Photo Tour: Escape to Batanes... The Paradise of the North!

March 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Batanes is truly a dream escape not only to travel enthusiasts but to many serious photographers alike. It's always on my bucket list and so to many others but due to distance and isolation this so called "The Paradise of the North" isn't an easy to conquer. The high cost of airfare and the unpredictability of weather make Batanes an elusive dream for some and a big turnoff for most travellers. For now, allow me to take you there with some of my selected photos from my gallery taken during our previous photo tour.

The tour normally depends on the weather condition, but since most of the tourists stays at Basco and seems the weather is cooperating, so I decided to cover Batan Island first. Batan Island is the second largest island of Batanes next to Itbayat and where the capital Basco and the domestic airport is located. 

On our first day, we have had a good weather and clear blue sky so we didn't waste our time and drive up quickly to North Batan until sun went down.

Vayang Rolling Hills
ARJ-BATANES-030616-9.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-9.jpg Resting Cow at Rolling Hills

Rolling Hills is one of the most popular tourists attraction of North Batan, I would rather say that you'd never been in Batanes if you missed to visit this stunning spots of Basco. The place is called Vayang. The slopes of the rolling hills rise and dive gently, forming a crumpled terrain that is covered by grass, a food and rest sanctuary for cows, goats, and water buffalos. Embracing the splashes from the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Vayang Rolling Hills overlooks Chadpidan Beach, the boulder-filled western coast of Batan Island.

ARJ-BATANES-030616-26.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-26.jpg Valugan Boulder Beach

It’s a masterpiece created by the elements. In 400 AD, Mt. Iraya erupted and scattered andesite rocks around the northern half of Batan, which is now Basco, from the fiery guts of the earth. The mighty wind from the Pacific pushed the waves to lap the rough rocks, polishing it in the process. The result: a boulder beach that we now call Valugan.

Valugan means “east” in the Ivatan language. Boulders fill the jagged eastern edge of Batan Island like marbles recklessly dumped in a corner. The elements here are at war. The wind is whistling, the sea slapping the shore, and sharp cliffs breaking the tides. Yet, there is something so trance-inducing about the whole action. Like the ironically named ocean it faces, Valugan Beach is absolutely pacifying.

Naidi Hills (Old Ivatan Settlement)
Reflection of Basco Lighthouse at Bunker's Cafe

Basco Lighthouse

Naidi, which came from the two Ivatan words, “Na” meaning past and “Idi” meaning settlement, Naidi actually served as an old Ivatan settlement. Composed of six levels, we climbed the lighthouse through its narrow staircase. Located at the fifth floor is a viewing deck where we got a panoramic view of Basco town.

During the American period, telegraph facilities were built at the hill which was destroyed by the Japanese during World War II. Today, you can see the ruins and one of the buildings that survived which was transformed into a famous eating place in Batanes, the Bunker’s Café.

One of the best times to climb Naidi Hill is during sunset for a more serene and dramatic atmosphere.

ARJ-BATANES-030616-28.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-28.jpg Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel

Dipnaysupuan Japanese tunnel is an interconnected network of tunnels in Tukon Hills, Basco, Batanes. It served as a shelter for the Japanese imperial forces during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines until the end of World War II.

Because of its strategic location, the Japanese imperial forces forced the Ivatans to dug tunnels in Tukon Hills for their shelter. The Japanese soldiers spent years hiding in these tunnels until the end of Word War II.

Mt. Carmel Chapel

Otherwise known as Tukon Chapel, Mt. Carmel Chapel was built in early 2000. Tukon is an Ivatan term for mountain. Like the traditional Ivatan houses, the small chapel is made of stone where mass is held every second week of the month. Small as it is, the chapel is actually a favorite venue for intimate weddings. Also inspired by the Spaniards, the ceiling resembles a boat and is painted by images of saints made by young Ivatan artists.

From the chapel, you can get a really breathtaking view of both the West Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean. Mt Iraya, a dormant volcano, can also be sighted.

Fundacion Pacita


Sunset View at Basco

The following day, our group headed to Sabtang Island. An early morning trip to Ivana Port is necessary to get the first boat trip to Sabtang. It's about 30 minutes drive from Basco or where we stayed (D' Island Lodge) and another 30-minute ride aboard the faluwa, the bigger traditional Ivatan boat. Like the tataya, the Ivatan dory, they do not have outriggers (katig), either. They say every ride is quite an experience. The waters between Batan and Sabtang Islands have a reputation of being rough, turbulent, frightening. This is where the currents of the vast West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and the even bigger Pacific Ocean clash.

Sabtang Lighthouse

Sabtang is the southernmost island municipality of the Batanes island group which is composed primarily of Sabtang Island, as well as two nearby smaller and uninhabited islands: Ivuhos and Dequey. The municipality is known for its lighthouse and the old stone houses of the Ivatan villages of Chavayan and Savidug. Like Batan Island to the north, Sabtang also has a few Mission-style churches and white sand beaches. Sabtang Island, BatanesSabtang Island, Batanes
Tourists are encouraged to spend overnight on the island to explore the area well especially to photographers like I do who always wanted to see the island from dusk till dawn, but day tours are a good option for those who don’t have much time on their pocket. However, given that the last trip back to Batanes is at 1pm, day trippers will find themselves staying shorter at each stop and haunted by the threat of missing the last boat trip.  ARJ-BATANES-030616-83.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-83.jpg

An Old Ivatan Woman

The Ivatans are a Filipino ethnolinguistic group predominant in the Batanes Islands of the Philippines. The origins of the Ivatans remained untraced among scholars. Ivatans were free before they were colonized by the Spaniards. The culture of the Ivatans is partly influenced by the environmental condition of Batanes. Unlike the old-type nipa huts common in the Philippines, Ivatans have adopted their now-famous stone houses made of limestone, designed to protect against the hostile climate.

ARJ-BATANES-030616-86.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-86.jpg An Old Ivatan making Vakul at Savidug 

Ivatan have many unique culture aside living in a stone house which are made of limestone and corals with roof made of cogon grass, they also make their own "vakul", a traditional headgear designed to shield wearer from the sun and rain, it is another cultural feature unique to the Ivatans. ARJ-BATANES-030616-156.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-156.jpg

Ivatan woman wearing a Vakul

Vakul is an ivatan headdress made out of Philippine date palm or voyavoy leaves used to protect them from rain, wind and sunlight when going to their farm. Vakuls are used by women while its counterpart Kanayi are worn by Ivatan men. ARJ-BATANES-030616-162.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-162.jpg

Nakabuang Arch of Morong Beach

Of all the beaches fringing the coast of Sabtang Island, Morong Beach is probably the most well-known. Thanks to the large rocky arch that has become an icon not just of the island but Batanes as a whole. The natural formation is called Nakabuang Arch. (The beach is also commonly referred to as Nakabuang Beach.)

Morong Beach is a favorite among Batanes tourists for many reasons. The sand here is much fairer than other beaches in the province. The waves are also less ferocious; they are friendly enough for a swim. Bookmarked by grass-carpeted small hills, it is actually a pretty short stretch, you can walk from one end to the other in a matter of minutes.

Chamantad Tiñan Viewpoint

If Mahatao has its Racuh-a-Payaman, Sabtang has its Chamantad-Tiñan View Point. This is the place where you can actually see some Ivatans lend their Kanayi and Vakul for picture taking purposes with the great landscape in your background. A short walk from the dusty road led us to the peak of the viewpoint that offers a panoramic view of the coast.


After our long day at Sabtang Island we make sure we never miss the last boat trip back to Basco. In the afternoon of the same day, we took a tricycle for a short trip up to Basco Lighthouse to experience sunset. 

Sunset at Basco Lighthouse

On our last day, another early morning trip down to South Batan. The south Batan tour is a day-tour covering the towns of Mahatao, Ivana and Uyugan, south of the island of Batan in Batanes. It includes both natural and man-made attractions of cultural, historical and commercial importance.

Simple living at Uyugan Town

Overlooking Tayid Lighthouse at Racuh-a-payaman (Marlboro Country)

Marlboro Country might be one of the most photographed places that an avid photographer would be looking for. The blue skies, green fields, and the hilly terrain and mountains – all of these blend the perfect color of nature that picturesque a perfect creation from a perfect Creator.

ARJ-BATANES-030616-138.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-138.jpg Mt. Iraya view at Racuh-a-payaman (Marlboro Country)

Racuh A Payaman is a protected location in the island of Batan in Batanes where everyone is dreaming for to visit. A trail to its hills will give you pleasure that only nature can afford to give.

Diura Beach view from Racuh-a-payaman (Marlboro Country)

Of 7,107 magnificent islands in the Philippines, who would have thought that only one island is enough to represent the beauty of the whole archipelago – Racuh A Payaman – indeed one of the God’s most awesome creations that one should visit.  ARJ-BATANES-030616-169.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-169.jpg Vahay ni Dakay (Vernacular Houses)

Few blocks away from the old Spanish houses is the Vahay ni Dakay (House of Dakay). The House of Dakay is the oldest surviving house in the town of San Jose de Ivana in South Batan Island. It is a traditional structure with thick walls made of stone and lime and with a roof thatched with cogon grass. Named after the family that owned it, it is known as Vahay ni Dakay in Ivatan. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Building.

ARJ-BATANES-030616-135.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-135.jpg Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse

Tayid Lighthouse is a lighthouse built in 2000 on the coast of Mahatao, Batanes, the Philippines facing the Philippine Sea. It is used to guide ships approaching or passing Batan Island.

Chawa View Deck

Mahatao Boat Shelter Port

Inaugurated in 2007, the Mahatao Boat Shelter Port was built to protect fishing and passenger vessels from damage caused by unfavourable weather conditions. The shelter port features calm and clear turquoise water which beauty equals or even surpasses the canals of Europe.

Inside Mahatao Church

ARJ-BATANES-030616-153.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-153.jpg Dried Flying Fish or Dibang in Ivatan

ARJ-BATANES-030616-49.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-49.jpg Coconut Crab - (apparently this 10 year old crab is one of the most expensive food you can ever had in the island)

So, that's my 4 day photo tour in Batanes, thank you for viewing and I hope to see you on my next #photoescapade. If interested to experience Batanes, you may join me on my next #BatanesPhotoTour on October (tentative date), more details and information will be available soon. =)



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