Philippines //

Northern Luzon

North of Manila, the island of Luzon tempts visitors with some wonderful mountainous areas, volcanic landscapes and a beautiful coastline dotted with heavenly beaches. Heading up the west coast from Subic, the Zambales coast is dotted with laidback resorts, while the Lingayen Gulf is the location of the Hundred Islands – a favourite weekend trip from Manila. Further along the coast, the province of La Union draws visitors particularly for its surfing. North of here is Ilocos Sur, known primarily for the old colonial city of Vigan, where horse-drawn carriages bounce down narrow cobblestone streets. The area around the capital of Ilocos Norte province, Laoag, features a number of sites related to former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was born in the nearby village of Sarrat. And on the northwestern edge of Luzon there are excellent beaches around Pagudpud.

The northeast of the island is one of the archipelago’s least visited wildernesses. Those who head this way usually do so for the excellent surfing on the east coast at Baler, but further north is Palanan – the jump-off point for the barely explored Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. For many visitors, though, the prime attraction in Northern Luzon is the mountainous inland Cordillera region. Highlights here include the mountain village of Sagada with its caves and hanging coffins, and the stunning rice terraces around Banaue and Bontoc. In the village of Kabayan in Benguet province it’s possible to hike up to see mummies, discovered in caves in the early twentieth century. Kabayan also provides access to Mount Pulag, the highest mountain in Luzon. Finally, far off the northern coast lie the scattered islands of Batanes province.