Batanes is the northernmost part of the Philippines and is often referred to as the Home of the Winds. With picture-perfect postcard views, Batanes is on the bucket list of most Filipinos and international tourists.
My name is Wendiey, and thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoy my Batanes Travel Guide and learn everything you need about Batanes and discover my top things to do in Batanes.
Batanes has spectacular features to impress every type of traveller. From the mountains and the sea to the rolling hills and local delicacies. Most importantly, Batanes offers you a taste of the peaceful life that many of us, especially those from Metro Manila, dearly miss.
Batanes has a land area of just 230 kilometers, making it the smallest province in the Philippines. Batanes is closer to Taiwan than mainland Luzon, but don't worry, I didn't see any patrolling warships!
Batanes remoteness and seclusions from mainland Philippines have enabled it to keep its natural beauty and peaceful charm. The rocky formations, great lighthouses, mountain goats and roaming cattle give you an island experience far different from the other famous Philippine islands of Boracay, El Nido, Coron and Siargao. You will feel like you are in another world - a better world - the minute you set foot there.
Suppose you're planning a trip to Batanes. In that case, my ultimate Batanes Travel Guide is one you must read to get inspired and bookmark for all your future Batanes travel planning.
Batanes Travel Requirements and Guidelines in 2022
Batanes re-opened for tourists under a trial period in July 2022 and is now back open to tourists full-time. The number of visitors to Batanes is limited based on flight and accommodation availability, so it is best to plan well in advance if you consider travelling to Batanes.
There are also particular requirements if you want to travel to Batanes. I cover them in a separate article - Batanes Travel Requirements: How to Travel to Batanes in 2022. In a nutshell, the requirements are:
Must be fully vaccinated
Must have booked accommodation with a DOT-accredited hotel
Must have pre-booked tours with a DOT-certified tour operator
Must have a certificate of acceptance (requires evidence of 1-3)
All residents of Batanes and tourists must wear face masks, wash their hands regularly, and observe social distancing to reduce COVID transmission. Whilst Batanes has a hospital, it is not geared up to handle a mass of severe COVID-19 cases.
What is the Best Time to Travel to Batanes?
You will enjoy Batanes the most when the weather is warm, the skies are blue, and there is little rain on the radar. Most activities you will do are outside. As a result, the summer months of March, April and May are popular times to travel to Batanes.
My trip to Batanes was in September, and the weather was perfect.
Across the 4 days in Batanes, there was perhaps 20 minutes of rain. I was lucky, though. The night after we flew out, Typhoon Noru (local name Karding) brought a lot of rain and wind to the Batanes region and most of Luzon.
Batanes is one of the few places in the Philippines that experience 4 seasons in a year. For many, the lure of experiencing a Philippine "winter" is quite strong! So for those who would like to experience sub-10-degree temperatures and dust off some warm clothes, visiting Batanes in December / January / February might be for you.
How to Travel Around Batanes
It is not a case of just walking around to see everything despite Batanes being the smallest province in the Philippines due to the undulating roads winding through mountains.
Below are the different transport options available in Batanes to help you get around.
There are 2 types of tricycles in Batanes - regular services tricycles and tourist tricycles.
Currently, in Batanes, you cant simply flag down a regular tricycle in the street. You need to call the main depot, and they will assign a tricycle number to come and pick you up. Having said that, I did get the number of one of my tricycle drivers so that I could simply text them directly to come and take me places.
The tourist tricycles are far more spacious but can only be organized via accredited tour operators. I wanted to experience the tourist tricycle in Batanes, so I hired one to take me to Cafe du Tukon for dinner. The cost was 550 pesos to take me there and back, including 1 hour of waiting time while I ate dinner. This was well worth it, as I could make a few stops at scenic places along the way to take pictures with the tourist tricycle.
Private Vans and Cars
Suppose you are in a large group or want to enjoy relief from the sun. In that case, travelling between Batanes tourist spots in air-conditioned comfort is the way to go. Hiring a private van or car is the most convenient and cost-effective option. Van hire generally forms part of the tour packages you sign up from via a DOT-accredited tour operator.
Suppose you're looking to use public transportation in Batanes. In that case, I am told there are jeepneys travelling from Basco to Mahatao, Ivana, and Uyugan daily. However, the trips are limited and are only available from 5:00 am to 5:00 pm. I have to be honest. I don't recall seeing a Jeepney while I was in Batanes. I did see a truck with rows of seats in the back of it, almost like airport departure lounge seats! Sure was interesting to see everyone sitting in rows on the back of a truck!
Want to ride your bicycle around Batanes?
Cycling around the town is not too bad. Still, if you want to visit the tourist sites around Batanes on a mountain bike, you will need some stamina to tackle all the rolling hills. This is not for the faint-hearted! If you are up for it, the experience will be unique due to the fantastic scenery and fresh air! Most of the accredited tour operators in Batanes will be able to organize bike hire for you.
If pedal power is not your thing, you can always try a different type of bike — a motorbike! You can hire a motorbike with a driver called habal-habal. Alternatively, you can rent a motorbike if you have the appropriate driver's licence and know how to handle a bike.
Boating in Batanes
Suppose you want to explore the other islands of Batanes outside of Batan, like Sabtang Island and Itbayat Island. In that case, you can ride a faluwa - a traditional Ivatan passenger boat.
The boats have limited daily trips, so be well prepared and keep an eye on the weather, as this can impact schedules. On my trip, I took a boat across to Sabtang Island. There was only one trip there at around 6 am and one trip back. The trip back was scheduled for 12 noon, but due to road closures on Batan Island, it was deferred until 3 pm. This worked out OK as we found a fantastic little bar/restaurant called De Figura and enjoyed their food, drinks and the owner's company.
Where Are the Best Places to Stay in Batanes
Batanes has a wide range of accredited accommodation options to cater to various budgets. Most travellers will stay in the main town of Basco on Batan Island. This is where most tour operators are headquartered and is the most convenient location to stay. There are also some basic accommodation and homestay options on the other islands of Batanes. Still, these are better for an overnight stay rather than being a base for your entire trip.
Types of Accommodations in Batanes
Most of the accommodations you will find in Batanes are homestays and hotels that offer basic but comfortable amenities. Let's take a closer look at your different accommodation choices in Batanes.
A homestay is a private home in Batanes that the owners have opened up to tourists. You will get to experience the local hospitality of the local Ivatan people who reside in the homes. Most will offer cooking facilities or will happily provide to cook up some local dishes for you.
There is a diverse range of hotels in Batanes. From simple hotels with basic amenities to more luxurious hotels with swimming pools by the beach and fast Wi-Fi. Compared to other tourist destinations in the Philippines, most Batanes' accommodation is affordable.
I stayed at Villa de Babat, only 50 metres from the airport. With only 1 arriving flight a day, this was not an issue in terms of the noise from aircraft. Villa de Babat was very comfortable with air-conditioned rooms, fast Wi-Fi in the common areas and cable TV. They also have a swimming pool, mini golf putting green and a lovely gazebo and restaurant area. For only USD 115 for 3 nights, I found Villa de Babat to be exceptional value. Not only that, the caretakers, Evelyn and Eddie, were fantastic.
The Inhabited Islands of Batanes
Batanes comprises 10 volcanic islands, but only 3 are inhabited - Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat.
The main island of Batanes is where the provincial capital Basco and the airport are located. Basco is split into two specific parts - the north island and the south island, and you will see this when booking tours. Both are equally as magnificent as the other, so there is no need to choose. You simply have to tour both.
It is like stepping back when you visit Sabtang and some incredible Instagrammable locations for photos! Sabtang is located south of Batan and is incredibly mountainous with eye-catching cliffs. The island is famous for its well-preserved stone houses and cogon roofs.
Itbayat is the largest of the inhabited islands in Batanes and is located to the north of Batan, about a 2-4 hour boat ride depending on the weather conditions.
Itbayat is known for its coastline with steep cliffs and rolling hills and grasslands. Itbayat also has rainforests and caves, making it a unique island.
The Best Things to See and Do in Batanes
There is no shortage of places to visit and experience in Batanes. Here is my recommendation if you are planning a holiday to Batanes.
Explore North Batan
You can explore North Batan in half a day, but if you like to take your time and soak up the environment a bit more, you can also dedicate a whole day to the north. Here are some of the highlights of North Batan.
Batanes has three primary lighthouses. The most popular lighthouse is the 66-ft (20 meters / six storeys) Basco Lighthouse. The Basco lighthouse was built in 2003 and can be found on Naidi Hills. This is where the old American telegraph tower ruins can still be found that were destroyed by the Japanese in 1941.
The Basco Lighthouse is easily recognizable with its white central column and red lantern room. It offers a stunning 360-degree view of Basco town, the Basco port and the West Philippine Sea.
Valugan Boulder Beach
Love the white sands of Boracay? Well, this is the complete opposite! Valugan Boulder Beach has a three-kilometer shoreline filled with large, round boulders and smaller stones. It is not a beach you can swim at, but it is a great place to take some unique photos. Please be careful when climbing across the boulders. If you slip, you could end up badly injured
Vayang Rolling Hills
The Vayang Rolling Hills is the best vantage point to see the iconic Mt. Iraya and Batanes' three inhabited islands. The view is breathtaking and one that people worldwide travel to Batanes for. The gently sloping rolling hills of Vayang fade into the West Philippine Sea. The green rolling hills are also scattered with grazing cattle and goats that add to the experience even more.
Tukon Chapel or Mt. Carmel Church
Of Batanes's churches, the most recognizable is the Tukon Chapel. The locals call it Mt. Carmel Church. Built by the fisherman in 2008, the Church is famous for its traditional stone house design, orange roof, and painted interiors. Tukon Chapel is a great place to see the convergence of the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.
Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel
There is a vast network of interconnected tunnels. These Japanese tunnels served as a shelter for the Japanese troops during WWII and a place to store and fire weapons. It is cool to walk through the tunnels and imagine what it must have been like when they were in use. I did see quite a few bats in there and one gecko too! It was fantastic to crawl out the small exit from one of the weapons rooms to be welcomed by more dreamy Batanes views.
Discover South Batan
South Batan can also be done in half a day if you really want. However, a lot of people dedicate a whole day to exploring and experiencing the wonders and charm of South Batan. Here are my favourite spots in South Batan.
Marlboro Country or Rakuh a Payaman
Batanes' most photographed tourist spot is Rakug a Payaman or Malboro Country in Mahatao.
It is vast, picturesque pastureland with wild horses, carabaos, and grazing cows. Land, sea, and sky meet to deliver simply breathtaking views.
This is also a great place to see the Tayid Lighthouse and the waves of Diura Beach, especially if you take some of the footrails.
Tayid Lighthouse is located in Mahatao and is similar in age to the Basco Lighthouse. The Tayid Lighthouse is hexagonal, unlike the Basco Lighthouse, which has a round column.
House of Dakay
Batanes is famous because of its stone houses. The stone houses are symbols of the Ivatan's preparedness for natural disasters.
The House of Dakay on Batan Island is one of the only five surviving stone houses in Batanes following a massive earthquake around 100 years ago. It was built by Luisa Estrella in 1887 and named after Luisa's nephew Jose Dakay Estrella. It is the oldest of the 5 stone houses.
I was lucky enough to spend some time in the House of Dakay with the current resident.
Homoron Blue Lagoon
Homoron Blue Lagoon in Mahatao on Batan Island. It was called the Spanish Lagoon because only the Spaniards were allowed to swim there. Today you can swim in the lagoon whenever you like.
You can also walk to the nearby White Beach to swim in shallow waters or go for a picnic.
Diura Fishing Village
The Diura Fishing Village is a great spot to visit and soak up local activities. This is especially true during March and April when the ancient ritual of kapayvanuvanu takes place. The ceremony is performed by local fishermen to ensure the incoming fishing season is a success.
San Jose de Ivana Church
San Jose de Ivana Church dates back to 1775 and is an example of Filipino and Spanish craftsmanship. You can find the original San Jose de Ivana Church ruins at the back of the new ChurchChurch. The ChurchChurch has been declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Historical Commission.
Honesty Coffee Shop
The famous Honesty Coffee Shop got its fame not because of what they sell but because of its honest system for payment. The store is unmanned, selling inexpensive items that travellers may need or want for their tours and food and refreshments.
You can take what you want, pay for the item, clean up after yourself if you eat food, and leave the store feeling great!
Jose and Elena Gabilo opened the Honesty Coffee Shop in 1995. The honesty system has worked for locals and tourists to the point that it is a must-see destination on any Batanes holiday. It is practical if you need some snacks as it's a short walk from the port that takes you from Batan Island to Sabtang Island.
The Secrets of Sabtang Island
A holiday to Batanes isn't complete without a visit to Sabtang Island.
During my visit to Sabtang Island, only a single boat went in the morning at around 6.30 am, and a single ship returned in the afternoon. The times can vary. For example, our return boat ride was delayed 3 hrs due to road closures on Batan Island. But that is part of the charm of being a remote Philippine island. The extra hours on Sabtang Island didn't go to waste.
Let's closely examine the top things to do on Sabtang Island, Batanes.
There is only one lighthouse on Sabtang Island, and it is called Sabtang Lighthouse. You can't miss it, as the lighthouse is the first thing you see on a nearby cliff edge as you arrive at Sabtang port. The Sabtang Lighthouse has a stone masonry finish giving it a robust and sturdy appearance.
Ivatan's Stone Houses
Apart from the House of Dakay on Batan Island, the best-preserved stone houses in Batanes are found in the villages of Chavayan, Savidug, and Sinakan on Sabtang Island. These remarkable stone houses have withstood all the elements for over 100 years.
You could spend hours walking along the streets of these stone villages and imagining yourself living during those times when these houses were first constructed. The place is quiet, and the locals are friendly and curious about their visitors. Many stone houses are available for a homestay, which would be quite a unique experience, a bit like travelling back in time.
Chamantad Viewpoint was possibly my favourite place to stop on the island. I was able to buy some pasalubongs, sample some local sugar cane wines and walk up and down the rolling hills to take in spectacular views together with my mountain goat friends. You get to see the Pacific Ocean to the East and the Balintang Channel to the South. The highest peak at Chamantad viewpoint is called "NAPANI PUAN" while the cone-shaped hill along the shoreline is what the locals call "SUSU NU DALAGA" as it has the resemblance to the bust of a young lady.
Morong Beach on Sabtang Island is one of the better beaches to swim on if you want some relief from the heat. Another perk is that you can also see the Nakabuang Arch at Morong Beach.
Morong Beach had a restaurant, making it a famous lunch stopover during tours. Still, sadly it was damaged due to a recent typhoon as it was not operational during my visit. The sand is soft, and you will find a lot of grey stones that are super light, like wafers. These are volcanic rocks that remind of the location's volcanic history.
I thought Morong Beach would have been the perfect spot to stop for a few hours with some snacks and cold beer and simply enjoy being in such a beautiful, remote part of the world. The steep rockfaces and Nakabuang Arch provide excellent protection from the sun.
De Figura Cafe
OK, so this isn't a natural attraction, but it was my favourite restaurant to visit in all of Batanes. De Figura Cafe was constructed and opened during COVID, just before Batanes re-opened for tourists.
The fit-out includes a lot of woodwork that was constructed by the owner and is impressive. The restaurant is also immaculately clean, and I felt very comfortable.
We had 3 hours to kill while waiting for the return boat to Batan Island, so De Figura Cafe was the perfect spot to try some of their local cuisine and some icy cold beers and shakes. A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at some of my afternoon at De Figure Cafe photos.
Saint Thomas Aquinas Chapel
There is no shortage of old, historic churches in Batanes, and St Thomas Aquinas Church on Sabtang Island is no exception. Perhaps the abandoned stone cottage next door made this stop even better. It has 2 windows that open out to gardens. I got these incredible photos with some clever panorama camerawork by my Tour Guide Kuya Roy from Batanes IBS Travel & Tours. I always wanted to be in two places at once! Not to mention, there is a basketball court next to it if you want to shoot some hoops.
I didn't have time to go to Itbayat on this trip. Still, I researched the top tourist spots on Itbayat Island that you can add to your itinerary.
Like Sabtang Island, there are few boat trips, so you must be well prepared or consider staying at Itbayat overnight to make the most of your time there.
From the peak of Mt Karoboban, you can marvel at the beauty of the four uninhabited islands north of Batanes. Mt Karoboban has the highest elevation in Itbayat and a viewing deck.
Torongan Cave and Torongan Hills
Torongan Cave on Itbayat Island is said to be where some of the first settlers landed back in 4000 BC. You can reach Torongan Cave by hiking for around 1 hour through some dense forest.
From there, you can hike up to the top of Torongan Hills to see burial markers for the cave's early settlers in the shape of boats.
If you are up for a challenge, the 5- to 7-hour hike to Rapang Cliffs is right up your alley. This park is picturesque with its bonsai arius tree-decorated cliffs and rocky hills. The walk will be worth the effort, with breathtaking island views.
Looking for a refreshing dip in a swimming hole on Itbayat Island? Then head to the foot of Paganaman Port's cliff. The lagoon has several small, natural swimming pools, making it immensely refreshing after a busy day of touring.
What Food Are Batanes Known For?
Batanes delivers not just spectacular views, but they have some mouth-watering local delicacies of their own. Let's take a closer look at what to eat during your visit to Batanes.
Unlike other regions in the Philippines, like Ilocos, Bicol, Cebu, and Iloilo, which have distinct local cuisine, Batanes is not necessarily known as a food destination.
That said, many local dishes here are surprisingly good and must-tries.
Traditional dishes are wrapped in vunung or breadfruit tree leaves to minimize plastic waste, similar to what they do in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. It is a great experience, and I recommend you try a dish wrapped in vunung.
Recommended Foods in Batanes
There is not an abundance of restaurants in Batanes. Still, there are enough options for trying some unique dishes from this province.
Below are some must-try dishes stapled in Batanes restaurants or homestay kitchens.
Uvud is made from grated banana hearts or banana stalks mixed with ground meat and minced fish to add more texture and flavour. It is typically served in meatball form and can also be wrapped in uvud in leaves and steamed. There is a vegetarian version of uvud, and both versions are served with sauce.
Vunes is made of preserved gabi (taro) leaves and stalks cooked with cream, garlic, pork and patola (sponge gourd) and is similar to Bicol's laing. You will find Vunes served in homestays and local restaurants.
Luñis or Luniz
Batanes also has its own version of adobo, called luñis. It looks different than your usual dark adobo, as they don't add soy sauce. This makes the dish look paler and drier. It is made with pork and rock salt, simmered at low temperatures until the pork's fat is rendered and the meat turns a golden brown. Once ready, you will eat it by dipping it in vinegar and enjoying it with a side dish of rice. It was common to see Tumeric rice used with dishes, and I have to say, I am a fan. It was delicious.
Be sure to try the dried mahi-mahi at Diura Fishing Village. Mahi-mahi is one of the staple foods across the islands of Batanes. The Mahi-mahi, or "dorado", has a golden exterior mixed with green and blue hues.
Dried Dibang is a great pasalubong to take home to the family and is often referred to as the flying fish. You can eat it kilawin-style, dried and salted.
Batanes is one of the few places in the world where Lobster (or Payi by the locals) is very affordable! I wanted to eat a lot of Lobster on my trip, but unfortunately, there weren't any available then.
There are several great little restaurants I visited during my trip to Batanes. Here are my favourites and their menus.
Korner Hauz Cafe
This cute little cafe was the first place I was at, as our tour package included lunch there. We had some delicious food. Their Italian dishes were great and went down well with cold beers. Last night on my trip, they delivered food to Villa de Babat where I was.
Located on the water's edge in the town of Basco, the entrance is a little hard to find. My tip, you have to cross the bridge! On my first night, I got to the bridge and stopped as the GPS said I was right there.
Once you walk in, the space opens up to give you a nice view of the ocean and the Basco port area. The food was good, in particular their Pancit! Masarap! It is worth finding.
Cafe du Tukon
This is a fancy cafe about a 15-minute tricycle ride out of the town of Basco. It is Fundacion Pacita's farm-to-table restaurant. Fundacion is a boutique not-for-profit hotel that was undergoing renovation at the time of writing and closed until the end of October / early November.
We booked in advance through our Tour Operator - not because it was busy, but because we were the only customer, and I guess they had to make sure they had the place ready. We ordered in advance, which I suspect was to ensure they had all the ingredients for our meals. You could see the potential of the Cafe, and I look forward to going back again when the whole site is re-opened. They have some beautiful gardens to walk through and take photos of.
Practical Information and Tips for Batanes
Here are some travel tips to make your holiday to Batanes enjoyable and stress-free.
Bring enough cash in Philippine pesos (PHP) when you visit Batanes just to be safe. Very few establishments will accept credit card payments, though Gcash is taken in many places if you need a backup source of funds. There are only 2 ATMs in Basco - PNB and Landbank.
Ivatan is the local dialect of Batanes. But don't worry, most people in Batanes can speak and understand Filipino / Tagalog and English. If you want to learn a couple of local phrases, here are a few you can try;
dius mamahes (thank you)
ara ka mangu (how are you?)
avek dana / mangay aku na (goodbye)
I hope this article has inspired you to travel to Batanes in 2022 and, if not this year, in 2023 now that Batanes is back open to tourists.
If you have questions about Batanes, drop them in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them or find the answer from some of my new Ivatan friends!