Located in the Philippines’ largest island of Luzon, the verdant Banaue Rice Terraces sit in a mesmerizing state, almost as if they were a back garden for the Gods. In a country famed for its blue waters, white sands and stunning island life, Banaue still goes largely unnoticed from the masses – something that makes it extra special. With panoramic views of unspoilt terraces, it’s a truly authentic part of the Philippines.
There was no machinery to help with this engineering marvel 2,000 years ago. Hand carved by the Ifugao people, these networks were created to filter out the water from the rainforests on higher grounds, all to provide sufficient water for rice to grow: their main crop and source of food. Not only were they crafted to attract water but the intricate terraces were also designed to retain water.
Whilst Banaue is the key highlights to a visit in this region, there are a variety of rice terraces worth visiting.
Hapao Rice Terraces
Burrowed within a wide scenic valley, Hapao Rice Terraces is a great starting point for hikers whilst in and around Banaue. A visit to Hapao provides a great insight into the day-to-day life of the local villagers in the area. It is a relatively easy one-hour hike from Banaue and doesn’t take more than half a day to complete from then on. One of the extra perks to hiking Hapao is that the trail finishes off at a natural hotspring – perfect to cool off in.
Batad Rice Terraces
For most adventure enthusiasts, Batad provides the more thrilling and challenging of rice terrace excursions. Whether you begin the hike from Banaue or within Batad, the journey is tough but incredibly rewarding. Instagrammers take note as visually the Batad Rice terraces are shaped like a natural Amphitheatre. When you stare down at these cascades, the view is nothing short of breathtaking. If you’re keen to take your hike a step further – or perhaps a step below – descending towards Tappiya Falls is worth the walk, and a timely stopping point before the long ascend back.
How to get to Banaue
Travel by bus from Manila into the Cordillera Region. Look for Ohayami Trans and Coda Lines, the two companies that will be your carrier into the North. Whilst Ohayami has buses that depart regularly, it’s best to check the timetable. The journey up north evokes adventure, mixing with locals who live along the way. Travelling to Banaue is instantly a bit of a slug – but well worth the 10-hour journey.
The appreciation of reaching that endpoint is ever so fulfilling. Once you’re in the daylight witnessing those jaw-dropping rice rows, you’ll wonder why this place still doesn’t get more attention. It’s no surprise the terraces on the UNESCO World Heritage list often gets called ‘The Eighth Wonder of The World.’
Banaue is a place that isn’t heavily developed and, for many, that is part of its beauty. Considered a truly local place, Banaue village starts the day early and doesn’t open late. For accommodation, don’t expect luxurious 5-star properties. Consider staying in eco-lodges or guesthouses instead.
Banaue Rice Terraces flourish between June and July; and for Batad, the terraces are at their greenest between October and November. Be sure to bring hiking boots or appropriate footwear, you’ll be walking along ridges of rice terraces both wet and dry. It’s important to have a good level of fitness and to take your time.