too. There are a lot of local restaurants also where you should spend your lunch or dinner.
Coated in orange dough made of rice flour, the Batac-made empanada is known for its mouth-watering filling that includes bits of mongo, Iloco-style longganisa, and egg served with Sukang Iloko.
Who can ever resist the province’s special bagnet? Satisfy your guilty pleasure with its intense flavor and crispy pork skin partnered with a dipping sauce. Usually compared with lechong kawali, bagnet is locally and originally called chicharon—boiled seasoned pork belly and leaving it overnight to dry before deep-frying.
What tourists look forward to when driving up north is its authentic longganisa known for its salty and garlicky taste.
Very similar to the usual tortang talong, Ilocos Norte’s poqui poqui is a combination of roasted eggplant, tomato, and scrambled egg perfect to be eaten with newly-cooked rice.
Meanwhile, have your lunch or dinner at Hakuna Matata which serves a fusion of international and local dishes while feeling the sweet and cool breeze of Saud Beach. Dine in and get to taste the Ilocos dish that the incumbent governor of the province Matthew Marcos Manotoc suggested that tourists should try—pizza in a unique flavor—pinakbet pizza served with bagoong.
Found in Kamarinn Café, diners can enjoy the clear view of Paoay Lake while digging into other Ilocano and special dishes.
Tourists who want to take a break from the local dishes can also try Bergblick Restaurant where they can eat authentic international and local cuisines.
Before leaving, don’t forget to take home the province’s famous chichacorn, perfect as a snack for a long drive. You may also drop by La Preciosa where you can find the local version of dinuguan called dinardaraan, which uses crispy bagnet as one of the main ingredients.
The famous carrot cake (that can last the eight-hour trip) is also available at the café beside the restaurant.
Be immersed in its rich culture
Every place has its stories that are worth telling to the world. Same with other provinces, Ilocos Norte is enriched with diverse cultures and historical sites.
Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, the centuries-old Paoay Church was first built in 1704 and was completed in 1894 in baroque architecture making it known to endure earthquakes over the years.
Valdes-Lardizabal House, on the other hand, is a museum that tells the story of generations who had lived inside the heritage house. The structure is built in a traditional Spanish Colonial style and was declared in 2015 an “Important Cultural Property.”
Get to know about the life of late President Ferdinand Marcos and his leadership with the official residence-turned-museum, Malacañang of the North, with a view of the legendary Paoay Lake. The structure is also used as a venue for important and special events in the province.
If you are an Intramuros person, you will get to appreciate and love the old houses inside Sitio Remedios Heritage Village Resort located in Currimao town. Be transported to the old era of Ilocos Norte with the recreation of ancestral homes made from woods and bricks. Tourists can also witness the view of the West Philippine Sea.
When the film Heneral Luna hit the cinemas in 2015, the province of Ilocos Norte considered changing the Juan Luna Shrine into Luna Shrine to commemorate the heroism and bravery of General Antonio Luna.
The restored house holds the memorabilia and reproductions of the works of the world-renowned painter Juan Luna and his brother General Antonio Luna.
Explore the north’s adventure
Now that you have witnessed the beauty of Ilocos Norte and get to familiarize yourself with its culture, we are going to the exciting part of your trip.
First in the north, the Paoay Lake Water Park is the newest addition to Ilocos Norte’s long list of spots that offer water sports activities perfect for all ages.
Release the inner child in you with its inflatable island where you can finish its obstacle courses perfect for the whole family or with your friends. You can also enjoy the water park’s kayaking activity at the long-range waters of Paoay Lake.
Popular among filmmakers for local and international film shoots, Ilocos Norte is also proud to have its sand dunes as top tourist attractions located in the towns of Paoay and La Paz. Used as a shooting location for Nora Aunor’s Himala and Fernando Poe Jr.‘s Ang Panday, Paoay Sand Dunes offers extreme activities giving you all the adrenaline rush you need.
Get ready for one hell of an extreme and exciting ride with their 4×4 Rough Riding vehicles. What you also should not miss is the Sand Boarding activity that will let you slide against the slumps of the sand dunes.
Adding to its sand dunes as a known attraction, the newly-installed Stacked Stone and Mirror Installation, which also serves as solar panels, are starting to gain popularity among tourists especially those who are into an art installation. Now you know what to expect and experience while in the Northern Philippines, might as well plan your next escapade and drive up north in Ilocos Norte.
Photos by Angelica Villanueva