Festival of the Hill Tribes

Philippines

Culture | Tribal

Experience the Imbayah Festival in North Luzon

13 days £2,495 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

This unique tour gives you an insight into the ancient cultures and traditions of the Ifugao tribal people at the Imbayah Festival in the spectacular setting of the 2000 year old rice terraces of Banaue. Spend time exploring more of the region on foot as well as nearby Sagada where coffins are still suspended in cliffs. The trip also takes in Vigan, the most picturesque Spanish colonial town in the Philippines, and Mount Pinatubo, known for its sublime scenery and crater lake.

The group tour runs with a minimum of 4 people.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • The walled city of Intramuros in Manila
  • Soak up Spanish colonial charm in Vigan
  • Hanging coffins of Sagada
  • Trek in the 2000 year old rice terraces of Banaue
  • Experience the Imbayah festival in Banaue
  • Meet the agricultural Ifugao Tribe
  • Trek to Mount Pinatubo

Places Visited

Manila - Laoag - Vigan - Baguio - Sagada - Banaue - Pampanga

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrival

Arrive in Manila where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to the hotel. The rest of the day is free at your leisure. Overnight in Manila. 

Meal plan: n/a

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Day 2 : Manila - Laoag

Spend the morning sightseeing in Intramuros, the oldest district in Manila. Visit Fort Santiago, the former headquarters of the Spanish government and captive place for prisoners of war, including Philippine's national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Proceed to Manila Cathedal, Casa Manila (a replica of a 17th century house), and San Agustin Church and its museum. If time permits, pay a short visit to Rizal Park and drive through the grounds to see structures made by Imelda Marcos. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport to fly to Laoag, where you can try some typical Ilocano cuisine for dinner. Transfer to the hotel to check in. Overnight in Laoag.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Known as the 'Sunshine City' or 'City of Lights', Laoag declares its position within Filipino cultural heritage as poignantly as the strikes heard from the sinking tower. There are many beaches near to it such as the Paoay Sand Dunes. The fusion of Japanese and Spanish colonial influences can be felt throughout the city.

Intramuros is the oldest district and historic centre of Manila. Originally founded in 1571, the city had been invaded many times over the years by Chinese pirates, Japanese, American and British forces. At its peak, Intramuros instilled fear into Spain's enemies and was the only city of its kind in Asia. It survived until WWII, where it was destroyed by US bombs during the Battle of Manila.

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Day 3 : Laoag - Vigan

Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Laoag. Visit the fortress-like church of St. Augustine in Paoay before heading to Museo Iloko, where government-controlled tobacco was stored in colonial times. Drive past the Abolotion of Tobacco Monopoly Monument in the town plaza and briefly stop at St. Williams Cathedral and its Sinking Bell Tower. Proceed to Paoay Sand Dunes before driving to Vigan. In the afternoon, go on a tour of the city. Visit the old town centre built during the Spanish rule and board a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) for a heritage tour. Visit the Burgos Museum and take a short drive to a "Burnayan" pottery shop where you can observe the old tradition of pottery making. Sample Illocano delicacies such as Ionganiza (sausage), empanada (meat pie) and bagnet (deep fried crispy pork crackling). If time permits, visit a typical Ilocano vegetable farm and witness how the famous Ilocano dish "Pinakbet" is prepared. Overnight in Vigan.

Meal plan: Breakfast

The rustic Spanish colonial town of Vigan has charmed all that have strolled along its cobbled streets and admired its stoned bahay and wooden mansions. Once a centre for the trade of gold and beeswax, the town was under American rule during the Philippine-American war and Japanese rule during World War 2. Due to its unique environment and the fact that it is one of the few remaining Hispanic towns in the Philippines, it has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status and has a fusion of Filippino and Spanish colonial architecture. 

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Day 4 : Vigan - Baguio

Drive to Baguio. In the afternoon, enjoy a tour of the city. Explore Burnham Park and Mines View Park before heading to Camp John Hay and Baguio Cathedral. Proceed to Tam - Awan Village, where you can observe reconstructed Ifugao and Kalinga huts as well as see art exhibits and workshops. Continue to Woodcarver’s Village, Saint Louis Filigree Shop and the famous Baguio City Market. Lastly, learn about the traditional weaving craft at Narda's Weaving before visiting BenCab Museum. Overnight in Baguio.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Baguio's famous bustling city market is must for any visitor before they leave the city, popular with tourists for its cleanliness and cheap goods. Traditionally, the market served as a trading post for the farmers and mountain communities of the North. There are a wide range of stalls selling everything from fresh produce and tasty food to souvenirs and items for the home. 

In the province of Benguet, Baguio is the summer capital of the Philippines and the gateway to the Cordillera. Located 1,500 kms high up in the Cordillera Mountains, it sits within beautiful pine forests, earning it the name of the 'City of Pines'. It is a crossroads of cultures, mixing hill tribes within lowland settlers, observed in the Igorot aboriginal wood carvings within the city. It also holds one of the largest student populations in the Philippines, with over a quarter of a million students. 

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Day 5 : Baguio - Sagada

In the early morning, drive to Sagada through Halsema Highway. Upon arrival, check in to the lodge. Explore the quaint town of Sagada, beginning your hike at St. Mary's Church and passing through the graveyard behind it. Walk through the picturesque Echo Valley and see the coffins hanging by the limestone cliffs. Descend into the subterranean Lumian Burial Cave, used as a burial ground by natives. Overnight in Sagada. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Surrounded by mountains, Sagada is known for its hanging coffins, the ancient way of burying the dead. The coffins are carved with fearsome lizards and 'hung' from projecting beams, the purpose of this is to bring the deceased closer to heaven. The surrounding caves and beautiful waterfall make for a wonderful and surreal experience.

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Day 6 : Sagada - Banaue

In the morning, explore Sagada further before driving to Banaue, stopping at Bontoc Museum en route, where you can observe ancient artifacts, tools and houses of the Cordilleras. On arrival in Banaue, take a walk in the nearby surrounding villages. The rest of the day is free at your leisure. Overnight in Banaue. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 7 : Banaue

Enjoy a full day at the Imbayah festival. Overnight in Banaue. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

The three-day Imbayah festival is held in Banaue, based on an old ritual celebrating the rise of a commoner and his family to the ranks of the Kadangyans, the Banaue elite. It is a way of thanksgiving, celebrating Ifugao culture and good harvest. The name itself originates from the Ifugao word "bayah", meaning rice wine, which is drunk during the festival, symbolising nobility and high stature in the community. During the celebrations, the village people wear traditional brightly clothing and accessories while performing dances during the evening. Pigs and carabaos are also butchered and blessed by the "mumbaki", the Ifugao high priests, before being shared among the community as an offering to the gods. 

The agricultural tribe of the Ifugao, often called the "people of heaven", occupy the mountainous region of northern Luzon. They are believed to be the oldest residents of the highlands, with an origin dating back as early as 800 - 500 BC during the Indonesian migration. Along with farming, rice terracing is their principle means of livelihood, with their technologically simplistic yet ingenious system of irrigated rice terraces being world renowned. 

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Day 8 : Banaue

Enjoy the last day of festivities. Overnight in Banaue. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 9 : Banaue

In the morning, take a jeepney to the Saddle Junction and trek through the rice terraces of Batad. In the afternoon, take the jeepney to Bangaan, stopping at spectacular viewpoints along the way. Trek to Bangaan village and meet the Ifugao tribes. Overnight in Banaue. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Described as the 'eighth wonder of the world', the rice terraces of Banaue are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and regarded as a national treasure. The exquiste Cordilleras were crafted by the Ifugao 'head hunters' some 2000 years ago and are still tended by them today. Passed on from generation to generation, the Rice Terraces were built at a higher altitude and on steeper slopes than many other terraces. Built with complex stone and mud walls to construct flooded pond fields to cultivate rice, The Rice Terraces occupy a central importance to their culture as entire communities co-operate on cyclical, seasonal systems of planting, pest control and harvest which is tied to the lunar cycle and sometimes religious rituals. 

The Batad Rice Terraces are arguably the most spectacular in the Ifugao province. Shaped as an Amphitheatre carved steeply along the side of the mountain, a trek uphill will provide you with incredible views over the emerald-green terraces. 

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Day 10 : Banaue

After breakfast, take the jeepney to the jump off point and trek to Mayoyao Rice Terraces. Return to the hotel where the evening is free at your leisure. Overnight in Banaue. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Part of the five UNESCO-listed rice terraces in the Philippine Cordilleras, the rice terraces of Mayoyao are some of the least visited due to their remote valley location. The terraces connect most of the villages, with the main paths leading from house to house. The organic white and red Ifugao rice, Tinawon, is harvested here in abundance.

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Day 11 : Banaue - Angeles

In the morning, drive to the city of Angeles in Pampanga. Check in to the hotel in Clark Air Base, a former US military airbase. The rest of the day is free at your leisure. Overnight in Pampanga. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

The province of Pampanga is often called the "culinary centre of the Philippines", priding itself on its famous Kapampangan cuisine. The city of Angeles in Pampanga is a blend of the historical and the contemporary, with ancient buildings dotting the landscape alongside vibrant nightlife and bars. It suffered greatly after the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo and the departure of the US Military, which provided economic stability to the area, however has since recovered through the influx of tourist activites and its strategic position near other major cities including Manila and Baguio.

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Day 12 : Angeles - Manila

Drive to Capas, Tarlac (approx. 45 min) to board a 4x4 jeepney and traverse through the terraine and river streams. Start the 2 hour trek to Mount Pinatubo's crater lake. On return, visit the Aeta community who survived the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Later, drive to San Fernando, one of hundreds of towns and villages which were devastated by the eruption. Drive by the village and visit the Basilica, now 3/4 buried in Lahar. Before heading to the hotel, sample halo-halo, the refreshing Filipino summer dessert. Return to Manila for your overnight stay. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Located on the island of Luzon, Mount Pinatubo lay dormant for almost 500 years until a devastating eruption in June 1991. One of the most destructive volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, more than 700 people were killed while thick deposits of tephra and lahar caused significant damage to surrounding cities. The eruption emmited millions of tonnes of sulfur dioxide gas into the atmosphere, decreasing the average worldwide temperature by almost 0.5 °C for years after. Although the volcano is still active, it is now safe to visit, with a beautiful crystal clear lake filling the crater.

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Day 13 : Manila

Transfer to the airport at the appropriate time for your onward flight home. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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The Bayleaf Intramuros

Launched in November 2011, The Bayleaf Intramuros promises a restful experience in a boutique environment with high quality bedding, room amenities and spacious bathrooms. The al fresco, roof deck View Bar is a must-visit, offering unobstructed views of the Manila skyline. 

Visit hotel's site
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Java Hotel

Java Hotel is situated at one of the most serene areas of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. It is famous for its unique Balinese Moroccan atmosphere, exquisite Spanish design and warm Ilocano touch.

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Hotel Felicidad

Hotel Felicidad is situated in a quiet location within the Heritage Village of Vigan City. The hotel is just a block away from the renowned cobblestone walk known as Escolta de Vigan or Calle Crisologo that has been preserved since the Spanish Era, with a variety of entertainment and shopping opportunities, local delicacy, and tourist attractions such as the Bantay Belfry, Syquia Mansion, Plaza Burgos, Burgos Museum, Baluarte, and the St. Paul Cathedral.
 

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Baguio Burnham Suites Hotel

Apart from its cool and stimulating weather, local and foreign vacationers are constantly going back because of the city’s exclusive treats that practically range from fresh strawberries to flea markets. And what else would complete your ideal out -of- town vacation than to be close to everything in the City of Pines. Adjacent to the dynamic surrounding of Burnham Park and bustling stretch of Kisad Road, Baguio Burnham Suites Hotel secures you of comfort, privacy, and essentials at the alluring center of Baguio City.
 

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Masferre Country Inn & Restaurant

 Masferre Country Inn and Restaurant is located in the cultural and sightseeing district of Sagada. From here, guests can enjoy easy access to all that the lively city has to offer. With the city's main attractions such as Kiltepan View Point, Sumaguing Cave, Pongas Falls within close reach, visitors to the hotel will just love its location. There are 15 rooms over 5 floors with free WiFi access in all rooms. 

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Banaue Hotel

Banaue Hotel is located near the centre of Banaue City, offering basic and comfortable accommodation. The outdoor pool area offers views of the Banaue Rice Terraces and mountains. 

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Oasis Hotel

Oasis Hotel can be found in Angeles City, in the Pampagana region. The hotel has a simple and contemporary decor, which hints towards the country's rich heritage. The spacious bedrooms are fitted with modern ammeneties, including air conditioning and wifi. Guests can eat at the Maranao Grill or the hotel's Pub, which serves a selection of appetisers along with international beers and cocktails. The hotel also has a swimming pool and games area, which guests are welcome to enjoy during their stay. 

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Extensions

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Reviews

Our trip was an amazing mix of the familiar and the exotic. We saw and did so much and came home feeling that we experienced the best of the Phillipines! Everyone we met was so warm and friendly, the tropical island waters were irresistible, and the 2000 year old rice patties of Banauae were breathtaking!

Lorraine Sisko & Robert Marino (USA) , Tailormade Philippines
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