Head north from Manila, situated on the northern island of Luzon for some spectacular scenery, including what is sometimes known as the 8th wonder of the world, the rice terraces of Banaue. Take an express bus from Manila to Baguio, about a 7 hour drive based on traffic. Most travelers tend to do a northern circuit involving Baguio-Sagada-Banaue-Batad-Manila.
It is a different world up in the cordillera. Cool, green and rural. Baguio is a city, but a charming one. Nevertheless, those trying to escape the city will keep going to Sagada. This is another 5 to 6 hour bus ride from Baguio, but it allows for beautiful scenery viewing.
In Sagada, adventurous types must try the Cave Connection. This is caving to the extreme, but most people can do it, and feel accomplished afterwards. The Bomod-Ok falls are huge and worth the visit. This small town has some fantastic coffee and even better home cooked meals at some of its cozy restaurants. Head to the Log Cabin for a fabulous dinner, or the Yogurt House for a filling pre-hike breakfast.
There are multiple accommodation options up and down the hilly main street. Just wander in and look until a pleasing option is found. There is much to be done here, or nothing. One can relax and stroll, or take part in adventure activities. Though the tourist draw up here are the rice terraces, Sagada is worth the trip.
Take a local jeepney (jeep communal taxi) to Bontoc, and then transfer for Banaue. The town itself is unimpressive, a street of grey brick buildings. This is where treks to the rice terraces are arranged. There is a local information center at the end of the road, and a guide’s association to arrange a trek of the time and difficulty desired. This tourist center has all tours and guides at fixed prices, so there is no need to shop around.
This is the home of the Ifugao people, who created the rice terraces over 2000 years ago in a genius way of irrigation that persists to this day. The terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A jeepney or motorbike can be rented to go up to the Banaue/Batad and/or Bangaan terraces. This spectacular site is worth the hike. Many choose to stay overnight in Batad for the spectacular views. A bit further afield one can also visit the Mayoyao or Hapao Terraces.
It is nice to linger up here in another world from the rest of the Phillipines, where ancient customs and cultures live on in the cool green mist.