Ask any Filipino what is on their bucket list and almost every one will mention visiting Batanes. Although tourism is a big part of what sustains these islands — life here is not cheap given the fact that everything has to be flown in from Manila — nearly all tourists are Pinoy. Perfect for me because as most of you already know I love going places where other white people don’t…or won’t 😉
Batanes is a cluster of ten islands (three of them inhabited) in the farthest northern reaches of this sprawling archipelago. Located less than 200km south of Taiwan, the region is known for it’s beauty as well as its tendency to attract rain and typhoons. Although I escaped the latter during my four days there, I couldn’t escape the rain, which found me on all four days unfortunately. Because of that some of my photos are a bit cloudy, so please excuse them.
The primary island — and the only one with an airport — is Batan Island. Daily ferries transport both people, livestock, and supplies between Sabtang Island to the south and Ibayat Island to the north. However as the distance between Batan and Ibayat is more than six times that of Batan and Sabtang, foul weather frequently cancels that ferry and only a fraction of visitors to Batanes actually step foot on Ibayat. How I wish I’d been one of them! Of course just because one makes it to Ibayat does not mean they’ll have a prompt ferry ride back to Batan. Given my limited three-week stay on my sixth trip to the Philippines and the full itinerary I had this was not a risk I was willing to take.
Photographers and Filipinos love this region because there is plenty of varied landscape, untouched corners, and all-in-all a simpler way of life here. Bicycles far outnumber motorcycles and a large portion of the roads are still unpaved. Even those that are paved are essentially just wide cement sidewalks and not the asphalt variety.
Basco is the primary town on Batan and home to the airport. Most visitors to the region stay at a resort or homestay here and use it as their base while they explore the rest of Batanes.
There are two phenomenal tour options which I highly recommend as they will give you a better view of the islands and their history. The first is a full-day complete circle around Batan, stopping in each of the small barangays as well as numerous beaches, sights, and scenic view points.
Not only can visitors climb to the top but there is also a phenomenal restaurant that is open daily for a mere 3hrs and is by reservation only. They have no menu and don’t even bother to ask if you have any allergies when taking your reservation. (This is fine for me because I don’t have any, but if you do, speak up)
Upon arrival guests barely even have time to sit down before their first courses are delivered to the table along with drinks. The meal varies every day depending on the chef’s whims and of course what is fresh and available in the markets that morning.
See More, Learn More! Photo Essay: Beautiful Batan Island
The second must-do tour is a 3/4-day trek out to Sabtang that involves a sunrise ferry ride from Ivana Port on Batan and a half circle around the island visiting two of the most well-known places there, Chavayan village and Morong Beach. Ferries depart every morning around 7am and make a return trip around 2pm.
See more with my extensive photo gallery from Chavayan, a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site
See More, Learn More! Photo Gallery: Sabtang Island, Jewel Of Batanes
If you are thinking about visiting Batanes, here is what you should know:
Bring cool weather clothes. The region is located very far north compared to the rest of the Phils and as such the temperatures can be considerably cooler, especially given the wind factor and tendency towards rain.
Check out all-inclusive-packages before just booking a flight. I have never before recommended doing this for anywhere and I most certainly did not. However after talking with other Filipinos while traveling the islands most of them did and were able to save some money that way.
Bring cash. There is only one ATM located near the town square but it has been known to run out of money.
For even more detailed information on Batanes view my friend Dreidel’s blog, Why Stop Over