Hidden Treasures of Luzon

Philippines

Culture

Discover hill tribes, smoking volcanoes & idyllic islands

Dates & Prices

Intro

FEATURED IN THE SUNDAY TIMES & TOP 50 NEW TOURS FOR 2014 IN WANDERLUST

Immerse yourself in the deep rooted cultures and traditions of the Filipino people on this tour of Luzon. Starting your journey in the North, visit a colonial Spanish town and greet the tribes who tend to the ancient rice terraces. Be spooked by hanging coffins, and discover crater lakes and volcanic landscapes. Fly south to the lesser-visited Bicol region and continue the volcano trail. Be amazed by panoramic views of the 'worlds most perfect' cone-shaped volcano, Mount Mayon. End your trail of discovery by swimming alongside colourful aquatic wildlife on Ticao Island, or laze on the pristine beaches above.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • The walled city of Intramuros in Manila
  • Soak up Spanish colonial charm in Vigan
  • Trek in the 2000 year old rice terraces of Banaue
  • Hanging coffins of Sagada
  • Meet the agricultural Ifugao Tribe
  • Trek to Mount Pinatubo
  • Kayak on Bulusan crater lake
  • Witness smoking Mount Mayon - the perfect conical volcano
  • Relax, snorkel or go fishing on remote Ticao Island
  • Sample delicious Bicolano cuisine

Places Visited

Manila - Laoag - Vigan - Baguio - Sagada - Banaue - Pampanga - Legazpi - Ticao Island

What's Included

Airport transfers
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Most meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
Ground transport and driver
Local English speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Activities as per itinerary
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrival

Arrive at Manila airport, where you will be greeted by a Travel the Unknown representative and transferred to the hotel. The evening 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. Later, transfer to the airport to fly to Laoag. Overnight in Laoag.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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 full day 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. Overnight in Vigan.

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.

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Day 4 : Vigan

Spend the day exploring Vigan. 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 5 : Vigan - Baguio

In the early morning, drive to Baguio and enjoy an afternoon tour around 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

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 6 : Baguio - Sagada

In the early morning, drive to Sagada. Go on an afternoon tour of hanging coffins and burial caves, visiting the Lumian Burial Cave and Sagada Echo Valley. 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 7 : Sagada - Banaue

Drive to Banaue, stopping at Bontoc Museum en route, where you can observe ancient artifacts, tools and houses of the Cordilleras. The afternoon is free at your leisure. Overnight in Banaue. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 8 : 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. 

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 9 : Banaue - Pampanga

Drive to the town of Magalang in Pampanga, where the rest of the day is free at your leisure. Pampanga is often called the "culinary centre of the Philippines", priding itself on its famous Kapampangan cuisine. Transfer to Abe's Farm for your overnight stay. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 10 : Pampanga - Manila

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. Overnight in Manila.

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 11 : Manila - Legazpi

Transfer to the airport for your flight to Legazpi City. Visit the WWII Japanese Tunnel before exploring Daraga Church. Finally, proceed to Cagsawa Ruins, where there is a souvenir shop for local crafts and delicacies. Overnight in Legazpi.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Home to black sand beaches, ancient buildings and beautiful religious architecture, Legazpi is known for its volcano Mount Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines. It is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and attracts visitors to its National Park where they get stunning panoramic views of Legazpi. Legazpi is also known as 'the city of fun and adventure' as there are plenty of historical buildings and ruins to explore such as the Cagsawa Ruins.

Also known as 'Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church', Daraga Church was built after Mount Mayon destroyed the one in Cagsawa. It is regarded as a crowning glory of religious architecture in the Albay province and stands as a testament of resilience and faith of the Bicolano people. Built from volcanic rock, the details of the facade has been eroded from over 200 years of exposure to the elements. To save it, a lime coating have been applied and it is hoped that the church will stand for years to come.

Built in 1724, by Fransican friars to replace the church that had been previously destroyed by Dutch pirates, the Cagsawa ruins are a popular tourist attraction and are considered to be a powerful symbol of the dangers of living next to a volcano. It was destroyed in 1814, by Mount Mayon's most destructive eruption. Instead of just spouting lava, the majestic volcano released black ash which bombarded the nearby village of Cagsawa, burying it under several hundred million cubic of ash.Hundreds of the town's inhabitants sought refuge in the church, but were eventually killed by the currents of hot air and ash or the flow of debris coming down from the volcano. Today, only the belfry and part of the convent still stands as the facade of the structure collapsed due to earthquakes in the early 1950s.

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Day 12 : Legazpi - Lake Bulusan - Ticao Island

Option available to take a tricycle to the local morning market at 0600H before returning to the hotel for breakfast. Drive to Bulusan Lake, where you can bird watch, take part in easy treks or kayak around the lake. Proceed to Bulusan Port to take a boat ride to Ticao Island. Overnight on Ticao Island.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Ticao is an untouched tropical island and the perfect retreat for any traveller. Visitors can take a stroll down the island's one street or visit the mangroves in the evening. They can even take part in the daily life of the island's inhabitants, going fishing with the fishermen and visiting the cattle ranch, the only one of its kind in the area. For the more adventurous, there are many dive spots as well as areas that are perfect for snorkelling and surfing.

Bulusan, which translates as 'where water flows', is truly a sight to behold with its beautiful waterfalls, springs and lakes, not to mention its majestic volcano set at the foot of a crater lake. A boat can be taken across Lake Bulusan, so that visitors can see the magnificent volcano in all its glory and explore the bamboo huts, the endemic bird species and hidden grottos.

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Day 13 : Ticao Island - San Miguel - Ticao Island

In the morning, there is an option available to head out with the local fishermen to fish the way the locals do. Later, take a boat ride to San Miguel where you can swim, snorkel or kayak. There is also an option to dive with Discover Scuba Diving (advance booking required). Overnight on Ticao Island.

Note: Fishing schedules are in the early morning from 0500H or in the afternoon from 1600H.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 14 : Ticao Island

A day to relax. Laze on the beach, walk around the cattle farm, visit the fishing village, pick vegetables at the resort's organic farm, visit the mangroves, or take a motorcycle to visit the main town of San Jacinto. Overnight on Ticao Island.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Located on the idyllic Ticao Island with it's pristine beaches, San Jacinto is a beautiful port on the island. Known for fishing, it became a station for galleon ships in 16th and 17th century, it still has some of the remains of colonial Spanish rule in the architecture of its houses and streets. The island itself is popular with tourists seeking somewhere to relax or some adventure with its firefly-lighted mangroves and numerous diving and surfing hotspots. 

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Day 15 : Departure

Transfer to Legazpi City and fly back to Manila. Connect for onward flight home. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation

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.
 

Visit hotel's site
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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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Abe's Farm

Abe's Farm can be found in the Pampanga region of the Philippines. The remote resort allows guests to experience a rural way of life amongst the tropical forests. The simple bedrooms complement the natural surroundings of Abe's Farm, whilst also being fitted with modern amenities for a comfortable stay. The on-site restaurant offers a selection of local and national delicacies. Guests can relax in the resort swimming pool and spa, or choose to enjoy the games facilities on offer. 

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Siama Hotel

Siama Hotel can be found in central Legazpi. Its contemporary design and decor has been influenced by the hotel's natural setting. The spacious bedrooms are equipped with modern fixtures and fittings to allow for a comfortable and relaxing stay. Guests can make use of the hotel swimming pool and sample local delicacies in the hotel restaurant. 

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Ticao Island Resort

Ticao Island Resort is a relaxing and authentic retreat. Comfortable bungalows with modern amenities lie not far from a sandy beach. There is also a beachside restaurant serving a variety of Filipino, European and American dishes.

Visit hotel's site
Extensions

Hidden Treasures of Luzon (15 days)

Discover hill tribes, smoking volcanoes & idyllic islands

Best of the Islands (14 days)

Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, volcanoes & beaches

Festival of the Hill Tribes (13 days)

Experience the Imbayah Festival in North Luzon

Volcano Discovery (5 days)

Three volcanoes tour - Mount Pinatubo, Taal & Mayon

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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