Ultimate DIY Travel Guide to Ilocos Norte

Discover one of Philippine’s top tourist destinations – Ilocos Norte.

 

Ilocos Norte is a province located in the northernmost part of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. The province is known for its unique culture, breathtaking scenery, and friendly people. From ancient churches and museums to breathtaking natural wonders and adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities, Ilocos Norte has something for every kind of traveler.

 

In this blog post, we will take a look at some of the best places to visit in Ilocos Norte. So, if you are looking for an ultimate travel guide to Ilocos Norte, this post is for you.

Travel Requirements to Ilocos Norte

Based on the current news, there are no travel requirements. Check out Ilocos Norte’s official media pages for any updates on travel requirements.

How to get to Ilocos Norte?

Getting to Ilocos Norte is easy as there are many options available for every traveler.

By Airplane to Ilocos Norte from Manila

There are two airlines that flies to Ilocos Norte: Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines.

Cebu Pacific

Route ETD / ETA Frequency
Manila - Laoag
0405H-0525H
Daily
Laoag - Manila
0605H-0725H
Daily

Philippine Airlines

Route ETD / ETA Frequency
Manila - Laoag
1150H-1310H
Daily
Laoag - Manila
1400H-1515H
Tues, Thurs - Sun
Laoag - Manila
1445H-1600H
Mon & Wed
Manila - Laoag
1915H-2025H
Daily
Laoag - Manila
2115H-2230H
Daily

By Bus to Ilocos Norte from Manila

There are 4 Bus Lines that travels to Ilocos Norte:.

Route ETD
Cubao - Laoag, Ilocos Norte
10:00 AM, 5:00 PM, 7:00 PM, 8:00 PM, 10:00 PM
Cubao - Candon City, Ilocos Norte
8:00 AM, 5:00 PM, 10:00 PM
Sampaloc - Laoag, Ilocos Norte
10:30 PM

Terminals/s:

  • Cubao: 816 Aurora Boulevard, Cubao,  Quezon City
  • Sampaloc: Bgy 488, Zone 048, 1716 Vicente Cruz St, Sampaloc, Manila
Route ETD
Sampaloc - Laoag, Ilocos Norte
10:25 PM, 10:30 PM
Sampaloc - Nueva Era, Ilocos Norte
6:40 PM
Sampaloc - Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte
9:40 PM
Sampaloc - Solsona, Ilocos Norte
8:40 PM

*Sleeper with CR buses

 

Terminal/s:

  • Sampaloc: 832 AH Lacson Ave. Cor. Earnshaw St. Sampaloc, Manila.
Route ETD
Sampaloc - Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte via Vintar, Bacarra, Piddig, Sarrat Town Proper
7:00 PM
Sampaloc - Solsona, Ilocos Norte via Santa Rosa Sarrat
8:00 PM
Sampaloc - Laoag, Ilocos Norte
9:00 PM
Sampaloc - Laoag, Ilocos Norte
9:30 PM

Terminal/s:

  • Sampaloc: Dapitan Street Sampaloc, Manila (Back of University of Santo Tomas)

Route ETD
Sampaloc - Laoag, Ilocos Norte Super 1st class with CR
10:30 PM
Sampaloc - Laoag, Ilocos Norte 1ST class with CR
07:00 AM, 07:00 PM, 12:30 PM, 06:00 PM, 08:00 PM, 09:00 PM, 9:30 PM
Sampaloc - Laoag, Ilocos Norte Super Deluxe with CR
11:00 PM
Sampaloc - Laoag, Ilocos Norte Super Deluxe L1
10:00 PM

Terminal/s:

  • Sampaloc: 1238 Lacson Ave. Sampaloc, Manila

By private car to Ilocos Norte from Manila

You can also reach Ilocos Norte by driving a private car or by renting a private van.

 

The ride is approximately 8-9 hours from Balintawak Toll Gate to Laoag city. Ride duration varies as it’s dependent on current traffic situation and stop overs.

 

The quickest route to Ilocos Norte is through North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), then take the exit to SCTEX/Clark Airport. From there, take the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).

Where to stay in Ilocos Norte?

There are plenty of accommodation choices in Ilocos Norte. The Ilocos Norte tourism office released an official list of accredited accommodation. Read more about them here.

 

For some specific recommendations, see my curated list below:

How to get around Ilocos Norte?

Private Transportation

By private cars and vans – If you don’t have a private car but want to rent one, you may rent private cars and vans through the accredited transportation partner (Ilocos Norte Travel Agencies Association), your hotel and/or tour operator.

Public Transportation

By Bus

There are plenty of provincial buses in Ilocos Norte.

  • Ordinary buses are a budget-friendly mode of travel. They typically do not have air conditioning and often rely on natural ventilation through open windows and doors to keep passengers cool during the journey. (Minimum charge Php 45)
  • Air Conditioned buses provide a more comfortable ride as it has air-con inside. This is very important since the Philippines is a humid country. (Minimum charge Php 100)

By Jeepney​

Jeepney is a popular PUV (public utility vehicle) in the Philippines. It is known for its vibrant and colorful design. This is commonly use for short to medium-distance travel within cities and towns. (Minimum fare Php 12 for the first 4 km)

 

By Tricycle

Tricycle is a  three-wheeled vehicle typically used for short-distance travel within a local area. (Minimum fare Php 20 for the first kilometer)

 

By Calesa

Calesa is a traditional horse-drawn carriage that was once a common mode of transportation in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era.

What to eat in Ilocos Norte?

If you enjoy exploring new flavors, prepare your taste buds for an Ilocano culinary adventure. Ilocos Norte boasts a gastronomic heritage that is both rich and diverse.  Mangantayon! (Let’s eat!) Here are my few picks of must-try food in Ilocos Norte:

Snacks:

Ilocos Empanada

It is a deep-fried pastry filled with a mixture of savory ingredients. The traditional filling for Ilocos empanada typically includes the following key ingredients: Vigan longganisa, grated green papaya, togue, and egg.

Pinakbet Pizza

 

Pinakbet pizza is a creative fusion dish that combines the flavors of the traditional Filipino vegetable dish called “pinakbet” with the popular Italian pizza. 

 

In the case of pinakbet pizza, the traditional ingredients of pinakbet are used as toppings on a pizza crust. These toppings can include a variety of vegetables like eggplant, okra, squash, string beans, and bitter melon, all of which are commonly used in pinakbet.

Vegetables:

Pinakbet

 

Pinakbet is a dish made from mixed vegetables and shrimp paste, typically flavored with garlic, onions, and sometimes pork or shrimp.

 

Pinakbet features a mix of fresh vegetables, which can vary depending on regional preferences and seasonal availability. Common vegetables used in pinakbet include eggplant, okra, string beans (sitaw), bitter melon (ampalaya), squash or pumpkin (kalabasa), and tomato.

Poqui-Poqui

 

Poqui-Poqui is a flavorful and hearty vegetable dish made primarily from grilled or roasted eggplants, which are then sautéed with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and beaten eggs. The result is a savory and slightly smoky dish with a creamy texture.

Dinengdeng

 

Dinengdeng is a simple and nutritious dish known for its use of various fresh vegetables and fish, often seasoned with bagoong (shrimp paste) or other condiments for flavor. Dinengdeng is a classic example of Filipino “sabaw” or soupy dishes, and it is popular among those who appreciate the flavors of Filipino home cooking.

Meat Dishes:

Bagnet

 

Bagnet is a deep-fried crispy pork belly, and it’s often compared to pork cracklings (chicharon).

Papaitan

 

Papaitan is a dish known for its strong and distinctive flavors, particularly its bitter and savory taste. The name “papaitan” is derived from the Filipino word “pait,” which means bitter. One of the key ingredients in papaitan is the bile, which is usually sourced from the gallbladder of the animal being cooked. The bile is added to the soup to provide the distinct bitter flavor. It is crucial to balance the amount of bile used to avoid an overly bitter taste.

Dinakdakan

 

Dinakdakan  is a flavorful and savory dish made primarily from grilled or boiled pork parts, typically the ears, face, and tongue, which are then chopped into small pieces.

Dinakdakan is known for its rich and creamy texture, as well as its bold flavors.

Igado

 

Igado is often described as a type of pork and liver stew. The primary ingredients of igado are pork and pork liver. Both the pork and liver are cut into thin strips or small pieces. The use of pork liver gives the dish its distinctive flavor and texture.

Desserts:

Dudol

 

Dudol is made from glutinous rice (malagkit), coconut milk, and sugar, and it is known for its sweet, creamy, and sticky texture. 

Tupig

 

Tupig is a traditional Filipino rice cake that is often enjoyed as a snack or dessert, especially during special occasions and festivals. It is a sweet and sticky treat made primarily from glutinous rice, coconut, and sugar. Tupig is typically prepared by grilling or roasting, which gives it a unique texture and flavor.

Where to eat in Ilocos Norte?

What to see and do in Ilocos Norte?

Cultural Heritage Structure

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

 

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, also known as Burgos Lighthouse, is a cultural heritage structure in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, established during the Spanish Colonial period in the Philippines.

 

This lighthouse, with brick walls as is the style of many other lighthouses in the country, is one of the highest elevated Spanish colonial lighthouses in the Philippines.

 

It still functions as an active and welcoming flair to ships that enter the Philippine Archipelago from the North.

Malacañang of the North
Malacañang of the North​

 

The Malacanang of the North is a historical mansion in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, built in 1977 as a rest house for the former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and his family. 

Tobacco Monopoly Monument
Joelaldor, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Tobacco Monopoly Monument is a historical landmark in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, that commemorates the end of the tobacco monopoly during the Spanish colonial era.

Museo Ilocos Norte
Photo Source: Ilocos Norte Tourism

 

Museo Ilocos Norte is a famous cultural museum in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, known for showcasing the rich cultural heritage and history of the Ilocos region. The museum’s collection includes artifacts, photographs, and other historical items that tell the story of Ilocos Norte’s evolution from its pre-colonial period to the present day. 

Juan Luna Shrine
Photo Source: Ilocos Norte Tourism

 

The Juan Luna Shrine is a national museum in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. It is the ancestral house of the Luna family, built in the 1850s and dedicated to the life and works of renowned Filipino painter Juan Luna. 

Tourist Attraction

Patapat Viaduct

 

Known as the 4th largest bridge in the Philippines, the Patapat Viaduct is a 1.3km long bridge located in Ilocos Norte. It stretches along the northern coastline and connects the municipalities of Pagudpud and Adams. It is known for its breathtaking coastline view, surrounded by lush mountains and greenery.

Bangui Windmills

 

The Bangui Windmills are a group of 20 wind turbines located in Bangui, Ilocos Norte. This was constructed in 2005 to generate renewable energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Natural Wonder

Bantay Abot Cave

 

Located near Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave is another popular tourist spot. The cave is a natural rock formation that resembles a hole in the mountain created by the sea eroding the rocky coastline over time. 

Sand Dunes
Photo Source: Ilocos Norte Tourism

 

The Sand Dunes of Paoay, Ilocos Norte is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can enjoy thrilling off-road adventures such as sandboarding, ATV rides, 4×4 jeep tours, and scenic views during sunset. Adventure seekers can also take horseback rides or watch a kite-flying display.

Saud Beach

 

Dubbed as the “Boracay of the North,” Saud beach in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte is a popular tourist destination. It’s known for its crystal-clear waters and pristine white sand. 

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

 

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is a unique landscape of white limestone rock formations in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. It has been shaped by the forces of wind and water over millions of years.

Paoay Lake

 

Paoay Lake is a natural freshwater lake in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, known for its scenic beauty and unique geological features. It is about 1.8 km long and 1.2 km wide, surrounded by lush forests and hills. The lake is believed to have been formed by earthquakes in the 17th century or a volcanic eruption in the past.

Anuplig Falls
Anuplig Falls — Photo by Jonalyn Hidalgo

 

Anuplig Falls is a natural wonder located in the province of Ilocos Norte. To reach the falls, visitors will need to trek through the forest for around 45 minutes and can enjoy various flora and fauna species along the way. Anuplig Falls offers a breathtaking sight of cascading waterfalls, surrounded by towering cliffs and lush vegetation.

Kabigan Falls
Luzviminda7641, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Kabigan Falls is a 80 feet tall falls and has a refreshing natural pool for swimming. Local guides are available to assist visitors during the trek, and the area is perfect for relaxing and having a picnic.

Agua Grande River Park


 

Agua Grande River Park features a pristine river with crystal-clear water, surrounded by lush vegetation and towering trees

Kalbario–Patapat Natural Park

 

Kalbario-Patapat Natural Park spans 32,000 hectares. It features two mountain ranges, Kalbario and Patapat, which offer challenging hiking trails and scenic coastal views. The park is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna and several indigenous communities with rich cultural traditions. 

Churches

Paoay Church

 

Paoay Church, also known as Saint Augustine Church, is an 18th-century Baroque-style church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its massive coral stone buttresses that reinforce the structure during earthquakes, intricate facade designs, and impressive interior with stained glass windows, murals, and a golden altar. 

Sinking Bell Tower

 

The Sinking Bell Tower is a famous tourist attraction in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, known for its inclination due to being built on sandy soil. It was constructed in 1707 as part of St. William’s Cathedral. It has undergone several restorations over the centuries.

St. William’s Cathedral

 

St. William’s Cathedral, also known as the Laoag Cathedral, is a cathedral built in 1612 and features a unique fusion of Gothic, Baroque, and Oriental architecture. Its bell tower is one of the tallest in the Philippines.

Bacarra Church

 

Bacarra Church, also known as St. Andrew the Apostle Church, is a popular tourist spot in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte. Built-in 1593, it is one of the oldest churches in the province and boasts a mix of Baroque and Gothic architecture. It features a unique ivory retablo and is a popular pilgrimage site for Catholics. 

La Virgen Milagrosa

 

La Virgen Milagrosa Chapel is a Baroque-style chapel in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. Built in 1591, it houses a miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary and serves as a pilgrimage site for devotees.

Suggested Itineraries

Ilocos Norte’s tourism office released a helpful suggested itineraries so you can get most out of your vacation in Ilocos Norte. Here are some of them:

Northern Eco Tour
  • Kite Surfing in Kaparispisan
  • Surfing in Balaoi
  • Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
  • Ilocos Norte Windmills & Solar Plant
  • Pagudpud Saud Beach
  • Kabigan Falls
  • Patapat Viaduct-Hydro Power Plant
Northern Cultural Tour
  • Bacarra Church (NT)
  • Pasuquin Salt Making
  • Burgos Lighthouses (NT)
  • Dumalneg Tribal Center
  • Adams
Southern Pilgrimage Tour
  • Laoag Cathedral and Bell Tower (NT)
  • San Nicolas Church (ICP)
  • Batac Church
  • Paoay Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • Minor Basilica of Badoc
  • La Milagrosa Chapel
Eastern Ilocano Cordilleras Tour
  • Sarrat Church (ICP)
  • Piddig Flower Farm
  • Solsona-Apayao Road
  • Dingras Church
  • Banna Food and Crafts
  • Nueva Era Eco-Cultural Park
Extreme North Tour
  • Vintar River Sports
  • Sand Dunes 4×4 & Sandboarding
  • Paoay Lake Water Park
  • Snorkeling at Currimao Coral Formations
  • Badoc Island
City Tour
  • Laoag City Center
  • Malacañang of the North
  • Paoay Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • Marcos Presidential Center
  • Batac Empanada
  • San Nicolas Plaza
Marcos Trail
  • Sarrat Birthplace
  • Marcos Hall of Justice
  • Malacañang of the North
  • Marcos Presidential Center-Batac
PinakBest Tour
  • Abel, Pinili and Paoay
  • San Nicolas Damili
  • Batac Empanada
  • Currimao Tupig
  • Pinili Garlic & Onions

Sample 4 Day DIY Itinerary with Budget Breakdown

Day 0

Time Description Budget per person
Option 1

11:00 PM
Departure from Manila via bus/private car (8-10 hours travel time)
Php -- Private Car (gas + tollgate)

Php 1,200 bus ride
Option 2

01:00 AM
NAIA International Airport via plane to Laoag
Php 1,800

Day 1

Time Description Budget per person
7:00 AM
Breakfast

Recommendation: Cafe Ilocandia
Php 200
08:00 AM
St Andrew the Apostle Parish
Free
09:00 AM
Museo Ilocos Norte

Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument

Sinking Bell Tower

St. William’s Cathedral
Php 50

Free


Free

Free
12:00 PM
Lunch

Recommendation: La Preciosa/Ladrillos
--
01:00 PM
San Agustin Church/Paoay Church
Free
02:00 PM
Hotel Check-in / Rest early
--

Day 2

Time Description Budget per person
7:00 AM
Breakfast
Php 200
08:00 AM
Museo nina Juan at Antonio Luna
Free
Donation is accepted
10:00 AM
Sitio Remedios Heritage Village
--
12:00 PM
Lunch

Recommendation: Smoke Bar and Restaurant
--
01:00 PM
Paoay Sand Dunes Adventures
4x4 Ride with Sandboarding
Php 2500
03:00 PM
Malacañang of the North
Php 70
03:30 PM
Paoay Lake Waterpark
2 hr play pass
Local - Php 449
Tourist - Php 499
07:00 PM
Dinner

Recommendation: Kamarinn Cafe
--
08:00 PM
Hotel Check-in / Rest
--

Day 3

Time Description Budget per person
7:00 AM
Breakfast
Php 200
08:00 AM
La Virgen Milagrosa
Cottage: Php 350
09:00 AM
Badoc Island
Php 1,200 per boat
(3-4 pax)
12:00 PM
Lunch

Recommendation: Linamnam Plates
--
01:00 PM
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Php 30
03:00 PM
Bangui Windmills
--
03:30 PM
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
Php 50
05:00 PM
Saud Beach
Php 20
06:00 PM
Dinner

Recommendation: BergBlick Restaurant
--
07:00 PM
Hotel check-in / rest
--

Day 4

Time Description Budget per person
7:00 AM
Breakfast
Php 200
08:00 AM
Patapat Viaduct
--
09:00 AM
Bantay Abot Cave
--
12:00 PM
Lunch

Recommendation: Casa Consuelo
--
01:00 PM
Tanap-Avis Falls
Php 20
03:00 PM
Ka-angrian Falls
Php 20

More Tips!

When is the best time to visit?

As a tropical country, we only have two seasons – dry and wet.

 

Dry season is from November to April while Wet season is from May to October.

 

I highly recommend to visit Ilocos Norte during the dry season. Anyday between November to April.

Festivals
  • January
    • Gameng Festival
    • Tadek Festival
  • February
    • Guling-Guling Festival
    • Pul-oy Festival
    • Pamulinawen Festival
    • Binakol Festival
  • March
    • Ani Festival
    • Mannalon Festival
  • April
    • Tadek Bagat Festival 
    • Bado-Badoc Festival
    • Paagwawagi Festival
    • Amian Festival
    • Kangayedan Festival
    • Bawang Festival
    • Dinaklisan Festival 
  • May
    • Magdadaran Talip Gestival 
  • May / June / December
    • Empanada Festival
  • November
    • Bac-Bacarra Festival 
  • December 
    • Pinagabu-os Festival
    • Panag-sana Festival
    • Basi Festival
    • Damili Festival
    • Siwawer Festival
Language

Iloko (Ilocano) is the common language, although English and Filipino are widely used.

 

Here are some helpful Ilocano phrases that you can use as a tourist:

 

GREETINGS

Good Morning – Naimbag nga bigat yo, Apo 

Good Afternoon – Naimbag nga malem yo, Apo

Good Evening – Naimbag nga rabii yo, Apo

How are you? – Kumusta kayo, Apo? 

 

POLITE EXPRESSIONS

Please – Pangaasim man 

Thank you – Dios ti agngina 

You are welcome – Awan anyaman na 

Come again – Umay kayto manen 

Yes/ No – Wen/ Saan 

Sir/Ma’am – Apo 

 

ASKING DIRECTIONS

How to get to… – Kasano ti mapan diay…? 

How far – Adayo? 

 

IN THE MARKET

I want to buy a … – Kayat ko ti gumatang ti… 

Expensive! – Nagnginan! 

No discount? – Awan tawar nan?

Currency

The Philippine’s official currency is Php (Philippine Pesos). General conversion would be roughly 50 Php per 1 US Dollar. Cash is widely accepted in any establishment.

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