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Ilocos Norte Travel Guide: Activities, Itinerary, Expenses

Bangui Windmills

After having learned about the cancellation of my Kalibo flight, I didn’t quite consider rebooking. Well, the slight thought of getting a new ticket crossed my mind from time to time, but I ended up deciding to go somewhere else after booking cheap Kalibo flights for August 2013. 

I initially considered two places to kick off my 2013 travel series: Cagayan and Ilocos Norte. Both are accessible via bus from my province (2 rides for the former, 1 ride for the latter) so I didn’t need to book flights and just go as soon as I feel like going. I could even tour the two provinces in one trip since one is accessible from the other by bus, but that would require at least around 5 days and I don't have the luxury of going on a trip for such a long period. I finally settled for Ilocos Norte for the simple reason that most of my friends have gone to that province and I wouldn’t want to be left behind. Haha. Inggitero lang.

With just a little over four thousand pesos in my wallet, I hopped on a Farinas bus heading straight to Laoag one Saturday night and started my two-day journey in the so-called Marcos country. I have the pleasure of sharing to you my itinerary which includes the detailed time schedules, activities and expenses for the entire trip (expect all my 2013 travels to have such entries) so that I may be able to give you an idea if ever you are planning to go up north. My trip included a day tour in the northwest towns of Pagudpud, Bangui, and Burgos and another day tour in the capital Laoag, the nearby towns of Paoay and Bacarra, and Batac City.

Arriving in Laoag at dawn
I had a tiring trip because I tried to squeeze in a lot of places to
visit in just 2 days. If you want to visit as many places as possible, allot at least 3 days to tour around the province. Ilocos Norte is one huge province with lots of beautiful natural spots, amazing manmade structures, and rich history so I bet you wouldn’t want to go home without visiting most of these.

I recommend that this trip be made in groups of 6-8 people with a private vehicle as transportation costs can take a huge chunk out of your budget if you plan to take public transportation. Tag along one or probably two friends who know how to drive so that you'll have an alternate driver in case you can’t keep your eyes on the road any longer. Or better yet, get an experienced driver.
Paoay Church


By air
Laoag is approximately 1 hour and 5 minutes away from Manila by air. The following airlines ply the Manila-Laoag route:

Cebu Pacific Air
M/Th         9:25 PM
T/Sa        12:25 PM
W/F/Su       7:05 PM

Airphil Express
M/T/Sa       9:40 AM
T/Th/Sa/Su   7:00 PM
W/F/Su       4:30 PM

By land
Catch a bus in Manila and be ready for a 9-12 hour trip (duration depends on time of day and season). The bus will pass by provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan and La Union. Fares vary from 600-800 depending on the Bus operator and type of bus. Here’s a list of bus lines plying the Manila – Laoag route:

Farinas Transit (Sampaloc)

GV Florida Bus Lines (Sampaloc)

Maria de Leon (Sampaloc)

Partas Transit (Cubao)

RCJ Lines

If you are bound for Pagudpud, GV Florida Bus Lines has direct trips from Manila. But if you happen to board a Laoag-bound bus, you can drop off in Laoag and catch another bus or van going to Pagudpud or Cagayan.

The quiet shore of Saud Beach, Pagudpud

From Laoag, there are lots of buses, vans and jeepneys going to the other towns. Within Laoag, jeepneys can take you to nearby places while tricycles are available almost anywhere and can be hired for special trips. A shared ride would cost about 10 pesos per person, while chartered trip fares depend on the distance.
Laoag offers a wide range of accommodations, from fan rooms to luxury suites. Here are some of the popular accommodations in Laoag:

Texicano Hotel *budget*
cor. Rizal and Hizon Sts., Laoag City
Room rates: 310/370 pesos for a single/double fan room with private CR

Hotel Tiffany *midrange*
Gen. Segundo Ave., Laoag City
Room rates: 1170 pesos for a standard twin room,  1600 pesos for a family room

Isabel Suites *midrange*
Gen. Segundo Ave., Laoag City
Room Rates: 850/1400 pesos for a Standard Single/Twin room

Northview Hotel *midrange*
Airport Road, Nalbo, Laoag City
Room rates: 1,100/1,450 pesos for a Standard Double/Triple room

Fort Ilocandia *luxury*
Calayab, Laoag City
Room rates: 5,600/9,600 pesos for a Standard/De Luxe room

On the other hand, Pagudpud offers a variety of homestays that are very affordable and are aimed at helping Pagudpud locals generate income. They can be found along the beach front and within the interior roads. If you want a more luxurious accommodation, you may want to book in the following hotels and resorts:

Hannah’s Beach Resort and Convention Center
Balaoi, Pagudpud
Room rates: 3,000 pesos for a standard room

Kapuluan Vista Resort
Balaoi, Pagudpud
Room rates: 650 per person for dorm rooms; 2,700 pesos for a standard room

Food choices at Tabacalera

I haven’t really explored the gastronomic delights in Ilocos Norte, but here are some of the places you may want to try when you are in the province:

Johnny Moon Café
La Tabacalera, Laoag City and Marcos Museum Complex, Batac City
For an exciting dining experience, head on to Johnny Moon Café where Ilocano goes pop. They have the usual local dishes which are given some different twists and even serve local traditional wines.

Empanadahan sa Riverside
Just across Batac Church, Batac City
Be ready to sample and select the best empanada here as you will see rows of stalls selling, well, empanada. Across the building are stalls selling the other famous dish in Batac, the flavorful miki. I found it starchy, though.

Kapuluan Vista
Balaoi, Pagudpud
For Ilocano dishes with a modern flair, don’t miss Kapuluan Vista in Pagudpud. Be ready, though, to shed out quite an amount for your lovely meal.

Herencia Café
Paoay (just across Paoay Church)
This is said to be the home of the pinakbet pizza. Located just across the historic Paoay church, one can enjoy sumptuous Ilocano dishes while enjoying the view of the gigantic old church.
Go church-hopping. Swim in the beaches of Saud and Maira-ira in Pagudpud. Visit the famed Patapat Viaduct, Bangui Windmills, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, and the amazing Kapurpurawan white rock formations. Go chase Kabigan falls, Kaangrian Falls, Avis Falls, and Anuplig Falls. Relive history in Museo Ilocos Norte, Malacanan ti Amianan, and Marcos Museum. Go sand boarding in the sand dunes of La Paz or Paoay. Or simply indulge in Ilocano cuisine.

The towns of Adams and Currimao are also gaining popularity for the various attractions that can be visited there. 
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos town

Watch out for the detailed entries of the places I had visited in the coming posts. For now, i'll leave you with my actual travel itinerary:

Day 0
2100 - 0430     Travel by bus from Tarlac to Laoag            580

Day 1
0430 - 0530     Breakfast at McDonald’s                       114
0530 - 0715     Picture-taking around the city , look for
                van terminal to Pagudpud
0715 - 0845     Travel by van from Laoag to Pagudpud           70
0845 - 0900     Look for tricycle/tour guide; Arrange         900
                North and South Pagudpud tour
                (excluding Kapurpurawan and Cape
                Bojeador Lighthouse); 3 persons max.
                Travel to Saud Beach
0900 - 0920     Picture-taking in Saud Beach
                Entrance fee                                   20
0920 - 0950     Gas up; Travel to Blue Lagoon
0950 - 1040     Picture-takingof Blue Lagoon, Bantay-
                Abot Cave and Timmangtang Rock
1040 - 1100     Travel to Patapat Viaduct; Picture-taking
1100 - 1115     Travel to Kabigan Falls
1115 - 1220     25-30 minute walk to and from the falls;
                Entrance fee                                   10
                Mandatory guide fee (1 per group)             100
1220 - 1300     Travel to Bangui; lunch at town proper
                (Northwind Cafe)                              146
1300 - 1320     Travel to Bangui Windmills
1320 - 1340     Bangui Windmills picture-taking
1340 - 1400     Travel to Burgos; transfer tricycle
1400 - 1420     Start Burgos tour, travel to Kapurpurawan     300
                Trike rental for tour                          
1420 - 1440     Kapurpurawan picture-taking  
1440 - 1500     Travel to Cape Bojeador Lighthouse; refuel
1500 - 1530     Picture-taking at the lighthouse
1530 - 1630     Depart for Laoag via minibus                   40

1630 - 1830     Check in Texicano Hotel, single fan
                room with private CR                          310
1830 - 2000     Stroll at Robinson’s; tricycle special trip    60
                Dinner at Greenwich                           109
2000 - 2300     Watch Les Miserables                          140
                Snack (mini donuts and water)                  56
2300            Night stroll going back to hotel; sleep
                                      DAY 1 EXPENSES        2,375

Day 2
0700 - 0900     Preparation; Check out     
0900 - 0930     Breakfast in Jollibee                          69
0930 - 0950     Travel to Bacarra by jeep                      14
0950 - 1020     Picture-taking of Bacarra Church and
                Bell Tower
1020 - 1040     Travel back to Laoag  by jeep                  14
1040 - 1110     Museo Ilocos Norte  entrance fee               20
                (discounted for teachers) 
1110 - 1140     Laoag walking tour
1140 - 1215     Travel to Paoay by jeep                        34
1215 - 1245     Paoay Church picture-taking; softdrink          9
1245 - 1300     Rent trike for Paoay Lake and Malacanang      220
                (200 round trip plus 20 tip) 
1300 - 1310     Paoay Lake picture-taking
1310 - 1320     Travel to Malacanang of the North
1320 - 1355     Malacanang picture-taking; Entrance fee        30
1355 - 1420     Travel to Batac (trike rental)                 50
1420 - 1500     Late lunch at Empanadahan
                (Empanada + miki + 2 gatorade +
                empanada take out) + sundae at Jollibee)      146
1500 - 1520     Batac walking tour      
1520            Walk from Centro to Highway; Ride bus         580
                to Tarlac
                                      DAY 2 EXPENSES        1,186

                                      TOTAL EXPENSES        4,141

Had I been in the company of another person who would share transportation costs with me, the total cost of the trip would have been lowered by about 700 pesos.

The author in Pagudpud


  1. Any idea how much to pay if one is to swim in Saud Beach and Blue Lagoon? :)

    1. Hi, Anne! Swimming in Saud Beach will cost you just around 20 bucks. This fee is actually for the use of the restrooms. I've no idea about the cheapest restroom fee in Blue Lagoon, but Hannah's Beach Resort would be a good option. At around 100 bucks, you get to use the resort's shower and toilet facilities. Add an extra 100 and you get to use the resort's swimming pool. But you can also swim there for FREE by taking a few minutes' walk along the shore to dry your self (and your clothes) after swimming. Hehe.

  2. sir, anong oras dumadaan mga bus sa tarlac? wag lang ung partas.
    gusto ko ding pumunta ng mag-isa e hehe.
    btw sir, naging student moko sa TSU, Strength of Materials, 1.25
    hehehehehehehehe :D

    1. Sana nagpakilala ka. Haha. Yung buses papuntang Ilocos nakarely sa sked ng buses leaving from manila. Usually, there are around 3 to 4 Ilocos-bound buses passing by MacArthur Highway every hour na pwede mong sakyan. :)

  3. sige sir, salamat...
    di na ako magpapakilala, pareho naman tayong pogi hahaha, LOL

  4. so brave for you to travel not on the plan and on the spot to change the plan.Good thing you choose Ilocos and you had enjoy.keep on travelling on Philippines.

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  8. Nice post... Love the pictures!

  9. Thanks for this awesome blog entry!:)

  10. Thank you for taking time to post your itinerary. This is really helpful. :)

  11. Where can I see your Detailed entries in your tour as you mentioned? I am planning to take a vacation with my girlfriend and I am hoping you can give us an insight to where we can go.. I hope you reply. thanks

    1. Hi Ed! Unfortunately, I have stopped blogging about my travels at the moment. Aside from the itinerary and expenses posted above, you can check out a few of my blog posts about Ilocos Norte on this site. Thanks for dropping by!

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  13. Just wana ask for any suggestions for the best 5places heading ilocos..

    1. Hi! Personally, I would recommend (not in a particular order) Bangui Windmills, Blue Lagoon Beach, Paoay Church (haven't gone sandboarding in Paoay but I think it's really cool, too), Malacanang of the North, Vigan Heritage Site.

  14. Nice photos, vivid colors. Good work on the list, very comprehensive! It takes a lot of work and kudos for that!

    1. Thanks for the compliment! :)

    2. Wow this is great po.. i am also planning to take my family to ilocos for a tour and vacations n din for the kids, and were planning to use private car po for 8 persons, ano po kaya mai advice nyo po n iterinary from manila po.. salamat po..

      and thanks po s nag upload ng blog..

  15. Emir, TQVM for the detailed itinerary. It has helped me wonderfully in my plan to visit Laoag, Paoay and Vigan. One Q is :- Where will the jeepney bring me (which stop?) if I take it from St. William's cathedral to Paoay? Thereafter, if I were to tour Paoay, do I take the local trike to bring me around? Once done, do you know where do I take a bus from Paoay to Vigan?

    1. Hi there! Glad to be of help. I hope my reply did not come too late. :) From St. Williams or any location nearby, the jeep to Paoay will take you near Paoay church. That's where you may start your Paoay tour. Afterwards, you can just negotiate with a trike driver to tour you around Paoay then ask him to drop you off at the highway going to Vigan after the tour. Thanks for dropping by and have an enjoyable trip! :)

  16. Hi po. Tanong ko lang kung mag stop over sa tarlac bus terminal ang bus papuntang Laoag or sa highway lang mag-aabang? Thanks po. :)

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