Monday, February 5, 2018

Do-It-Yourself Valentine Ilocos Roadtrip; Plus 10 Scenic Sights You Wouldn't Want To Miss

The breathtaking Kapupurawan rock formation by the sea at Burgos, Ilocos Norte

It's the love month of February and Valentine's Day is looming ahead.  If you still do not know what to do to celebrate this year's love day, how about a romantic getaway to the farthest tip of Luzon? Do not hesitate to take the wheel, and drive off to an adventure with your favorite person in the world.

 Monch Henares and I about to take the Mazda BT-50 for a thrilling drive at the Laoag Sand Dunes.

Are you daunted by the prospect of driving 12 hours to the northern tip of Luzon?  The road trip to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte has always been in our bucket list, but we needed a reliever to drive that long stretch.  That time has come to finally do it with my travel buddy and motoring specialist, Monch Henares, taking a Mazda BT-50 for the trip that Mazda lent to us for a motoring review. See related article, Mazda BT-50 4X4: The Beast that Conquered the North

If it is your first time to do a long roadtrip to Ilocos Norte, fear not... there are many interesting sights to see that makes the whole journey enjoyable.

One need not drive all the way to Pagudpud in one sitting.  It is practical to stay overnight in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, and continue the journey the following morning.  We then spent the second night in Pagudpud. The trip we did took us 3 days and 2 nights, within a Php 7k budget for two persons.

Here are the 10 scenic sights in order of visit:

1.  San Juan, La Union

About 4 hours drive from Manila, you will enter La Union province, known to be a surfing destination.  Coming from the main road, we decided to turn left and enter a small street, which we believed led to the sea.  It was a pleasant surprise to see the blue waters peeking out ahead of us.  You will see many small streets that lead to the beach.  Just go for it.  There are also many food stalls and restaurants in the area, as it has become a touristic destination for surfers.

2.  Santiago Cove, Ilocos Sur

On the look-out for more interesting sights on the road, we saw a signboard that says "Santiago Cove".  We decided to be adventurous and followed the arrows that seemed to lead us to the mountains.  After a few turns, we were welcomed by a a sapphire ocean glittering in the afternoon sun.  Santiago cove is truly a hidden treasure, off the beaten track.

3.  Santa, Ilocos Sur

The roads of Ilocos Sur are well-paved.  It truly is a scenic route as the sea is visible on the side of the road. There is a view point on the roadside, as you enter the municipality of Santa. It is a must to park and go down the vehicle beside the fishy statue marker, and take in the wonderful view of the sea.

4. Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Reaching Vigan in the late afternoon gave us time to go around the famous Crisologo street.  It was like going back in time, with many ancestral homes still intact.  We stayed at Benter's Transient House, a simple guest house that only cost us Php 800 a night for an air-conditioned room. There are many of these kind of homestays in Vigan where you can be assured of decent accommodations.  The following day, we visited the Crisologo Museum and had a delicious Vigan longganisa lunch at the Cordillera Inn.

Not to miss is the light and sound fountain show at the Plaza Salcedo, which starts at 7:30 PM.

5.  Laoag City, Ilocos Norte

Two hours away from Vigan is Laoag City, a bustling and charming town all of its own.  We had a quick stop over for lunch, hosted by Mr. Roven Ablan before going to our next adventure... the sand dunes.

6. Sand Dunes in Laoag, Ilocos Norte

Many films have been shot here in the awesome sand dunes of Laoag.  It's like a vast desert by the sea, with enough elevation overlooking the city of Laoag and the picturesque Cordillera mountains. This is where we tested the Mazda BT-50 4X4 pick-up truck.  We hired a guide to lead us around the intimidating sand dunes, going up and down the slippery hills.  It was truly a thrilling ride. If you want to try an off-roading adventure, they have 4X4 vehicles for rent with a driver/guide to take you around the dunes.

7. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Saud beach is the main destination when going to Pagudpud.  We stayed at Villa Manuela Ilocos Beach Resort, located right at the beachfront. The air-conditioned rooms are huge, enough for five people at Php 3,200 a night, and is equipped with a hot shower. There is a bar by the ocean that also houses the dining area. The rolling waves are perfect with the Bangui Windmills backdrop on the East.  Saud beach is popular for surfing, and the place where people go for a laid-back lifestyle.

Villa Manuela is managed by surfer, Luigi Ablan

8.  Bangui Windmills, Ilocos Norte

We decided to check out the Bangui Windmills on the 3rd day, on the way back to Manila.  From Pagudpud, look for the road signs that says Bangui windmills... there are two places to see this spectacular sight... the view point deck and the beach.  We went to both, stopping at the beach first. The sea was roaring with big waves and of course, it was windy, with the sand flying all over. Needless to say, it was breathtaking.

9. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte

This historical lighthouse is located on a hill over-looking the magnificent Cape Bojeador.  It is a short hike up the cemented road on the hillside, but there are tricycles available to take you up there and back.  The view of the sea from the lighthouse is truly spectacular, with the cliffs jutting out, meeting the waves of the ocean.

10. Kapupurawan Rock Formation,  Ilocos Norte

This magnificent rock formation is also found in the municipality of Burgos. Magical and enchanting; these are the words on how I'd like to describe it.  Rock formations that seem to be out of this world sits beautifully against the ocean.  One will be amazed on how nature work its wonders.

There are many more places to visit, like ancient churches, nostalgic museums, and secret beach coves. Go for that road trip. Life is short. Drive safely!

Photos by Monch Henares.

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