When visiting the Batanes island chain in the far northern reaches of the Philippines, one island in particular stands out: Sabtang. This island is only home to 1,500 people but is well-known throughout the country for its white sand beaches, old stone houses, and Mission-style churches.

Sabtang Island, Batanes, Philippines

Sabtang Island northeastern coastline

  Thankfully the weather was better today and these photos turned out better than those from Batan Island

Sabtang Island Welcome Sign

Welcome sign at the Port of Sabtang

After disembarking from the ferry all visitors are required to sign in at the Municipal Tourism Information Center and each pay a P100 tourist fee. Turns out that this list is handed off to the Philippines Coast Guard, who will be at the port that afternoon checking names off the list as they board the ferry to make sure that no one has overstayed their welcome.

Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Behold the small village of Savidug and in the distance the “Sleeping Beauty” of Sabtang Island — can you spot her?

Batanes locals are the Ivatan people and in addition to speaking Tagalog they also have their own dialect, Ivatan. Foreign visitors need not worry though, as some of them do speak English also.

Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Apparently there was a Tagalog movie called Batanes that was filmed here in this barangay — or so the tour guide said

Our next stop was the Chavayan barangay, which can only be reached by traveling along a narrow, winding cliff-side road on the eastern side of the island full of blind corners and hairpin turns.

Cliff-side Road In Sabtang Island, Batanes

Given how fast our driver was going I thought these were one-way roads but obviously I was mistaken

Chavayan

Upon arrival the one-lane road forms a U through the heart of the village, which is delicately nestled between a narrow beach and the steep slopes of the inactive volcano that dominates the island skyline.

Welcome to Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

The entrance of Chavayan village

We were informed that the traditional barangay of Chavayan, one of Sabtang’s must-see destinations, is under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, however I have been unable to corroborate this online. I suspect it could be an example of incorrect information spouted by a tour guide, which happens from time to time, either purely by accident or by locals wanting to make their region more appealing. However that does not diminish the appeal of this small village.

Chavayan Theater, Sabtang Island, Batanes

The Chavayan Theater is the only source of entertainment in town other than the sound of the waves


Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Behind the village there is just enough room to grow corn before the steep mountain slopes begin


Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

The main (and by that I mean only) road through Chavayan


Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

All of the small houses in Chavayan are picture-perfect :)


Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Local man sharpening a metal rod for use with his traditional Ivatan spear gun, laying on the ground next to him


Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

The Chavayan church can be seen in the distance


Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Chavayan Church is the last remaining church in all of Batanes that still has cogon grass roofing


Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

One of the few houses in town that wasn’t made primarily of rocks


Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

On the way out one of the guys bought a goat, which we took back to Batan Island with us on the ferry

Morong Beach

Morong Beach, also known as Nakabuang Beach, is the most recognizable place on Sabtang and therefore also the most common tourist destination — all due to the stone arch you see pictured below.

Morong Beach, Sabtang Island, Batanes

The iconic arch at Morong Beach on Sabtang Island, Batanes   (photo by my friend Dreidel of Why Stop Over)

There are a couple huts located next to the beach that serve as a great lunch destination for local visitors — or if you visit as part of a tour then have no fear as these tables will be full of food by the time your group arrives.

Morong Beach, Sabtang Island, Batanes, Philippines

Morong Beach Panoramic #1


Morong Beach, Sabtang Island, Batanes, Philippines

Morong Beach Panoramic #2


Morong Beach, Sabtang Island, Batanes, Philippines

Morong Beach Panoramic #3 — which one is your favorite?

Sabtang Island is so gorgeous that choosing only 20 photos was tough. The next time you visit the Philippines then make sure to add Batanes to your list!

Where was your favorite island escape?