As announced on my Youtube Channel I went back to the Philippines halfway 2016. I asked for tips on where to go, and so many reactions came in! It’s unbelievable really 🙂
Some of the suggestions were about Batanes. I had considered going here during our first Philippine trip in 2015, but we did not travel in the right season for Batanes back then. Or at least, that’s what internet told us. I am very happy I was able to go to all of the inhabited islands of Batanes province this year, Sabtang, Batan and Itbayat. I must say: the islands really surprised me!
Before you continue reading, this is the first video I made of my stay.
You’ll get an impression of all the good things of Batan here, so you know what we’re talking about 😉
This DIY guide contains several articles. This one is with general information about Batanes province. For all practical information about tours, hotels and food there will be different articles about Itbayat, Batan and Sabtang.
Batanes is the northern most province of the Philippines, even closer to Taiwan than to the mainland of Luzon, Philippines. It exists of 10 islands, from which 3 are inhabited. As named before, they’re Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat. Since flying here is expensive, up to 400 euros or over 7.000 pesos for a roundtrip. Since there are also only a few airlines flying here and seats are limited, Batanes is not there for everyone. It is even said you better fly to Hong Kong than to Batanes from Manila! Well on the good side: it also makes the place less crowded. Only around 170 people go in and out every day.
The islands are different from many others in the Philippines. With their hills, cows and lighthouses, they might remind you of Scotland or New Zealand. I believe this is a reason many westeners choose not to go here. Because equal looking landscapes are easier to reach from their hometownes. I must admit I was thinking that way too before making my way over to Batanes. But the weather you have here, the friendly people and the safe feeling – make the trip really well worth it for me!
Safety is actually one of the great selling points the Batanes region has. I was drawn to it too, traveling as a girl alone.
There is no crime, no one sleeping in the street at night – though you very well could if you wanted too. No one would hurt you!
Well, people greet you when they cross your path. They treat you and your properties with respect. There’s really a community feeling here, I love that!
On one of my last evenings I went to the lighthouse near Basco. To do some night photography. Being totally alone in the grass, I did not even feel a second of unsafety. You can leave your bags in the tuktuk while being on tour, no problem. And if you lose your wallet, probably they’ll run after you to give it back.
It’s also a surreal experience being one of the few foreigners on the islands. I have seen only 1 other whitenose in all 8 days of my stay. I only realised what this means after about a week. I was wondering how all people looking for me, seemed to find me so easily. Even when I was in the back of a cafe or totally alone at the shore. ‘It’s easy’ someone explained to me ‘we just walk into the village and ask where the foreigner went. They all point out exactly where you were.’
And I thought internet was the biggest thread for your privacy 😉
Well back on track:
An other thing Batanes is famous for, is her tyfoons. It’s good to know tyfoon season generally runs from june to august. By avoiding these months, you’ll probably avoid the worst storms. Though it still might happen the sea get’s rough and you get stuck at one of the islands. I’ll explain more about that in the separate blogs about Itbayat and Sabtang.
The locals are very much used to these tyfoons by the way! Living with them for ages, they really found their way of dealing with them. That’s why they built their famous stonehouses. From big limestones and crushed limestones (some sort of cement) they made thick walls. The roofs of the houses are thick as well. When a storm is coming they connect the roof to the walls even better, and just hide inside. In Itbayat they even told me you rather be in your own house than in a school or governmental buildings since the houses are built so strong.
Nowadays they use more modern materials, and the walls became less thick. In Itbayat and Sabtang especially you can still see a lot of the old fashioned houses fortunately!
How long should you go?
The ‘standard’ itinerary I saw most Philippino’s do is a 4 day trip. Arriving early morning the first day and take the North Tour of Batan in the afternoon. Next day is reserved for a daytrip to Sabtang or the South Tour in Batan, and the third day is for the one you didn’t manage to do the day before. One evening you eat at Cafe du Tukon near La Fundacion Pacita and on the 4th day you’ll fly back at 8 in the morning. If the plane isn’t late you can even make it to the office in a reasonable time!
Though it is a good itinerary, definitely with some highlights, I would advice on staying longer if you have time on your hand. Especially Itbayat gets totally overlooked this way, which is a shame since it’s an amazing island to explore!
I went for 8 days in total, which was more than enough to explore Itbayat, Batan and Sabtang. On top of that I had some chilltime between all the travels and I had time to get to know the locals.
Want to live here?
Youngsters leave the islands to study and work all over the world, but many of them return to Batanes at some point. Just to visit their place of birth, or to find a place to grow old. If you want to live here while you’re not born in these surroundings, note you couldn’t buy any land. Only locals can. So, to live in paradise you might need to marry a good lad or girl here! The Ivatan seem to be amoungst the prettiest in the Philippines….. 😉
If you’re in need of wifi, you’ll be able to find some in Batan. For Sabtang and Itbayat I did not find any. I did ask and I assume it’s just not available! Which is ok, just something to keep in mind.
As said before, flying here can be pretty expensive. Though, there are promofares! If you are from the Philippines and you’re more flexible in time, just keep an eye out for them. I am sorry not to be able to help you out here, since I do not have any experience with promo fares for Batanes. Flying from abroad to Manila, I was not very flexible in time, which is necessary for finding a good promo fare! If that’s the case for you too, you’ll just be forced to spend a bit more money on this part of your journey…
When to go?
June, july and August are tyfoon months, so they’re best to be avoided. Right before that it’s summer. Which is peak season, and also the season I went here. It’s very hot, but still very beautiful! The heat is to be avoided when leaving early morning on tours.
Also a great way to dodge the other tourists 😉 It’s said the period before summer, February-ish, is also great, since temperatures are just right.
What to do?
I will write three articles, one for every island!
Click on one of the names for:
Also costs, where to sleep, tours etc. will be featured in these blogposts!
I hope the articles will be of any help when planning your Batanes trip. Please let me know if you have any questions, I’d love to help you out!