Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte are parts of the Ilocos Region (with the provinces of La Union and Pangasinan) and located in the northwest coast of the Philippines. When tourists say Ilocos, they usually refer to these two charming provinces. Some of the popular attractions here include the 16th-century churches (some are UNESCO-listed like the St Paul’s Catheral in Vigan, St Augustin’s Church in Paoay and the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Sta Maria); exquisite natural wonders like beaches, falls, mountains, rock formations and sand dunes; food like bagnet, pinakbet, igado, dinakdakan, longganisa and chichacorn; and charming festivals such as the Raniag Festival of Vigan and Pamulinawen Festival of Laoag.
But have you seen the most wonderful places in these provinces? Let me give you nine (yes, nine) places to get you started with your Ilocos trip.
1. Bangui, Ilocos Norte. You may want to include this in your itinerary for its windmills. There are also windmills in Pililla, Rizal, very near from Manila, but they are not as picturesque as those in Bangui. The alignment of the Bangui Windmills makes it perfect for picture-taking, plus a gorgeous backdrop of blue sea and its roaring waves.
2. Burgos, Ilocos Norte. The Kapurpurawan Rocks are unique rock formations in the coast of this town. It used to be bigger than how it appears today. So better visit it before it vanishes.
3. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. This sleepy town is popular among foreign and local tourists for its white sand beaches. Another thing that makes it popular is windsurfing and kiteboarding, which are not affordable. The basic course, per website of the Kingfisher Resort, costs around 2,000 pesos.
4. Paoay, Ilocos Norte. This town hosts the UNESCO-listed St Augustine’s Church, or more popularly known as Paoay Church, pinakbet pizza and Paoay Lake. It is also the site of another growing sport/activity in the region – sandboarding and 4×4 ride to the sand dunes.
5. Solsona, Ilocos Norte. This town is popular among the mountaineers as it takes pride for having the highest peak in the Ilocos Region – Mount Sicapoo. This mountain belongs to the elite class of mountains with 9/9-level of difficulty to hike. According to Pinoymountaineer.com, the mountain has “treacherous parts such as the summit ascent; the steep ridges; and the river crossings where sudden flashfloods could occur.”
6. Cabugao, Ilocos Sur. This town, which is not yet popular among travellers, served as the main gateway of Ilocano farm workers in Hawaii in the yesteryears. They were known as sakadas. This town also has the Kido’s Point, a surfing spot on this side of the planet. It also takes pride in having the Pug-os Beach facing the West Philippine Sea. If you are lucky, then you can get to see the locals making fine salt from the very sand of this beach.
7. Sta Maria, Ilocos Sur. The churches in the Ilocos Region make up for a very good Visita Iglesia, a tradition of visiting and praying in churches during the Catholic celebration of Holy Week. One of the more popular churches in this region is the UNESCO-listed Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, with its granite stairs and massive walls.
8. Santa, Ilocos Sur. This town is unknown to travelers. If you remember from your Ilocos trip a picturesque bridge “connecting” two mountains with a wide river under it, then this town is before that bridge (if you’re coming from Manila). Not known to everybody is that Ilocos has its own local green grapes, which are grown in this sleepy town.
9. Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Of course, the last spot is reserved for the Queen City of the Ilocos Region. For my other post on this New Wonder City, please click here.