North Philippines Adventure

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Trip code: 
ALK
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Culture
Group size:
5–16
Min age:
16

An all-encompassing adventure to North Luzon, the Philippine's largest Island

The Philippines is a land of over 7000 islands that is defined by its emerald rice terraces, smouldering volcanoes, unique Spanish-Filipino colonial architecture and white sand beaches. The diversity of Luzon, the largest island of the archipelago, will see us walk to the summit of Mount Pinatubo’s caldera before traveling north into the Cordillera Range to see the 2000-year-old Banaue rice terraces and meet the indigenous Ifugao people. In Sagada, ancient hanging coffins still adorn the towering cliffs, whilst in Vigan the streets are full of colonial charm and we’ll dine in an ancestral home. Spend an afternoon relaxing on a sandy beach before returning to the capital, Manila.

 

Highlights

  • The lesser-visited Maligcong Rice Terraces in Bontoc and the amphitheatre-like terraces at Batad
  • Cape Bojeador and Pagudpud Beach in Ilocos Norte
  • Enjoy a home-cooked meal in an ancestral home in Vigan
  • Sagada's burial caves and hanging coffins
  • Guided tour of Taal Heritage Town
  • Walk to the crater of an active volcano - Mount Pinatubo

Key information

  • 6 nights comfortable hotels, 2 nights standard hotels, 4 nights basic hotels and 1 night eco-resort
  • Group normally 5 to 16 plus leader. Min. age 16 yrs
  • Travel by private bus, local jeepney and one internal flight
  • Palawan Beach Extension available

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 2 lunches and 1 dinner included
  • All accommodation
  • London flights (if booking incl. flights)
  • Airport transfers
  • Tour leader throughout

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

Manila
to
Manila
  • Day 1

    Depart London

    The group flight to Manila departs London this morning and is an overnight flight.  

  • Day 2

    Arrive Manila

    The tour starts in Manila this afternoon, Manila is a sprawling city with a unique mixture of the modern and historic. Keep an eye out for the ‘jeepney’s' as these colourful and flamboyantly decorated vehicles originally made from jeeps left by the American troops after the war, are a great way to get around and experience the city as the locals do. There will be a welcome briefing this evening before dinner. 

    City Garden Grand Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 3

    Manila city tour, including the old walled city of Intramuros

    We begin with a guided tour of the capital to get a feel for the country and its friendly people. Intramuros is a quiet colonial enclave, the former centre of economic power, still shielded by its well-preserved high walls. Here, we visit the oldest stone church in the Philippines, San Agustin Church, which was built in 1607. This magnificent structure is unique in that the European Baroque style was reinterpreted by Chinese and Filipino craftsmen. Next, we swing by the nearby Rizal Park where the Philippines’ national hero, José Rizal, was executed and whose remains are enshrined in a monument here. We’ll continue to the famous Chinese Cemetery to see mausoleums, memorials and halls that were designed for Chinese citizens during Spanish rule. Those who wish, can also visit a lechon factory and try some of this delicacy of spit-roasted pig. 

    City Garden Grand Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 4

    Discover Taal Heritage Village and its craft workshops; visit a distillery

    Leaving early this morning, we drive for a couple of hours to Taal in the province of Batangas, known for its crafts, Spanish colonial architecture, museums and churches. Blacksmiths make handcrafted Balisong fan knives, bolo's (like a machete) and the like. This area is also famous for "Burdang Taal", a fine hand-embroidered fabric made from pineapple fibre, used mostly for traditional costumes. The finest Burdang Taal are found in workshops and stores at Barangay Niogan and at the public market. Taal Heritage Village lays claim to Asia’s largest Catholic church, the Basilica of San Martin de Tours, which we will visit along with the Church of Our Lady of Caysasay. You might also like to try some of the locally produced sweets too, such as "panutsa" (peanut candy) and "suman sa lihiya" (made from boiled sticky rice).

    This afternoon we drive (approx. 1 hour) to Lipa City and take a "lambanog" distillery tour. Lambanog is an alcoholic liquor made from the sap of unopened coconut flowers - the sap is harvested into bamboo receptacles and distilled. We'll see the whole process up until the bottling stage, and of course, get to taste the final product! Afterwards, we drive back to Manila (approx. 3 hours).

    City Garden Grand Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Climb Mount Pinatubo to see the crater lake; afternoon free to relax in an eco-resort in Tarlac

    We set off in darkness (leaving at around 3:30am) for the three-hour drive north to the stop-off point for climbing Mount Pinatubo. For the last section we transfer into 4x4 jeeps to traverse Crow Valley, a moon-like volcanic terrain, with vast ash fields and rocky rivers, to the foot of the volcano. We will walk the last section of the trail as we head up towards the summit. The walk is approximately 2 hours each way, perhaps longer if there has been heavy rainfall, and has no steep inclines. Once at the crater summit we are rewarded with views of the crater lake and its deep turquoise colour (Mount Pinatubo is in a militarized zone and can be closed at short notice). 

    This active volcano, located in the Cabusilan Mountains, last erupted in 1991 after 600 years of deep slumber. It was previously obscured from sight and covered in dense forest which supported a population of several thousand indigenous people, the Aetas, who fled to the mountains during the Spanish conquest of the Philippines. 

    After our descent we drive to an eco-resort nearby in Tarlac.

    Green Canyon Eco Art Resort or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Long drive north to Banaue

    Today we have a long yet spectacular journey (approx. 8 hours) north through the Cordillera Range to Banaue, a region famed for its 2000-year-old rice terraces. Built by the Ifugaos tribes and stretching as far as the eye can see, the emerald green terraces were carved out by generations of traditional farmers and remain one of Asia’s most spectacular sights, often being referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. Our guesthouse this evening is perched on the edge of the town of Banaue and the restaurant delivers spectacular views across the valley. 

    Banaue Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Walk across an amphitheatre of rice terraces in Batad

    We transfer to Sadel (approx. 1 hrs drive), the drop-off point for the short walk to the view point overlooking the amphitheatre-like Batad Rice Terraces. Those who want to can walk across to the other side of the "amphitheatre" for a different perspective, passing through the village (please note that photography of locals is not permitted here). There is also the chance to visit Tappiyah Falls, tucked behind a mountain, if you are happy to tackle 400+ steps down and 400+ steps back up. The walk across the Batad terraces may be a little challenging for some, especially if it is muddy, but for anyone looking for a more manageable hike, we can provide a second guide to take you to Hapao Rice Terraces atno extra cost. In the afternoon we return to our hotel in Banaue. 

    Banaue Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Visit Bontoc Museum; short walk around the lesser-visited Maligcong Rice Terraces; transfer to Sagada

    We check out of our hotel and drive for approx. 2.5 hours to Bontoc Museum and spend about an hour there to gain insight into the indigenous communities and the way they lived in the Cordilleras. The museum houses replicas of traditional houses, Cordillera artwork, old photographs and artefacts. We then continue driving to Maligcong, one of the lesser-known terraces in the Cordillera but no less spectacular in terms of beauty and grandeur. Unlike the terraces of Banaue, which are carved steps on the mountains, those in Maligcong have stone walls, which help protect them from erosion. We walk through the terraces, exploring different levels, on good paths - it's about a two and a half hour round trip. We will also visit a local village - if you’re lucky, you might get a chance to listen to someone chanting the Hudhud, a native chant traditionally sung during the rice sowing and harvest season. At the end of the day, we drive for a further 1.5hrs (approx.) to Sagada.

    Masferré Country Inn or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Tour of Sagada including the burial caves and hanging coffins of Echo Valley

    We'll go on a walk to explore this quaint little town and its nearby wonders. We start at St. Mary’s Church and pass through the graveyard behind it before continuing on foot through picturesque Echo Valley with its limestone cliffs. For thousands of years, it has been a tradition specifically in this town, to bury their dead in hanging coffins high up on cliff faces and in some regions this continues to today, albeit on a smaller scale. We will see some ancient coffins on the cliff faces above us - it's a marvel that they were able to hoist them into place. The coffins are small as the deceased would be buried in the foetal position, in the belief that they should exit this world in the same position that they entered it. Some say that this practice was due to a fear of being buried in the ground, whilst others believe it brings the deceased closer to their ancestral spirits. We descend to Lumiang Cave, used as burial grounds by the natives. From Kiltepan Peak, we get a very good view over the rice terraces of three different villages, and then we return to Sagada and the rest of the day is at your leisure.

    Masferré Country Inn or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    To colonial Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; afternoon free

    We drive to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Vigan - the journey should take about 4-5 hours. The afternoon is free to get your bearings of this historic town, awash with grand ancestral homes. Our hotel is in the heart of the heritage town. 

    Hotel Luna or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Walking tour of Vigan with a home-cooked meal in one of the ancestral homes

    The Heritage Village of Vigan is known for its well-preserved old brick houses. The spacious interior of these houses showcases handcrafted period furniture and accessories. Visit the Burgos Museum, a lifestyle museum which was the official residence of one of the original martyrs of Bagumbayan, Father Jose Burgos as well as the Quema House. After the museum, take a short drive to “Abel Weaving” a Vigan traditional craft. Enjoy a home-cooked lunch at the Advinculas’ ancestral home. Sample famous Ilocano delicacies such as the longaniza (sausage), empanada (meat pie), bagnet (deep fried crispy pork crackling).

    Hotel Luna or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 12

    Drive to Laoag in Ilocos Norte, stopping at a famous empanada place en route

    We drive further north to Laoag today, making stops at a variety of interesting sites en route, starting with Bantay Church on the outskirts of Vigan. Next stop is the Marcos Museum in Batac, which houses memorabilia of the late president, from his stint in the armed forces down to his presidency. It would be a travesty to leave here without frequenting the famous Batac Riverside Empanadaan - this small empanada place is the go-to place for locals craving Ilocos empanada. See first-hand how the vendors create this simple but sumptuous merienda treat and perhaps try some yourself.

    After lunch, we make one last stop in Paoay to visit at the fortress-like church of St. Augustine. First constructed in 1704, the church is noted for its variety of architectural styles and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built to withstand earthquakes and is probably the best known “earthquake baroque” church in the Philippines. One of its key features are the 24 carved buttresses that support the church’s structure during earthquakes. We arrive into Laoag in the afternoon and the rest of the day is free. 

    Java Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    Visit the salt producing town of Pasuquin and Cape Bojeador Lighthouse; afternoon to relax at Pagudpud Beach

    We set off early this morning for the drive to Pagudpud Beach but there are a couple of worthwhile places to see on the way. Just along the highway is Pasuquin, which is renowned for its salt production. Clean sea water is first pumped into salt beds along the seashore, sun dried there for several hours and, when the various sediments and impurities have settled, the dried salt is transferred to vats in makeshift huts. After boiling, pure white salt is produced. We'll also drop in at a Dragon Fruit Plantation in Pasuquin to learn about propagating this exotic crop and perhaps try their dragon fruit ice cream. From here we drive straight to the beach, besides a very quick stop at Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, a National Historical Landmark which still functions today and has served ships visiting the archipelago for over a hundred years. 

    The afternoon is free to swim, sunbathe or relax on Pagudpud's sandy beach, the best in the region. We return to Laoag for the night, glimpsing the Bangui Windmills en route. 

    Java Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    Fly to Manila

    We catch a flight from Laoag to Manila (usually the flight is a lunchtime or afternoon flight) and transfer to our centrally located hotel. There are no planned activities in Manila this afternoon however there should be time for some souvenir shopping for those who wish.  

    City Garden Grand Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    End Manila

    The tour ends after breakfast. The group flight to London is an overnight flight departing in the afternoon. Those on the group flights will be transferred to the airport.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 16

    Arrive London.

    The group flights are scheduled to arrive back to London early this morning.

Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Philippines

No visa required for British passport holders. Citizens of most countries are allowed to enter the Philippines without a visa for a stay of up to 21 days, provided they hold a valid return ticket.

Vaccinations

Philippines

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Diphtheria, Yellow Fever.

There is a low risk of malaria in rural areas of the Philippines below 600m and on the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, and Palawan - antimalarials are not usually recommended but may may be considered in exceptional circumstances for travellers who are at higher risk of malaria. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as covering your arms and legs and regularly applying insect repellent. Please consult your GP or a travel clinic for further advice.

Dengue fever is present in the Philippines, it is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Zika fever is a mosquito‐borne viral disease and a known risk in places visited on this trip. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available, we therefore strongly recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. 

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 2 lunches and 1 dinner included.

Filipino food is a fusion of Chinese, Spanish and American with Malay culinary influences. The national dish is adobo, which is either chicken or pork, or both, simmered in soy and vinegar with garlic and black pepper. Another delicacy is lechon; roasted suckling pig. Almost every dish is served with portions of plain steamed rice (kanin). The food is quite simple and can be a bit bland, but soy, vinegar and fish sauce are widely used to add flavour.

Western food will be available in some areas but cannot be guaranteed. Vegetarian food is available in the Philippines; however, the concept of vegetarianism can be misunderstood so if you are a vegetarian please be clear and state that you don't eat meat, chicken or fish. Local beers tend to have a relatively high alcohol content - Red Horse is a good one to try, or a coconut juice makes for a refreshing alternative. Locally made rum is called Tanduay rum and it is worth trying Tapuy, which has a distinctive smoky flavour.

Drinking water is included and will be provided in large containers for you to refill your bottle from - a reusable bottle will be provided on day 1.

Weather

The Philippines has a hot and humid tropical climate with a wet season from June to October and a dry season from November to May. The best time to visit is during the dry season when temperatures average 22–32ºC. December, January and February are the coolest months and in the north of Luzon cool air masses can prompt night time temperatures to drop as low as 12-15°C (54/59 °F) which can feel quite chilly - if traveling in this season you will need some warm layers and a fleece/jumper or jacket. Temperatures warm up significantly from March to May (May typically being the hottest month) with long sunny days and temperatures reaching highs of 36°C. There is relatively high humidity all year round. 

Manila

Manila

Is this trip for you?

This tour has been graded as level 2 (leisurely/moderate) however please note that this grading system covers Exodus' full product range from cultural to walking holidays - this is an adventure holiday and you should read the Trip Notes carefully before booking.   

Whilst this tour focuses on the north of the main island of Luzon, there is still a considerable amount of ground to cover in two weeks. The holiday is however, well-paced and includes two-night stays (or longer) in all locations with the exception of Tarlac and the final night in Manila. There is a considerable amount of driving; the longest being from Tarlac to Banaue (approx. 7-8 hours) and Sagada to Vigan (approx. 5-6 hours). Journeys are broken up with sightseeing and rest stops, and the scenery en route is often spectacular, particularly through the Cordillera Range. Some roads are bumpy and pot-holed - for exploring the rice terraces we travel by local jeepney truck to better negotiate these. 

You need a good level of mobility and a moderate level of fitness both for the sightseeing on foot and the walks. The Mount Pinatubo volcano climb involves a pre-dawn start from Manila and at least 2 hours walking each way. There is some gradient but there are no steep inclines. The walks through villages and rice paddies are not very strenuous although thre walk in Batad may be challenging for some, in which an alternative easier walk around the Hapao Terraces will be available (the group will split if required so you can choose which walk is suitable for you). We recommend that you should be comfortable walking for a couple of hours at a time with some undulations.

When travelling in some areas of the country, service may not be as fast or reliable as you are used to and the Filipino attitude towards certain things such as animal welfare and food may differ from your own. That said, if you come ready for an experience the country's rewards will not fail to deliver.

The quality of accommodation is not consistently of the same standard throughout purely because in some locations only basic guesthouses are available but wherever possible we use comfortable 3-4-star tourist class accommodation. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels

6 nights comfortable hotels, 2 nights standard hotels, 4 nights basic hotels and 1 night eco-resort.

We stay in a mixture of hotels of varying standards and styles, from contemporary to historic. Where available we use comfortable 3-4 star locally-rated hotels however, in the more remote areas such as Banaue and Sagada the quality is a little lower, simply because there is very little choice. In these locations we stay in basic hotels or inns. All accommodation is centrally located.

Accommodation highlights include the inviting rooftop pool at The City Garden Grand hotel in Manila and in Vigan, Hotel Luna is a listed building located within the heritage village and also has a pool as well as lots of old-age charm. In Tarlac, Green Canyon Eco Art Resort is the perfect spot to rest after climbing Mount Pinatubo. 

Tourism is not as developed in the Philippines as it is in some neighbouring south‐east Asian countries such as Vietnam and Thailand and you should therefore be prepared for the service in hotels and restaurants to reflect this at times. 

The hotels usually used are stated in the itinerary however the accommodation used may vary in some locations depending on your departure date. 

Additional accommodation

If you require any additional accommodation in Manila either before or after the tour, Exodus can book this for you (subject to availability), please enquire with your Sales Consultant.

Single Supplement

Rooming is on a twin-share basis however, if you prefer our own room, a limited number of single supplements are available on a first come first served basis - please request this at the time of booking. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Embracing a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, but if you’re going to keep it up there’s got to be more to it than

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Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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Call us on 020 8772 3936