Mabuhay! Welcome to Manila. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. An intriguing, bustling and overwhelmingly chaotic city, Manila is the worthy capital of the Philippines. With contradictions and surprises around every corner, Manila is packed full of things to see, do, taste and experience. If you arrive early, why not spend time exploring what the sprawling city has to offer. A unique mixture of the modern and historic, Manila boasts attractions ranging from the walled city of Intramuros, built by the Spaniards in the 16th Century, to the Mall of Asia, a shopping centre spreading nearly a kilometre in length. A unique way to get around Manila and the Philippines is by jeepney, colourfully and flamboyantly decorated vehicles originally made from jeeps left by American troops after the war.
It's an early start today as we leave Manila by private minibus and travel to Banaue, settling in for a 9-10 hour drive. The isolated and quaint town of Banaue features markets and a local museum, but the main drawcard of the area is the rice terraces. Often referred to as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World', the Banaue rice terraces were constructed over 2000 years ago by the native Ifugao people. Still in use today, these remarkable rice terraces stretch like stepping stones towards the sky - some reaching an altitude of 1500 m (4920 ft). The best way to view the terraces is from the nearby viewpoint, where the lush green terraces unfold below and sunlight reflects off the surface of the pools. Awe-inspiring views are offered from the road above, and hiking from the viewpoint back into town is well worth the effort.
Day 3 - 5
Leaving our main luggage in Banaue and carrying just a day pack with our necessities for the next few days, we begin with a short (40 min) drive to the starting point for our 3-day trek. Over the next 3 days and 2 nights, we'll trek through rice fields, forest and villages, staying overnight in local Ifugao villages where the people are still farming rice the way their ancestors did 2000 years ago. Our accommodation will be in basic village guesthouses with shared facilities and cold water for bathing. Bedding will be provided but you may like to bring your own sleeping sheet and a warm layer for cool nights. Our meals, which will mostly be vegetarian, are provided for us at the guesthouses. On the first day of our trek we'll walk approximately 7-8 hrs/ 9kms (a mixture of up, down and flat terrain), stopping for lunch on the way, as we climb to the highest point of our trek at approximately 1,500 metres above sea level. Keep the camera handy for those scenic photos! We'll spend the night in Cambulo Village. On the second day we'll walk approximately 3 hours to Batad Village where we spend the night. This afternoon we'll have some free time to relax or explore the village. Batad's rice terraces are famous as they are constructed in the shape of an amphitheatre. There's the option to do an additional trek (1 hour return) to the Batad rice terraces and Tappiya Waterfall for a refreshing swim. On the third day we'll walk approximately 3 hours. We return to Banaue by road (approx 1 hr), stopping at Guihob Natural Swimming Pool for a refreshing dip on the way before returning to our guesthouse and being reunited with our main luggage. Maybe enjoy a celebratory drink while watching the sun set over the rice terraces for the last time.
Leave the rice terraces behind and travel into scenic alpine mountains. Along the way we pause at Bontoc, the capital of the Mountain Province (3 hrs from Banaue), where we'll have time for some lunch and a visit to the Bontoc Museum, which is packed with captivating memories from the past, such as photographs of headhunters with their loot. From Bontoc, it's a 1 hour drive to reach our destination at Sagada. The villagers of Sagada retain their traditional way of life in tranquil and calm surroundings. There's fresh mountain air and stunning views everywhere you look.
Enjoy a walking tour to visit the Hanging Coffins in Echo Valley. Dangling high up on the limestone cliffs, the coffins are both mystifying and eerie in their presence. We then continue to a small waterfall where we can have a refreshing dip in the cool waters before heading back to Sagada. In the afternoon consider a guided tour to the Lumiang and Sumaging Caves. Lumiang (Burial) Cave, is another example of the ancient burial traditions of the local people. Coffins carved from tree trunks are stacked on top of each other, until the wood falls away and coffins tumble into the depths below. The atmosphere is both intriguing and macabre. Sumaging (Big) Cave is filled with limestone formations that are named after what they resemble, such as the 'Kings Curtain' or the 'Rice Terraces'. Also nearby is the Big Waterfall, the Kiltepan Tower and the Masferre photograph studio. Another option is to take a walk to the outskirts of town where you can see some of the local weavers at work creating cloths and bags.
Hop on a public bus heading towards Baguio City. Our journey takes approximately 7 hours through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Philippines. Travelling through the Cordillera Central - the highest and largest mountain range in the Philippines - we pass mountains of incredible heights (and drops) dotted everywhere with small villages and terrace upon terrace of rice and other crops. This is one journey you don't want to sleep through. Baguio City was established by the American troops in 1900 and has become a popular destination for travellers and local tourists wanting to retreat from the heat of the lowlands. It's now a bustling urban centre offering town comforts high in the Cordillera Mountains. Explore the city market and sample fresh strawberries, climb the Lourdes Grotto to view the town from an entirely different perspective or simply soak in the lively student atmosphere from a cosy cafe. Other sights include the local cathedral, Camp John Hay - a former US recreation facility - and Burnham Park, complete with a man-made central lake.
An early start by public bus takes us to the small town of Capas (approx 4 hrs), where we meet our guides and prepare for our Mt Pinatubo trek. Our main luggage will be stored at the base of Mt Pinatubo and we'll take only a small day pack to carry our necessities for the overnight trip. Please make sure everything is waterproofed as it can rain heavily at times. Travel by 4x4 along a bumpy, dusty road (bring a scarf and sunglasses to protect your eyes - approx 2.5 hrs) before disembarking and trekking the final hour to the crater. The terrain is uneven so bring supportive shoes with good grip. We may have an opportunity to meet some of the indigenous people of the area, the Aetas, who have lived on the slopes of the volcano and in surrounding areas for several centuries, surviving as hunter-gatherers in the dense jungles of the area. Nowadays, they live in more modern settlements and some of them work as guides on the volcano. On arrival at the crater we'll have free time to relax and take photos. Tonight we'll camp in tents at the crater. Sleeping bags will be provided but it can be cold at night here so bring warm clothing as well.
After a relaxed breakfast and last chance for photos of the area, we pack up camp and return on foot and by 4x4 to Capas. There will be an opportunity to have a shower and lunch before we board our bus to travel back to Manila (approx 2.5 hrs).
Day 11 - 13
Take a bus to the southern end of Luzon (approx 3 hrs) and board a ferry for the 3 hour journey across to the island of Mindoro and the harbour town of Puerto Galera ('Port of Galleons' in Spanish) - our base to explore the coast and beaches of this region that's a favourite for yachting, scuba diving and just hanging out by the sea. There is plenty to do here during your free time - discover waterfalls and caverns, seek out beaches, jump aboard a boat or yacht for a cruise, or explore under the surface by scuba. Along the way our tour leader will take us snorkelling in the pristine waters.
Return to Manilla for our final night together.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart our accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.