Must-see Tourist Spots in Ilocos Norte!
As the first Philippine province I have visited, Ilocos Norte never fails to amuse me. “There’s no place like home!”
The province of Ilocos Norte is truly unexpected – you get to see new and surprising tourist attractions and feel new experiences along the way! There is still much to see, you just have to discover and promote it, not to mention, we should be Responsible Travelers, too.
This part of the blog is dedicated to having a (more or less) detailed look at the more popular tourist spots in these provinces that I and my friends visited this year (plus other attractions I have been before, too.)
All about Ilocos Norte
Out of the 21 municipalities and 2 cities of Ilocos Norte, I have been to 10 of them and every municipality and city have something different to offer. If you happen to visit these tourist attractions, too, you will see flags of Ilocos Norte with a mustache above it. The mustache idea came from Juan Luna, a famous and world-renowned Ilocano painter who is the brother of General Antonio Luna who had the same and who are both natives of Badoc.
The mustache first became the signature symbol of Paoay for their “Paoay Kumakaway” Tourism Campaign until it became the province’s tourism symbol eventually. So every time you see colorful flags printed with “Ilocos Norte” and a mustache above it, it probably means you’re in a tourist attraction!
(I would be discussing Ilocos Norte first and then will include Ilocos Sur on the latter part of this blog!)
When arriving in Ilocos Norte, almost all of the bus terminals are located near the Central Business District of Laoag so it is a walk or tricycle ride away from the Provincial Capitol and other tourist spots in Laoag. What’s good when you are in Laoag is that almost all of the tourist attractions are near with each other.
(These places are grouped according to each other’s proximity)
Fort Ilocandia is the premier resort and casino in Ilocos Norte. It is then the favorite vacation spot (until now) of most expatriates especially when they arrive at the Laoag International Airport. Found in the westernmost part of the city, the 77-hectare “Fort” is more than just a resort that anyone can enjoy – plus its 2-Kilometer share of the Ilocos shoreline! In its main building, made mostly of bricks and concrete (an Ilocano signature in architecture), are several pictures of the Marcos family and the resorts’ milestones as well.
The Fort has truly preserved what is truly Ilocano – from the ambiance, the hospitality, and the people.
For more information:
|Address:||Barangay 37 Calayab, Laoag City (Ilocos Norte)
2601-C, 26th Floor, East Tower, PSE Building, Exchange Road (Ortigas, Pasig City)
|Contact Details:||(Ilocos Norte) + 63 77 670 9101
(Pasig City) +63 2 478 6506, +63 2 654 7055, +63 2 478 5315
(Mobile) +63 917 599 4036, +63 917 692 6831, +63 917 598 9533
|Social Media Page/s:||(Website) http://www.fortilocandia.com.ph
La Paz Sand Dunes
Our friend, who is a local of Laoag, too, recommended that we experience the La Paz Sand Dunes instead from that of Paoay’s. Being the location of the first installment of the movie “MadMax,” I could say that the terrain is more rugged (which is more fun when riding a 4×4) and that the course is much longer. Our driver-guide actually extended our ride for an hour, as the actual ride only lasts for about 30 minutes or so. The site, too, has been declared as a National Geological Monument by the National Committee on Geological Sciences in 1993. It is also the location of some popular Filipino movies like “Panday” and “Himala,” to name a few. 🙂
The package for the sand dunes is PhP 2500.00. So it is better to go there in groups. (We were 5 when we went there). It includes the 4×4 ride with 2 to 3 stopovers for picture-taking and the unlimited sand-boarding after. It is better if you go there in the late afternoon so that the sun’s heat will not be that harmful, plus you can get to see the sun set on the West Philippine Sea.
If you want to maximize the fun, you can contact our driver-guide, Kuya Joel Wilford at +63 948 502 6591. You can also have photo souvenirs at their registration booth for PhP 150.00 per picture.
Ilocos Norte Capitol
Personally, it is one of the most-appealing provincial capitols I have been to so far. (Wait ‘til I get to see Negros Occidental’s Capitol, which is argued to be the most beautiful provincial capitol in the Philippines.) It is because the capitol can be seen right past the Tobacco Monopoly Monument where the giant letters of L-A-O-A-G are after passing the Gilbert Bridge.
It is also where you will find the giant letters of “Ilocos Norte” – a picture-perfect spot for tourists and locals alike. The capitol is more beautiful when it is lighted up in the evening. It is also near the Laoag City Hall and Baratilyo Food stalls where you can enjoy the famous Ilocano food “empanada” and longganisa alongside other staple street foods.
Tobacco Monopoly Monument
Commemorating what has been one of the most historic revolts in the country, the Tobacco Monopoly Monument – which is situated within the confines of Aurora Park – remembers the sacrifices of their forefathers in fighting for freedom, especially in the monopolization of Tobacco in the region. This is the very first tourist spot you will get to see when arriving in Laoag. It is also just right across the Provincial Capitol and adjacent to the City Hall of Laoag.
Laoag Public Market
It is the capital’s main source of seafood and other Ilocano foods such as Pasuquin’s Biscocho and Paoay’s Cornick, among others. It is also a perfect haven for empanada vendors, too, as their stalls scattered around the market’s vicinity. It is also the loading and unloading area for tricycle drivers and calesa drivers (at only PhP 50.00 per ride within the city)!
St. William’s Cathedral
St. William’s Cathedral, also known as the Laoag Cathedral is the seat of faith in the City. (FYI, St. William is the Patron Saint of Laoag City) Established in 1580, the church has been the refuge of many Christians since the late 16th century.
Sinking Bell tower
As the name implies, the bell tower of St. William’s Cathedral sinks at a rate of approximately 1 centimeter every year. Due to its massive Earthquake Baroque-style structure, and as it is situated over a soft foundation, the bell tower gained such reputation, hence the name.
It is also found a few meters away from the cathedral because, in the early times, this was the style in building the bell towers of churches, some of it, too, are used as watchtowers during wars. Legend has it that a man sitting on a tall horse can freely enter the bell tower’s door. Now, you have to bow down in order to enter (although they have closed the entrance to the public because it is immediately adjacent a major city road.)
Malacañang ti Amianan in the Ilocano dialect, this is the former home of the Marcoses during President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ incumbency. Today, the house is now a museum with all the memorabilia of the former first family with all furniture intact. A minimum entrance fee of PhP 30.00 is charged before entering. The house-turned-museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 0900 H – 1600 H. It is closed on Mondays. The site can be reached via tricycle with a minimum fare of PhP 15-20.
Iglesia de San Agustin de Paoay (Paoay Church)
As only one of the four Spanish Colonial Earthquake Baroque-style churches enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Paoay Church became an instant signature tourist spot in the municipality of Paoay. Its construction began in the late 17th century dedicated to Saint Augustine.
Its distinctively-designed buttresses add to the overall appeal of the church’s façade.
Nana Rosa’s Chichacorn
Nana Rosa’s Chichacorn, I can say, is the best chichacorn that can be found in Paoay! With many flavors to choose from, its crunchiness is one of a kind. It is also cheaper if you buy their products at their main factory in Paoay. It is one of the famous brands of chichacorn in Ilocos.
For more information, contact them at:
|Address:||Brgy. 3, Salbang, Paoay, Ilocos Norte|
|Contact Details:||(Mobile) +63 921 440 6708
(Landline) +63 77 614 0020
|Social Media Page/s:||(Website) www.nanarosascornick.weebly.com
Café Herencia – Home of the Pinakbet Pizza
Peculiar to some (and interesting to me), Café Herencia, dubbed as the “Edible Landmark of Ilocos Norte,” is believed and is known to be the home of the original Pinakbet Pizza. Pinakbet is a known Ilocano dish that is a mix of different vegetables cooked in bagoong (fish paste). Here, the ingredients of pinakbet are laid over the pizza dough, baked, then poured with bagoong as its sauce. Yum! It’s definitely a must-try when visiting Paoay. They also have a restaurant in Laoag City. For more information, contact them at +63 77 614 0214.
This is Batac’s main hub for empanada sellers. I tell you, it is here where you get to taste on-the-spot made empanadas and Miki (a kind of noodle porridge famous in the Ilocos Region.) Several souvenir shops are also present in the centrum.
Ferdinand Marcos Presidential Center / Mausoleum
The City of Batac is dubbed as the “Home of Great Leaders” because some of the country’s illustrious sons come from this City. To name a few, Gregorio Aglipay, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, Mariano Marcos (Ferdinand Marcos’ father), and Artemio Ricarte (The Father of the Philippine Army) came from this Municipality-turned-City.
Opened in 1993, this museum is where you will get to see a large number of memorabilia of President Marcos – from his office setup to his personal things, as dedicated in the Ferdinand Marcos Presidential Center. It is also where you will find the celebrated mausoleum of the 20-year dictator. The Presidential Center is open from 0900 H – 1630 H daily and is located in Barangay 10 N Lacub, Batac City, Ilocos Norte.
Picture-taking inside the mausoleum is strictly prohibited. It is also watched over by guards so might as well keep those cameras before entering. The body inside the glass is just a wax figure of the past President and rumor has it that his real coffin is just below it!
Santa Monica Church and Casa del Palacio Real (convent beside Church)
Believed to be the largest (and the longest) brick church in the entire province of Ilocos Norte, the Santa Monica Church is also rich in history. It was built in 1779 and was first known as San Miguel Church. Around the church’s vicinity also are the 14 Stations of the Cross made from brick. The convent beside it once served as the town’s municipal hall and it also once housed the Colegio de Santa Monica, an affiliate of Lyceo de Manila.
In recent history, the National Museum of the Philippines declared the Church as an “Important Cultural Property” in 2009. Also, if you have watched the movie “Heneral Luna,” a portion of the movie was taped here!
Some of the tourist attractions in Sarrat’s Centro are: Rizal Monument, Fabian Ver House / Villa Ver, Scout Albano Monument, Rit-ritemon Cayong Monument, Vistuario de Sarrat, and newest addition is the Ferdinand Marcos Monument.
The Madongan River Diversion Dam in the Municipality of Dingras is now one of the newest and up-and-coming tourist destinations in Ilocos Norte (located in San Marcelino, Dingras). Although one of the drying dams in the North, the dam’s natural charm captured the people’s wanderlust to try and discover this destination. I can relate the drying dam’s setup to that of Villa Escudero’s man-made falls.
The dam, though, is disputed by the Municipalities of Marcos and Dingras which results in the collection of different rental rates in the vicinity. Rental rates of cottages vary from PhP 200-500 (for a day’s stay) and PhP 500-700 (for an overnight stay). Minimal entrance fees are also collected at PhP 10 each and parking fees at PhP 20-50.
As of writing, there are no firm information if there is a public transportation system into and from the area. So for now, it is better if you have a private vehicle with you. The dam is also 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours away from Laoag City. For more information, click HERE!
Nueva Era Eco Park
Although far from the tourist’s eye, the Nueva Era Eco Park should never be missed. Located in maybe one of the farthest municipalities of Ilocos Norte, the Nueva Era Eco Park has a number of attractions to offer its visitors, too. From their swimming pools, their souvenir shops, museum, dining areas, cottages, and a hanging bridge to name a few, This Eco Park will bring you closer to nature. Opened on January 8, 2014, The Eco Park also features villas of the indigenous Tingguian tribe living in the Municipality. For more information and for reservations, contact Nueva Era’s Tourism Officer, Ria Rivera at +63 915 258 2512.
It is believed to be the largest mall in the province. Now, it is also contested by another mall giant in San Nicolas as well. It is 10 minutes away from Laoag via jeep or tricycle. The mall is open daily from 1000 H – 2100 H.
Blue Lagoon / Hannah’s Beach Resort
It is one of the most celebrated beach shores in Ilocos Norte. 2 hours away from Laoag, the Blue Lagoon (Maira-ira Beach) is where the famous Hannah’s Beach Resort is situated.
|Address:||Sitio Malingay, Brgy. Balaoi, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte|
|Contact Details:||(Mobile) +63 928 520 6255
(Manila Landline) +63 2 806 1477
|Social Media Page/s:||(Website) http://www.hannahsbeachresort.com
It is, if not, the most famous bridge up north. This coastal bridge with a length of 1.3 Kilometers connects the Maharlika Highway linking Cagayan and Ilocos Norte. It is also the 4th longest bridge in the country.
This is the very first wind farm in the province and was installed during the incumbency of Ferdinand Jr. Marcos. The iconic 20-unit wind farm stretches along Bangui Bay’s 9-Kilometer shoreline facing the West Philippine Sea. It provides at least 33 Megawatts of power to the province. If coming from Pagudpud, it is 30 minutes away. It is 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Laoag City.
Kapurpurawan Rock Formations
Famous for its scenic rock formations, the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations are one of the more famous tourist spots in Ilocos Norte. (“Puraw” in Ilocano means “white” in English.) There are also horseback riding services for PhP 100, touring you around the vicinity. It is 30 minutes away from the Bangui Windmills.
It is the Northwestern-most point in the Philippines. The octagon-shaped lighthouse was first lit on March 30, 1892, and can be seen as from the Municipality of Pasuquin and Bangui on a clear day. After over 100 years, it still functions as a welcoming beacon to international ships entering the archipelago. It was declared a National Historical Landmark on August 13, 2004, and a National Cultural Treasure on June 20, 2005. It is located approximately 40 Kilometers north of Laoag City. Upon climbing the lighthouse, you will see a panoramic view of Cape Bojeador and the West Philippine Sea. The site is 20 minutes away from the Rock Formations.
Soon on the blog:
|Balay ti Dingras|
|Josefa Llanes-Escoda Monument|
|Bacarra Church and Belltower|
|Pagburnayan – Barangay 8 – “Alfareira”|
|NWU Eco-Park and Botanical Garden|
|Edralin-Marcos Ancestral House / Museum|
|Dragon Fruit Farms|
|Dos Hermanos Island, Bantay Abot Cave (near Blue Lagoon)|
|Back Weaving Shops|
|Juan Luna House|
|Virgen de Milagrosa Church|
|Luna Shrine / Park|