It was a pouring morning of Christmas day, 25th of December, 2019 when the thought came to us. While everyone in the world was busy exchanging holiday greetings and gifts, a friend of mine who also travels a lot and I were thinking of going somewhere for a week or less during the holiday break.
My mom and I initially thought of going to Isabela province, my father’s hometown; and we thought of just taking my friend with us if he wanted to. He thought it was a good idea until we came up with a better one – a North Luzon loop road trip.
Once decided with the itinerary for the North Luzon loop, we packed our stuff good for a week, pulled out some containers, filled it in with some Noche Buena goods from our table and off we went on a spontaneous road trip and adventure to Northern Philippines.
The Northern Luzon
The northern part of one of the Philippine archipelago’s biggest island is among the most favorite destinations of the road trippers in the country. You can actually travel from a province to another by land. The best thing about it is that you can also witness with your own senses how truly diverse the Philippine culture is not to mention how geographically blessed the whole island is.
The mountain ranges of TInglayan, Kalinga with Chico River
Every region or province has something special and unique on the table – from their delicacies, to their costumes, language, traditions, points of interest and more. Albeit the advancement and progress in most parts of the country, some groups of indigenous people in the northern Luzon still practice their traditions religiously and protect it all cost. Meeting them is among the most fascinating things you can do in a trip to their region.
The language or dialect spoken varies from province to province or region. Ilocano is spoken at large in North Luzon but you’ll also encounter people speaking in Ybanag especially in the province of Isabela; and various tribal languages in the Cordilleras. Despite the variety of local languages spoken in the north, everyone could converse fluently in Tagalog and some even in English.
The North Luzon Loop
Three people, one car; drove through and stopped at seven provinces in North Luzon in almost six days. It was indeed an epic trip!
The North Luzon Loop from Tagaytay City
We left Tagaytay City at 10:00 PM. Initially, we planned of going to Ilocos Norte then Ilocos Sur after Cagayan but since there was a typhoon a week ago, the roads connecting Cagayan and Ilocos collapsed making it impassable. We thought of a reroute instead and decided to visit Sagada.
Places to Visit in the North Luzon
We actually stopped or passed by six to seven provinces for this North Luzon loop road trip starting from Quirino, Isabela, Cagayan, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ilocos Sur then La Union. Below are the places we visited in each province:
First Stop: Quirino Province
Landingan Viewpoint, Nagtipunan, Quirino Provimce
At around 10:00 in the morning, We arrived at Cabarroguis, Quirino Province. First, we went to the library where the Quirino sign is at and took touristy shots (lol). Then, we had our early lunch and rested. After a nap, we hit the road again and visited Landingan Viewpoint before the sun set.
The drive to and from Nagtipunan is indeed a feast for the eyes. The endless rolling hills seemed dreamy during the golden hour. Dusk started to fall when we left Landingan Viewpoint.
Quirino Province Library and Museum
Paskuhan sa Quirino
We went back to Quirino Capitol in the evening as there was an on-going event in there. Every year, during Christmas, each municipality of the province sets up an exhibit that tells its history and showcases their culture and tradition as part of their Paskuhan program. There are also contests held each night and everyone is invited to watch and join.
Outside Quirino Provincial Capitl Inside Quirino Provincial Capitol
That’s when we learned that Quirino was previously a municipality of Nueva Vizcaya and the indigenous people, Igorots, predominantly resided in the area. Below are some photos of the exhibits during Paskuhan sa Quirino 2019.
After enjoying the night and the lights at the Capitol, we had dinner, called it a day and rested for another adventure the next day.
Second Stop: Isabela Province
Bonifacio Park, Ilagan, Ilsabela
At around 4:30 AM, we left Quirino for Isabela Province. Our trip in Isabela is but a historical and religious one. We visited different churches and historical places in Ilagan, Tumauini and Cabagan. Of course, we didn’t miss the famous Pancit Cabagan!
St. Matthias Church or the Tumauini Church Ruins of the Old Saint Paul Church in Cabagan, Isabela The famous Pancit Cabagan of Isabela
Since it was also the holiday season, a small local carnival and long bazaar were up near Cabagan Square Park. We visited it and enjoyed some street food.
Cabagan Square Park at night Small carnivals are locally known as “Perya”
For a detailed Isabela Province adventure, read: Isabela Province Travel Guide
Third Stop: Cagayan
We rented a wooden cano for six to explore Pinacanauan River, the river below Callao Cave
We intially planned to visit the nearby islands and beaches in Cagayan but since a recent typhoon made the waves rough and kind of devastated and made some roads impassable, we decided to visit Callao Cave and Calvary Hills instead.
Cruising at Pinacanauan River The back of San Aantonio de Guia Church in Calvary Hills A close up shot of San Antonio de Guia Church A wide shot of the rolling hills at Calvary HIlls The sign that says “Calvary Hills” is located at the back of the church
If we didn’t miss Isabela’s Pancit Cabagan, of course, we didn’t dare to miss Cagayan’s Pancit Batil Patong. After getting stuffed with some local stir-fried noodles, we headed to our next stop: Kalinga.
Fourth Stop: Kalinga
We pulled the car to the side upon the sign of this scenic landscape in TInglayan, Kalinga
We were all tired and weary from our day trip in Cagayan that driving straight to Sagada would be a little impossible that night. With that, we decided to stop at Kalinga and spend a night for a good slumber in there.
We checked in to a cheap AirBnB accommodation, at Ragsac Camping Grounds, since it is also along the road that we’d take going to Sagada. We didn’t expect much from it. What we didn’t know is that it offers far more than just a camping ground.
Seated in there for quite some time
It is located near Chico River – a river that encompasses two region: The Cordilleras and Cagayan Valley. It is also a place where the sunrise is breath taking. After admiring the glorious sunrise, we had brewed coffee and some pan de sal. Then, we packed up and headed to our next destination – Sagada.
Fifth Stop: Sagada, Mountain Province
The drive from Kalinga to Sagada is among my most favorite! If the drive in Quirino Province promised endless rolling hills, this one took our breaths away effortlessly with the countless waterfalls and steep verdant mountain ridges that kept us up and anticipating for more!
This abandoned bus is one of the most photographed spot in Sagada
We started seeing tall pine trees on one side, and cliff with mountain ranges below on the other. My nose and ears felt cold with excitement as it is my first time to set foot in Sagada. When we got into the town proper, it is noticeable that a lot of tourists walk from a point to another and few vehicles can be seen on the road.
Didn’t expect that it would be that cold so we put on extra layers
There’s so much to love about Sagada – the hospitality of the locals, their preservation of their tradition and culture, the weather, the food, the place itself and the stray dogs. the stray dogs were friendly and they seem healthy!
At Langtiw; waiting for the bonfire Festival
Things to remember when visiting Sagada
Take note that Sagada Tourism Office requires the visitors to hire a local tour guide shall they decide to visit the different tourist spots in it. However, there are points that the tourists can visit without a guide such as the Sagada Pottery, Sagada Weaving and St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church.
We paid an amount of Php 50.00 for the tourist registration fee then proceeded to Sagada Pottery. We watched how the pots and ceramics were done out of clay. They would also let the tourists experience it. Further, interested collectors can buy from their small store where their finished products are also on display.
teaching the guest the right way to mold the clay
Guests may try thigs activity for only Pjhp 100.00
Sagada Pottery House Dying them up! Doing it the right way
First day in Sagada
After Sagada Pottery, we visited Sagada Weaving House. However, it was a holiday and the weavers were on a break according to its owner. Instead, we checked on their products as they also have a souvenir shop.
Sagada Weaving House Weaving can be witnessed every Monday to Friday during working hour The Famous Sagada Lemom Pie House! You can enjoy a slice of Lemon pie for only Php 35.00
Since it was just in time for us to check in, we headed to the open field of St. Mary the Virgin complex and paid an amount of Php 50.00 as per instructed by the host of our AirBnB. We walked our way to Inandako’s BnB, settled then rested for a bit.
The Lemon Pie House was just a few meters away from where we were staying so we visited it and had our snack. Before we left, our host told us that it was the first day of the annual Bonfire Festival in Langtiw. Right after stuffing our selves with a slice of lemon pie, we took a multi-cab and went there.
At Langtiw; waiting for the bonfire Festival
If there’s one thing I’d dare not to miss in Sagada, it is seeing the Hanging Coffins with my own eyes and knowing more about it and their death and burial rituals. On our second day in Sagada, we decided to visit it in the morning.
The hanging coffins of Igorots in Sagada
Few steps from the jump off point to the Hanging Coffins is the St Mary the Virgin Anglican Church. We paid it a visit before finally leaving Sagada.
Inside the St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church
Drive Through: Cervantes, Ilocos Sur
A random stop at the highway in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur
From Sagada, we drove southwest going to La Union passing by Benguet and Ilocos Sur. We stopped at Bessang Pass National Park as the view is truly enchanting. The low-lying clouds and the fog slowly enveloped the mountainside and the long and winding road. When the wind blows, the fog fades and reveal multi-tiered waterfalls at the mountain ranges across.
The fog enveloping the road at the mountainside
Sixth Stop: La Union
We were supposed to go surfing in La Union but due to the heavy traffic we were caught in at Bacnotan, we were not able to do it. Instead, we watched the sunset and had dinner by the beach in the province.
After dinner, we left San Juan and headed back home.
North Luzon Loop Road Trip Itinerary
10:00 PM – ETD Tagaytay City
After our breakfast at Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, we headed to Cabarroguis, Quirino Province
DAY 1: Quirino Province (Cabbaroguis and Nagtipunan)
Quirino Province to Isabela Province
7:00 AM – Breakfast at Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya
10:00 AM – ETA Quirino Library
10:30 AM – Quirino Province Capitol
11:00 AM – Early lunch
12:00 NN – Check in around Maddela or near Nagtipunan
3:00 PM – ETD for Landingan Viewpoint
4:30 PM – ETA Landingan Viewpoint
6:30 PM – ETD for Cabarroguis 8:00 PM – Capitol/Dinner
10:00 PM – Back to accommodation/ rest
DAY 2: Isabela Province (Ilagan, Tumauini and Cabagan)
Isabela Province to Cagayan
4:30 AM – ETD for Isabela
6:30 AM – ETA Ilagan, Isabela/ Breakfast
7:30 AM – Queen Isabela Park
7:45 AM – largest butaka (wooden rocking chair)
8:00 AM – Ilagan Japanese War Tunnel
10:00 AM – ETD for Tumauini
11:00 AM – Tumauini Church
12:00 AM – ETD for Cabagan
1:00 PM – late Lunch at Josie’s Panciteria
2:30 PM – Old San Pablo Church
5:00 PM – Cabagan Square Park
DAY 3: Cagayan to Kalinga
Cagayan to Kalinga
We stayed for the night in Kalinga after exploring some of the interesting points in Cagayan
7:00 AM – Breakfast
8:00 AM – ETD for Cagayan
10:00 AM – ETA Calvary Hills
11:00 AM – Early Lunch
3:00 PM – Callao Cave
6:00 PM – ETD for Tabuk City, Kalinga
9:00 PM – ETA Tabuk City
Day 4: Kalinga to Sagada, Mountain Province
Tabuk City, Kalinga to Sagada, Mountin Province
5:30 AM – Watch the sunrise at Chico River
7:00 AM – Breakfast
8:00 AM – Pack up and ETD for Sagada, Mountain Province
11:00 NN – Lunch at Bontoc, Ifugao
1:00 PM – ETA Sagada/ Sagada Pottery
2:00 PM – Sagada Weaving
3:00 PM – Snack at Lemon Pie House/ Check in
4:00 PM – Abandoned bus
5:00 PM – Souvenir shops
6:00 PM onwards – Langtiw for Bonfire Festival (only in December)
Day 5: Sagada to La Union
Sagada to la Union
7:00 AM – Breakfas
8:00 AM – Getting ready/ pack up
9:00 AM – Hanging Coffins with Anglican Cemetery
11:00 AM – Church of St. Mary the Virgin
11:30 AM – Early lunch
1:00 PM – ETD for La Union
3:00 PM – Bessang Pass National Park, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur Stop Over
5:30 PM – ETA La Union/ Sunset watching
6:30 PM – Dinner
8:00 PM – Home Bound
Where to Stay
There are hotels and cheap hostels at the city center but we mostly stayed in AirBnB accommodations. Sign up and book here to get Php 1,100.00 to Php 2,200.00 off your first booking. We stayed for a night in cheap AirBnB’s since we were mostly on the road. We just needed a decent place to spend a night in and take a shower, too.
Below is the list of the affordable AirBnB’s you may check in to shall you decide to follow our north Luzon loop road trip itinerary:
Note: rates may vary depending on the season or without prior notice. Rates mentioned below do not include the service, cleaning and other fees yet.
1. Quirino Province
EL Soliven Guest House (Maddela, Quirino) Starts at Php 1,300.00 for four guests
2. Isabela Province
Madria Inn and Beergarden (Tumauini, Isabela) Rate starts at Php 574.00 a night
Pari’s Tiny Home (Ilagan City, Isabela) Rate starts at Php 1,800.00
PARB Fan Room (Tuguegarao City)
Rate starts at Php 600.00 per head
The Pad at Tuguegarao City
good for 3 persons
GCM Flat 103 (Tuguegarao City)
Rate Starts at Php 1,800.00 good for four persons
4. Tabuk City, Kalinga
Ragsac Recreation & Picnic Grounds (Tabuk City, Kalinga)
Ragsac camping and Recreation Grounds
Rate starts at Php 600.00 a night per head Expect basic but close to nature type of accommodation. Ragsac offers only tent and hammock type of accommodation but it is a few meters away only from Chico River
Daguitan Kan Tangkib Ecovillage and Agrifarm (Tabuk City, Kalinga) Rate starts at Php 1,500.00 a night for eight guests Expect basic but close to nature type of accommodation
Brussels Garden Inn (Tabuk City, Kalinga) Rate starts at Php 1,500.00 a night for two persons
Inandako’s BnB Rate starts at Php 1,800.00 a night Getting in here is a little bit tricky since the place is tucked several meters from the main road but I highly recommend this AirBnB for those who will visit Sagada. Their breakfast is the among the best meals I’ve had in this backpacking trip plus the place exceeds my expectations!
Inandako’s B & B Layad Room
The Hut by the Brewpub Rate starts at Php 1,500.00 a night
North Luzon Loop Road Trip Estimated Budget
1. Gasoline – Php 2,500.00 full tank x 3.5 = Php 8,750.00
divided by 3: Php 2,916.67
Note: We drove a Nissan X-Trail 2004 to and from Tagaytay City
2. Toll fees (From and to Tagaytay City) – Php 1,200.00
divided by 3: Php 400.00
Note: Php 1,200.00 is but a rough yet closest estimate that we had since we were not able to take note of the fees that we paid in every toll gate.
3. Food – Php 300.00 per person/ day (x 5) = Php 1,500.00
Snacks and beverage – Php 500.00
4. Accommodation = Php 600.00 per person/ night (x 4) = Php 2,400.00
5.Entrance fees – Php 530.00
Landingan Viewpoint – Php 25.00
Japanese War Tunnel – Php 50.00
Callao Cave – Php 10.00
Boat fee – Php 600.00/ 3 persons – Php 200.00
Sagada tourist registration fee – Php 50.00
Parking fee (Sagada) – Php 50.00/ every entry
Sagada Pottery – Php 35.00 (Php 100.00 for a group but since we’re three, we gave Php 35.00 each)
Hanging Coffins Access Fee – Php 10.00 Hanging Coffins Guide Fee – Php 300.00 (for a group of 1 to 10 persons)
GRAND TOTAL (an estimate per head for a group of three): Php 8,246.00 Take note that the sample budget is as of the first quarter of 2020.
Love how adventurous my mom is!
Tips and Things to Remember for the North Luzon Loop
1. As much as possible, get your tanks full especially before going to and leaving Kalinga and Sagada. There are only few gasoline stations along the way. If there’s any, it’s pretty expensive compared to that of other cities’.
2. Bring gallons of drinking water and snacks.
3. Check the weather before and from time to time during the road trip. Check if the roads that you are to take are passable.
4. Always be aware of the people’s culture of the place you are going to visit.
5. Bring enough cash for this North Luzon loop road trip. Not all cities that you’ll pass by accept credit cards. There are limited banks and ATM’s as well in some cities.
6. Save a very good music playlist. This will make you up and pumped all throughout the trip.
7. Bring and always get your power banks fully charged.
8. Mobile data is necessary but take note that some parts you’ll drive through have sporadic to no mobile reception of network signal especially from Kalinga to Sagada and Sagada to La Union via Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and Benguet.
North Luzon Loop as an Overview
This North Luzon Loop Road Trip is but an overview of how amazing north Luzon is. After this, I highly suggest or rather encourage you to go back to these provinces and stay for two to three days for you to be able to fully understand and appreciate what each of it has to offer.
Shout out to our friends whom we traveled with in some of these provinces
After this trip, we realized that we’d love to come back in each province that we drove through and stay longer next time. Travel to places for the knowledge and experience of something great that it has in stored for you and not just merely for ticking it off the list.