Discover an enchanted place in the Philippines: a journey to the Banaue rice terraces, still untouched by mass tourism
Few places in the world remain so genuine and untouched like the North of the Philippines which is home to the oldest rice fields in the world in Banaue. Named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.
Created more than 2000 years ago by the people of Ifugao, headhunters experienced in woodworking, these rice terraces are one of the most authentic examples of the genius of man.
If you are dependent on the comforts of the western world, you can stop reading this article now. Instead, if you consider exploring nature the real luxury and you adapt easily, you will cherish this enchanted place forever.
The main activity for tourists coming here is trekking in the mountains. admiring the rice fields at dawn, breathing clean air away from the chaos of Manila. And tasting the food offered from the earth (be careful, peanut butter lovers!).
HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR TRIP
The Philippines are an unusual destination to offer as they are still unexplored and poorly understood by mass tourism. More than 2,000 islands offer the chance to the traveler to enjoy the sun, the palm trees and some of the best dives in the world. The Italian Eye advises you to combine relaxing days at the seaside with at least 3-4 days in ”the 8th wonder of the world”: the rice fields.
From Manila several night buses from the company Ohayami depart every evening and reach Banaue in 9 hours, during a high-adrenaline journey (editor’s note: the “carefree” Filipino driving style). However, we strongly advise you to rent a car with a private driver: it will be the last luxury before the low-profile peace of Banaue.
WHEN TO GO
During every season of the year, the terraces shine with different colors depending on the maturation process of the rice, from the most intense green to yellow gold. We suggest you explore the rice fields one or two months before the harvest, when the terraces are colored with a bright green: usually around October and November.
WHAT TO SEE
From Banaue on, wherever you find yourself, you will see rice fields. Hiking between the villages is the more sporty and fascinating way to explore them all. There are five terraces named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO: Batad, Bangaan, Mayoyao, Hungduan and Nagacadan. Alternatively you can hire a guide who will take you around all day aboard a sidecar attached to his motorbike: a one of a kind experience.
WHERE TO SLEEP
You can choose from a variety of small hotels scattered in all the villages. The most comfortable option is to book a room directly in Banaue, the most easily accessible from Manila. The rooms are spartan (often without electric outlets except in the restaurant or at the reception) but pleasant. All hotels also have a restaurant. Often with stunning views of the rice fields and the owners will help you find a guide and plan excursions.
Sanafe Lodge Hotel
The terrace of Sanafe is very popular for the view of the rice fields at sunset. The hotel is the best value for money option in the area. The rooms are basic but comfortable, private or shared bathrooms, WiFi, restaurant and friendly staff.
Uyami’s Greenview Lodge
This small hotel boasts a magnificent view of the rice fields of Banaue and has simple wooden rooms at modest prices. The restaurant serves local specialties with products from nearby as home-made peanut butter.
The most “modern” hotel in town has spacious rooms, a large lobby and a restaurant popular among organized groups. Surely it is the accommodation has more comfort, although it is more decentralized than previous ones.
Pictures by Ludovica Amodeo Grabau