How We Got There
Ilocos is one of the most-traveled places in the Philippines so getting there is as easy as falling. All you need is a ride to get to Laoag city and you’ll get by from there.
There are two options: one is expensive and convenient, the other is cheap and, well, not so convenient. First option is a 45 min – 1 hour plane ride from Manila. If you are on a really tight budget and have pretty much time to waste, the second option is a maximum of 12 hours bus ride. My friends and I opted for a bus ride. Really the only thing we regretted is not choosing the best time to leave Manila. My advice? Do not leave later than 12 noon and if 12 hours is TOO long for you, DO NOT ride the PARTAS bus. Other buses that travels back and forth Laoag are GV Florida and Fariñas.
Where We Stayed
A travel guide, who also opens his Laoag home for guests (for a fee, of course), was introduced to me by a friend. We were supposed to stay at his home but it was fully booked at the time. We ended up staying at UKL Ever Hotel which was also arranged by him. It was a cheap yet cozy hotel that had everything we needed. The hotel has a resto bar on rooftop and next door so if you’re looking to chill at night while in the city, this is a good place to stay.
Day 1: Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
The Bangui Wind Farm was the highlight place for me on our first day of tour. The beautifully aligned wind turbines stretching off the coast of Bangui Bay is just breathtaking to look at. It is said that the farm, consisting of 20 turbines, is capable of producing a combined capacity of 25 MW electricity. It is the first wind farm built in the province of Ilocos. The second one is in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, which just operated in 2014, and is said to be the biggest wind farm in Southeast Asia.
The Paoay Sand Dunes Adventure is the highlight activity of the day. When visiting Ilocos, I would say it is imperative not to miss this! This was our last stop of the day and we were lucky to have had the adventure while the sun was setting. After the adrenaline rushing ride around the Paoay desert in a 4×4 truck, we stopped by at the sand boarding spot where we had more fun.
Other must-visit attractions around Ilocos Norte are Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Timmantang Rock and Blue Lagoon, both in Pagudpud.
Day 2: Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Before heading out Laoag city for our second day tour, we stopped by at the city’s famous landmark, the Sinking Bell Tower. This historic bell tower is 45-meter tall and is sunk to the ground (thus the name) due to its believed sandy foundation. A normal-heighted person would have to bend down to get through the tower’s entrance.
The beautiful and unique architecture of Paoay Church is one of the many reasons it is also a most visited place in Ilocos.
Also known as Malacañang ti Amianan, Malacañang of the North served as the official residence of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his family in Ilocos province. The view of Paoay Lake in the photo was taken from the mansion’s veranda.
Our last stop on the second day of tour is Calle Crisologo. I am fascinated with historical/old-fashioned buildings and being able to see one is indeed a dream come true. This one street consists of old Spanish houses and was purposely preserved to be the city’s main attraction. The highlight of the spot seems to be the riding of Kalesa, an old Filipino means of transportation. Being in this place feels like traveling in time. The street is also crowded with vendors of various pasalubongs / souvenirs.
To make your Ilocos travel worthwhile, especially when it’s your first time there, I recommend that you pay for a tour package. The price is mostly reasonable and some even offers transport from Manila to Laoag, so that’s minus thing to worry about. My friends and I paid Php 2,180 each for the tour package which included hotel, daily breakfast, transportation and entrance fees. Overall, it was truly satisfying.