As flights from Batanes to Manila operates early morning, the recommended first day activity in exploring the beautiful Batanes is to start with the North Batan Tour. It serves as the perfect prologue to the province’s attractions.
During our exploration of North Batan, the weather was cool and cloudy with frequent on and off rain showers. Hence, you will notice that our photos were not the usual, bright and sunny photos.
Listed in order of our visit, below are the attractions that will be seen and/ or experienced in the Batanes’ North Batan Tour.
North Batan Tour
1) Basco Welcome Arch
Although welcome arches are common structures for visitors, having a photo with Basco’s welcome arch is a must. This noticeable landmark is unique since they added Batanes’ stone elements in it. Also, it is a great proof that one has really been to Batanes.
The Batanes welcome arch is also a good stopover, because it has a viewing deck. From it, one can see a spectacular view of the ocean, the Basco sea port and even this islet.
2) Mt. Carmel Chapel (or Tukon Chapel)
There are several existing churches, chapels and cathedrals in Batanes. However, as an iconic structure of the Island province of Batanes, this is not to be missed.
Spearheaded by the Abads (the most prominent and powerful family in Batanes) and nearby communities, the chapel’s design was based on traditional Ivatan houses. Its other name Tukon Chapel was coined from “tukon” which is an Ivatan term for “mountain.” It fits its name as the chapel is perched on a hill with a picturesque scenery that is truly astonishing.
As Batanes is regarded as one of the best locations in the Philippines to get married, couples who wish to have a small intimate wedding ceremony may opt to have it here. The chapel’s rustic beauty has also attracted film producers to shoot a Philippine box office hit, You’re My Boss.
3) Basco PAGASA Complex (Weather Station)
Next stop is the Basco PAGASA (acronym for Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) Complex. This is the northernmost doppler radar station of the country to track typhoons that enter the Philippine area of responsibility.
As this weather station is also located on top of a hill, it offers stunning views of rolling hills and “liveng” which is crisscrossing hedgerows.
4) Fundacion Pacita
A trip to Batanes is never complete without stopping by at Fundacion Pacita. Once a home and studio of Pacita Abad, an internationally renowned contemporary painter, it is now a boutique hotel. It also houses the colorful artwork of Pacita Abad. As it is beautiful at every angle, this accommodation is usually fully booked despite its steep price.
Within the vicinity, these wonderful, colorful mosaic tiled walls can be found. The Café du Tukon is also located within the area which offers local Ivatan cuisine and the best desserts in Batanes.
Our tour guide, Kuya Kio, picked some Mulberries within the area for us to try. We’ve never tasted one as it’s not available in our region. And we never knew that mulberries can grow here in the Philippines.
By the way, we learned that mulberries’ leaves are what silkworms eat. If Batanes can have a mulberry plantation and silkworms can also thrive, perhaps producing handmade silk can be an additional income for them. They will have to acquire the skill though in producing it.
5) Dipnaysuhwan Japanese Tunnel
Located in the hills of Tukon, the Dipnaysuhwan Japanese Tunnel was a shelter house for soldiers during World War II. It has five doors and consists of a series of chamber, a bunker that serves as a lookout spot and a water reservoir. Currently, it is being maintained by the Municipal Government of Basco in partnership with the Youth Ambassadors For Christ (YAFCO).
It is best to have heavy duty flashlights or head lamps at hand as the tunnel is enveloped in almost complete darkness. The eerie feeling this tunnel gives off adds thrill to this very short adventure.
Always remember to slowly and carefully walk as some steps can be slippery. Please also watch out for your head as there are sudden low ceiling areas.
We just can’t let this photo opportunity slip when we saw this carabao-drawn carriage. Well, we tried using a human alternative for a carabao, but it can’t be drawn because the cart has no wheels. Too bad. It would have been fun to play.
6) Chanpan/ Valugan Boulder Beach
This beach is locally known as Chanpan Beach, and is popularly known as Valugan Boulder Beach. Instead of sand, this beach has huge boulders of igneous rocks spewed by Mt. Iraya and smoothed by China Sea and Pacific Ocean waves.
And although not readily apparent, it is a sacred fishing port of the Ivasay fishermen. Their traditional fishing season called “Paypatawen” usually starts in March and ends in May. Practicing this has made fishing sustainable and adherent to their traditional laws and customs.
In exploring it, do not get near the edge of the beach as you may be swept away by the strong crashing waves. It is indeed impossible to swim here. We learned though that it has been a subject of several award-winning national photography contests. It is also a fantastic spot for shooting the sun rise.
A fun thing to do here is to find small stones and pile it as high as you can. After doing so, you must try to make it fall down with one hit of a stone. If successful, the local told us that we can make a wish.
With or without an opportunity to make a wish, it is fun to just play in this boulder beach.
Of course, it’s also a great place to relax. There is a calming effect in just sitting by the boulders, watching the breathtaking Pacific Ocean, and listening to the sound of waves.
7) Vayang Rolling Hills
Vayang Rolling Hills is probably the most photographed and most visited attraction in Basco. This is attributed to the fact that it is the nearest site within Basco proper where the three major island municipalities (Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat) can be seen all at once. Its seemingly endless waves of verdant rolling hills and the picturesque view of the sea add to its attractiveness. This perfect combination of landscape and seascape truly makes it a remarkable sight.
We really wanted to stay here as the place is so tranquil and we can’t help but marvel at God’s beautiful creation.
It’s truly a gorgeous landscape for city people like us. However, for Idiptans (residents of Diptan of Brgy. San Antonia farmers), it’s their ordinary pastureland as seen in the photos below. Can you spot the carabao?
It is important to note that parts of the rolling hills are covered with cogon grass or also known as blady grass.
These cogon grasses are used by Basco people for thatching their roof. This is because it is known to repel the punishing sun rays and stormy weathers.
8. Naidi Hills and Basco Lighthouse
Certainly, the North Batan Tour will never be complete without seeing the Naidi Hills and the Basco Lighthouse.
The Basco Lighthouse is the first lighthouse built among other lighthouses in Batanes. Although a 6-story building, its viewing deck is located on the 5th level. Most people stay in this place to watch the sunrise or sunset. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the sunset because of the gloomy weather.
We were able to see a spectacular bird’s eye view of the Basco town and Mount Iraya from the lighthouse on it’s one side.
In addition, we were able to see a panoramic view of the rolling hills of the Batan island and the Baluarte Bay on another side.
The Naidi hills where the lighthouse is situated also has a story behind its name. Naidi is an old village coined from the Ivatan terms, “Na” which means past and “Idi” which means settlement. The Naidi hills was also a site of the American telegraph facilities. In fact, one of the bunker ruins they left behind was converted into a restaurant and named as Bunker’s Cafe.
We learned that Bunker’s Cafe is normally closed at day time and only opens around sunset time until evening. As it’s an open air cafe, previous diners got to have a perfect view of the sunset and got to experience a moonlit dinner. We heard that they serve good food. However, the locals told us that it’s already closed down for business. I wonder why it closed down when it had positive reviews from diners. Anyway, if it was still open, we would surely have capped off our North Batan Tour with a dinner here.
So these are just some of the famous attractions and landmarks that one can visit when doing the North Batan Tour.
Which of these attractions do you want to see in person?
And if you’ve already been to Batanes, which is your favorite attraction for North Batan Tour?
We love hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.