The Northern Philippines: A Road Trip to Cagayan, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur

The Northern Philippines: A Road Trip to Cagayan, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur

Five days on the road to explore the beautiful provinces of Cagayan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. Here's a summary of how it was done.

The northern part of the Philippines is the perfect escapade if you have a week-long break from work. For five whole days, we took our car to visit the provinces of Cagayan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. Curious how we did it? Let me share with you the highlights of our grand road trip up north.

Also read: Underrated Northern Luzon Destinations Worth the Road Trip


northern philippines road tripCalvary Hills | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

In Cagayan province, we visited Sta. Ana, Iguig and Peñablanca. Don’t mistake Cagayan for Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao. It’s actually part of the Cagayan Valley in Luzon which includes Cagayan, Batanes, Nueva Vizcaya, Divilican, Maconacon, Dinapigue, Palanan, Cauayan, Santiago, and Quirino. So, if you want to visit Cagayan Valley itself, it would perhaps take you several weeks. It’s best to choose a few destinations to be included in your itinerary. Travelling to Batanes separately is advised as it’s a different island.

Where to stay in Cagayan

Go Hotels Plus Tuguegarao

Image credit: Go Hotels | Official Website

Seeking the perfect touch base for your Cagayan exploration? Consider Go Hotels Plus Tuguegarao, a winner of the 2023 Travel Excellence Awards – Value Star that prioritises comfort and essentials at an unbeatable price.

Think comfy beds, complimentary Wi-Fi, and chiropractic and non-allergenic pillows. Every room boasts air conditioning, a 32-inch LCD TV with cable, and basic toiletries — everything you need for a relaxing stay.

So, for value-conscious explorers seeking an exceptional stay in the Cagayan province, Go Hotels Plus Tuguegarao is your best bet.

Vehicle Depot | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

What to see in Cagayan? It’s the peak of Luzon before Batanes and Babuyan Islands that’s a seaside so it’s a point entry and exit for both local and imported goods. There’s a huge car depot you can check out with luxury and cheap vehicles. Whether you’re buying or not, it’s great for photo op. We saw several sports cars and Hummers. There are no gates but simple thin metal fences so entering isn’t a problem or restricted.

Afterwards, visit the picturesque Calvary Hills which has the Station of the Cross and an old Spanish church. It sits on a sloping hill with a lake that’s peaceful. Locals visit this place during Holy Week and ordinary days for prayers.

Callao Cave | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

Before sunset, we went to Peñablanca where the Callao Cave is. If you want to see the bats crossing the mountain from the cave, you need to be there before 5pm since they come out at that time. Hop on the wooden boats and the tour guide will paddle towards the location of the caves. It’s such a peaceful scenery but the excitement comes as the bats come out from hiding inside the caves.

Cagayan Holiday & Leisure Resort | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

Since it was already almost evening, we headed to our accommodation at the Cagayan Holiday & Leisure Resort in Sta. Ana. It’s a luxurious resort with villas and its own casino. It’s also a beachfront property where you can jet ski or do other water sports activities. We rented one villa with two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen.

You can dine at the hotel, or before checking in, you may opt to eat at restaurants you pass by outside. After our dinner at the hotel, we checked out the facilities and found ourselves trying the casino. The funny thing was, we don’t know how to gamble but our room came with several free tickets to a Baccarat game so we decided to try it. We capped off the night after several tries and headed back to our accommodation to rest.

Cagayan Beach | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

The next day, we went to the so-called “Boracay of the North” of Sta. Ana. We spent the morning swimming and basking in the sun at the white sands of Anguib Beach. There’s another island you can visit if you have more time at Palaui Island, a 45-minute boat ride from the main town. You’ll also see Cape Engaño, a lighthouse on top of a hill. It has the panoramic view of the Dos Hermanos Island, Babuyan Islands, Engaño Cove and the Pacific Ocean.

Ilocos Norte

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

We left Cagayan to visit Ilocos Norte with our luggage in tow. It was a long drive but the bridge was broken as a new one was being built. Thus, adding more to our travel time.

We killed time by watching the vehicles, jeepneys, tricycles and their passengers board bamboo rafts with people guiding them through the stream. It was interesting how Filipinos make things work with what they have. The water wasn’t flowing too fast and it wasn’t deep so it was safe enough for the vehicles to cross the bridge. But being from the city, we were a bit scared. Luckily, when it was almost our turn, we were signalled to pass the new bridge finally.

Around dinner time, we were almost near Pagudpud but we stopped by a cosy German restaurant along the way to eat. We were already hungry and good thing their food was delicious. Apart from us, another family arrived who also came from Cagayan. We were driving on the same road for several hours so we recognised their vehicle. After dinner, we stumbled upon a cheap hostel to rest. We were beat and ready to hit the sack.

north luzon road tripBangui Wind Mills | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

The next morning was another day full of activities. First, we stopped at the Bangui Windmills with its fine beach sand, huge white windmills and crashing ocean waves.  After taking lots of photos, we went to the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. You can walk on the rocks or hire a horse so you can ride it until the beachfront area or the other side of the rock formation.

Cape Bojeador| Image credit: Remedios Lucio

We also went to the beautiful old ruins of the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. It’s a favourite of mine as I can climb all the way up to see the 360 view of Ilocos and the ocean from afar, but during this time, it was closed. Instead, the museum was open so we took the opportunity to check it out.

Marcos Mansion| Image credit: Remedios Lucio

Whenever you visit Ilocos Norte, people will always think of the Marcoses’ properties since they hail from the province. We went to their ancestral house to see the antiques and old rooms of the family. I’ve been there several times but it never gets old especially with the lake view behind it.

Paoay Sand Dunes | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

Near the mansion is the Paoay Sand Dunes which was turned into a destination for extreme sports adventures. You can do sandboarding, ride the 4×4 across the sand or take lots of jump shots for fun.

Paoay Church | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

For lunch, we went to the Paoay Church where the delicious Pinakbet and Bagnet Pizza can be found. The small restaurant in front of the church serves local Ilocano and Filipino dishes that are mouthwatering. Take a photo of the church after dining and go inside to see the well-preserved interiors.

We ended the tour around Ilocos Norte and headed to Ilocos Sur.

Ilocos Sur

north luzon road tripCalle Crisologo | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

We stayed overnight at one of the old traditional Filipino-Spanish houses converted into hotels in Vigan, the Cordillera Inn. There’s also another beautiful hotel there called Vigan Plaza Hotel.

The next morning, we did a walking tour on our own around the Calle Crisologo cobblestone streets of Vigan where you’ll see old traditional houses, stores and the Cathedral of Vigan. We went to the church to pray for a safe trip to Manila. Then, off we went to the souvenir stores where you’ll find Filipino crafts and furniture that are well-made. There are also delicacies such as Bagnet and Empanadas.

north luzon road tripCathedral of Vigan | Image credit: Remedios Lucio

For lunch, there are plenty of small cafes and restaurants around the plaza. It’s not a very big area so walking or riding the kalesa (Filipino for horse-drawn carriages) is possible. It’s a picture-worthy destination that brings you back to the olden days.

Also read: Backpacking Northern Luzon in 9 Days for PHP10,000

It was our last day at the Northern part of Philippines and sadly, we had to leave after lunch to head back to Manila. It was another long road trip but we stopped at gas stations and restaurants for quick breaks. This road trip was ultimately one of the best vacations we’ve had and we will be back to visit the rest of the provinces at the tip of Luzon.

About Author

Remedios Lucio
Remedios Lucio

Remedios Lucio is the Website Owner of The HodgePodge Lifestyle, a lifestyle and current events website. Writing is her passion in life. She loves exploring the world, meeting different people, learning new cultures, knowing several languages, food tripping—anything where she can discover a thing or two. She dreams of travelling around the world. She has already started by living in and visiting several countries including her country, the Philippines. She also dreams of having her own book published in the future, fond of photography, drinking coffee and her pets.


Related Posts