The Best of Batanes: Top Attractions and Activities for First-Time Visitors

If there’s one Philippine destination that’s a common denominator among all travel bucket lists, it will probably be Batanes. Dubbed as the “Last Frontier of the North,” Batanes boasts a unique culture, welcoming locals, and numerous destinations that almost look too beautiful to be true.

Indeed, Batanes is a place that you have to visit to really appreciate its beauty. The pictures simply don’t do it justice. If you’ve finally booked a Batanes tour package, on the other hand, congratulations! You’re about to see some of the most gorgeous sights you’ve ever seen. Make sure to include these attractions and activities in your itinerary. 

Vast fields of green, clear blue skies with wispy, curling white clouds, and the waters of the Pacific Ocean crashing on the shores. These make the picture-perfect combination that characterizes the breathtaking view of Rakuh-a-Payaman. Also called Marlboro Hills or Marlboro Country due to its resemblance to the cigarette ad’s iconic setting, Rakuh-a-Payaman is perhaps one of the most popular attractions in Batanes. Take a selfie and a panoramic shot or two, then just appreciate the glorious vista with your eyes. It’s so much more beautiful without a screen or lens in the way.

Vayang Rolling Hills
Situated a birt further north of Basco, the Vayang Rolling Hills provides a similarly gorgeous view like that of Rakuh-a-Payaman. Some people prefer to visit here at sunset, as it has a clear view of the West Philippine Sea. It’s a dramatic, romantic sight that you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Batanes.

The Lighthouses of Batanes
Aside from Rakuh-a-Payaman, another iconic symbol of Batanes would be its lighthouses. They’re always featured in travel blogs, official photos, and even promotional offers of travel agencies. The one that gets the most billing is the one in Basco, located on top of the Naidi Hills. The lighthouse stands at 66 feet and has a viewing deck on the fifth floor that offers gorgeous views of the West Philippine Sea and the surrounding islands. Two other lighthouses can be found in the town of Mahatao and in Sabtang Island.

Itbayat and Sabtang Island’s Stone Houses
Batanes is famous for its stone houses that remain standing even after harsh winds and strong typhoons that often barrage the island. The neighborhoods in Ivana and Mahatao have some of the most well-preserved stone houses, although most of them are already abandoned. For a more immersive experience, go to Itbayat or Sabtang Island to find locals still living in these humble but hard-wearing homes. For a bit of history, you might want to go to Ivana. Here you’ll find Ida Estrella and the House of Dakay, the oldest house in Batanes.

The Honesty Coffee Shop
Still at Ivana, you’ll find the famous Honesty Coffee Shop. Also called Honesty Cafe or Honesty Store by the locals, this humble sari-sari store is known to not have a shopkeeper or a cashier. Everyone just comes and goes freely, leaving the payment for their chosen items inside a simple wooden drop box. The owner, Elena Gabilo, has interesting signs on the walls of the store like “Lord is my security guard,” and “This store is too small for dishonest people.” Aside from the usual items like candies, biscuits, instant noodles, and ice-cold water and soft drinks, you can also find souvenir items like T-shirts and keychains in the Honesty Coffee Shop.

Tinyan Viewpoint
Batanes has no shortage of breathtaking sights, and you can see a lot of them from Tinyan Viewpoint. Grassy slopes, rocky hills, majestic seas, this viewpoint gives you every gorgeous view. Tinyan Viewpoint is located in Sabtang Island, where you can also find Chavayan Cove. (Incidentally, you can also see Chavayan Cove at Tinyan Viewpoint.) While you’re in Ivana, you might also want to sample some local delicacies and try on a vakul, the traditional Ivatan headdress.

Morong Beach
Can’t take a vacation without a trip to the beach? Batanes has those, too! One of the best places to take a dip in the clear blue sea in Batanes is at Morong Beach. It comes with a bonus of being the site of the Nakabuang Arch with its natural rock formations. There’s also another viewpoint here, where you can take even more beautiful photos and marvel at the wonders of nature.

Valugan Boulder Beach
For those who prefer to simply stare at the endless majesty of the ocean, the perfect destination is Valugan Boulder Beach. Swimming is not advised in these waters, due to the powerful waves that can easily pull you under. The best activity here is to hop on the smooth boulders on the beach, take some photos, and just appreciate the beautiful view. If you walk around a bit, you might see a few rock balancing pieces sitting on top of larger boulders. You can try your hand at it, if you want!

There are many more things to do and places to visit in Batanes, and these eight are just the beginning. Trust us: once you’ve seen how beautiful the place is, you’ll be planning your return trip even before you leave.
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