Air travel is the quickest and most efficient way of getting to Ilocos Norte, but it is also the costliest. Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines offer one-hour flights from Manila Domestic Airport to Laoag Airport.
Traveling by bus is longer but more economical. The trip takes about 10 to 12 hours via bus lines like Florida and Partas, so it's best to pick a comfortable seat and bring essentials like food, water, and a travel pillow for the long haul.
Driving to Ilocos Norte cuts the 10 to 12-hour trip to nine hours if you take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
How to Get Around
The jeepney is the cheapest mode of transportation and is highly recommended if you want to commute like a local in Ilocos Norte.
For tourists, tricycles are the most popular means of getting around, especially when trying to get to the remote areas.
What to See
Ilocos Norte is full of wondrous sights that will excite and captivate all kinds of travelers. Whether you are a history buff, a beach bum, or a foodie, you are sure to find what you are looking for during your trip.
The Hispanic churches in Ilocos Norte should definitely be included in your itinerary. Both the St. Augustine's Church in Paoay and the St. William Cathedral in Laoag exhibit magnificent architectures aside from being popular pilgrimage sites. The Paoay Church was constructed in the earthquake baroque style of architecture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the four Baroque Churches in the Philippines. Meanwhile, St. William Cathedral is also majestic, having been built in 1612 by the Augustinians. A unique feature of the church is its separate bell tower known as the Sinking Bell Tower, which slowly sinks into the ground as the years pass.
The beaches of Ilocos Norte are some of the Philippines' best. In the coastal town of Pagudpud, you'll find Saud Beach, which is often referred to as the "Boracay of the North" because of its white sand shores. The Blue Lagoon is another mesmerizing white sand beach with azure waters perfect for taking a dip.
Kabigan Falls is also located in Pagudpud. Go on a trek to this majestic waterfall and reward yourself with a soothing swim in its cool waters. While you're in town, make sure to see the Bantay Abot Cave as well. Although it is called a cave, it is actually just a rock with a hole. Nevertheless, it is a great spot for pictures and gives a marvelous viewpoint of the sea.
Meanwhile, the town of Burgos' most prominent tourist attraction is the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. This giant white rock was formed millions of years ago. Its name was derived from the word puraw, which means "white" in Ilocano.
The iconic 70-meter windmills at Bangui Wind Farm are must-see attractions when in town. The wind farm is the first in Southeast Asia and has been an important source of energy in the province.
Meanwhile, the Patapat Viaduct is the place to be if you want to enjoy a marvelous view of the coast. It is a popular site for photo ops and sightseeing.
If you would like to experience the more adventurous side of Ilocos Norte, then sandboarding at the La Paz Sand Dunes is definitely a must. You can also explore this desert safari using ATVs. Hannah's Beach Resort in Pagudpud is another place to get your adrenaline fix. It boasts many attractions like different rides and watersports but their zip-line is one of the highlights. It is said to be the longest overwater zip-line in the world.
There are multiple historical attractions in Ilocos Norte if you want to go on a heritage tour. One of them is the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in the town of Burgos. This lighthouse, which was constructed during the Spanish era, is declared a National Cultural Treasure in 2004. It is visited for its eerily marvelous structure. Aside from this, you can visit the numerous museums dedicated to the Marcoses in Ilocos Norte. There's the Malacañang of the North in Paoay, a former holiday residence of the Marcos family. In addition, the Marcos Museum in Batac has many memorabilia on display. Connected to the museum is the mausoleum of the late President Ferdinand Marcos where you can see his preserved body encased in a glass coffin.
Events and Festivals
There are many festivals in the province of Ilocos Norte. One of the most popular is Laoag City's Pamulinawen Festival which is held every February in honor of the city's patron saint, St. William the Hermit. It features grand parades, street dances, and food and trade expos.
Another is the Guling-Guling Festival in Paoay, which is held annually before Ash Wednesday. This festival was started by Spanish friars during the colonial period as a means of interacting with parishioners. Residents engage in all sorts of fun activities such as dances, parades, food festivals, and basi or rice wine drinking activities.
Batac's town fiesta, also known as the Immaculate Conception feast, is another event to watch out for. It takes place every December and highlights the Empanada Festival to showcase their native delicacy. You can also expect street dances and food festivals in this event.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Fast food chains like Jollibee and McDonald's also have branches in Ilocos Norte.
When in Ilocos Norte, don't miss out on trying delicious Ilocano cuisine such as pinakbet, poqui-poqui, and bagnet. In Laoag, the popular Ilocano restaurants include La Preciosa Restaurant and Saramsam Ylocano, where you can order the famous pinakbet pizza.
Like most coastal towns, Pagudpud's specialties are its seafood dishes. La Cocina de Consuelo and Saud Beach Resort's Restaurant offers you an array of delectable seafood dishes.
Aside from Ilocano and Filipino food, you can also enjoy German cuisine at Bergblick Restaurant in Pagudpud, Chinese food at Red 8 in Laoag, and American dishes at Macy's Diner in Laoag as well.
Ilocos Norte also offers delicious empanada that will definitely give Vigan's version a run for their money. There are many road side stalls that offer this delicious Ilocano treat but to some, Batac's version is the most delicious.
Where to Shop
Robinsons Place Ilocos Norte in the town of San Nicolas is the primary shopping mall in the province.
Laoag Market is a one-stop shop for Ilocano delicacies and pasalubong. You can buy packs of Laoag longganisa, bagnet, strings of garlic and onions, and even basi.
You'll find many souvenir stalls outside tourist attractions like Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. They sell "Ilocos" merchandise such as keychains, T-shirts, and even miniature windmills.
ATMs and Money Changers
You'll find several branches of banks and ATMs in Ilocos Norte. There are also some money changers, pawnshops, and remittance centers available.
Fare: PHP 700.00 to PHP 1,000 (By bus); 4,000.00++ (By plane).
Bus fares depend on the amenities. For instance, Florida Bus Line offers the "sleeper" bus option with full-reclining chairs so guests can sleep comfortably on the trip. The fare costs about PHP 1,000.00 as compared to the standard ones that start from PHP 700.00. Meanwhile, airfare starts at PHP 4,000.00 but you can get discounts whenever there's a seat sale.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
Enjoy a meal at a carinderia for as low as PHP 50.00. Meanwhile, restaurant meals cost PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00 on average.
Shopping: PHP 50.00 to PHP 500.00
Small items like keychains and fridge magnets sell for less than PHP 50.00. Meanwhile, a T-shirt costs about PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00, depending on the design.
For food products, you can buy one kilo of Laoag longganisa for about PHP 300.00 and one kilo of bagnet for PHP 500.00 at Laoag Market.
Accommodation: PHP 1,000.00 to PHP 4,000.00
Hotels and beach resorts are the popular accommodations in Ilocos Norte. The cheapest room you can get for an overnight stay costs PHP 1,000.00 for two people.
Activities: PHP 30.00 to PHP 500.00
Visiting the museums is the cheapest activity in Ilocos Norte since you only have to pay for the entrance fees: only PHP 30.00 for Malacañang of the North and PHP 50.00 for Marcos Museum and Mausoleum.
Meanwhile, for adventure activities, the zip-line ride at Hannah's Beach Resort costs PHP 700.00. The sandboarding adventure good for five persons is priced at PHP 2,500.00. If you're going to trek to Kabig Falls, you'll have to pay a guide fee of about PHP 100.00.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 200.00 ++
Laoag Airport charges a terminal fee of PHP 200.00 for local flights and PHP 700.00 for international flights.
||Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Jollibee or any fast food chain.
||After your meal, head to Pagudpud.
||Visit the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.
||Snap photos of the mesmerizing rock formations of Kapurpurawan.
||Marvel at the Bangui Windmills.
||Have a photo op at the Patapat Viaduct.
||Explore Bantay Abot Cave.
||Have lunch at Saud Beach Resort Restaurant.
||Trek to Kabigan Falls.
||Go beach bumming in Blue Lagoon.
||Enjoy sandboarding at the La Paz sand dunes.
||Enjoy a sumptuous dinner at Bergblick.
||Have breakfast at any of the carinderias.
||Visit Paoay Church.
||Tour around the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum.
||Pay Malacañang of the North a visit.
||Head to Laoag Public Market and buy some pasalubong.
||Have lunch at Saramsam Ylocano.
||Depart Ilocos Norte for Metro Manila.
There are only two seasons in the Philippines: the dry season which runs from December until May and the wet season which runs from June to November. Most tourists prefer to visit during the dry season so they can fully enjoy their tour without the disturbance of downpours.
Don't forget to bring medicine, first aid supplies, and insect repellent whenever you travel. Should you be in need of any medical assistance, there are hospitals and clinics in Ilocos Norte that you can visit such as the Laoag City General Hospital, the Vintar District Hospital, and the Bangui District Hospital.
While Ilokano is widely used in the province, residents can also understand Tagalog and English. But if you want to converse with the locals in their native tongue, here are a few useful Ilokano phrases and sentences you can use:
Good morning/afternoon/evening.- Naimbag a bigat/ a malem/a rabii.
How do I go to…?- Kasano ti mapan idiay…?
How much? - Manu?
Thank you. Agyamanak.
While the practice is not customary, you can leave a tip as you please. Most people would give small bills like PHP 20.00 or PHP 50.00.
Safety and Security
Make sure to always be aware of your surroundings and to keep your valuables in a safe place. While Ilocos Norte may generally be a safe place, it's always better to be vigilant.