The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

When my dear friends Tom and Kai told me they wanted to spend their honeymoon in the Philippines, the first places that came to mind were El Nido and Boracay. A place where newlyweds could bury their toes in the sand and sip cocktails all day sounded like the right place to go. But when Tom told me they were looking for adventure over Sex on the Beach (pun intended), I knew exactly where to take them instead – Sagada.

A small mountain town of a little over 11,000 people, the first time I visited Sagada was fifteen years ago. My sister and I took a backpacking trip up north and this sleepy town famous for its hanging coffins was one of our first stops. I’ve always preferred mountains over beaches so I instantly fell in love with the place. Known for its limestone mountains and forested valleys, Sagada has been described as the “the shire of the Philippines”. In fact, that’s the first thing another friend of mine observed when he first visited Sagada. “It doesn’t feel like the Philippines”, he said, looking around in amazement. “I feel like I’m in Lord of the Rings!” He should know, he’s from New Zealand.

I’ve been back to Sagada a few times since that first trip. Some by myself, other times with Ren, and most recently with a pair of Japanese newlyweds who shared the same passion for the mountains as I did. Sagada may not be the first place you think of when planning a honeymoon, but when Tom told me they wanted adventure, I knew it was the right place to take them.

GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. What’s in Sagada?
  2. Best Time to Visit
  3. How to Get there from Manila
  4. How Long to Stay
  5. How Much Money to Bring
  6. Where to Stay
  1. Where to Go / What to Do
  2. Where to Eat
  3. Sample 3D/2N Itinerary
  4. What to Buy
  5. Travel Tips
  6. Around Sagada

WHAT’S IN SAGADA?

Sagada is a municipality in Mountain Province, Philippines. Apart from its hanging coffins, it’s known for its caves, waterfalls, limestone mountains, and hill-tribe atmosphere. Due in part to its remote location in the Central Cordillera Mountains, it was left relatively untouched by conquistadores during the Spanish era. A Spanish mission wasn’t founded in Sagada until 1882, resulting in one of the few places in the Philippines that’s preserved its indigenous culture with little Spanish influence.

BEST TIME TO VISIT SAGADA

Like the rest of the Philippines, Sagada has two seasons – rainy (May-Oct) and dry (Nov-Apr). Being a mountain town, it enjoys milder weather with year round temperatures at around 19°C (66°F).

NOV-FEB: The best time to go to Sagada is from November to February. The weather is cool and dry with average temperatures at around 21-23°C (70-73°F). We haven’t participated but late December brings with it the added bonus of the annual bonfire festival (one night between Christmas and New Year) so that may be a festive time to visit. Similarly, the town fiesta is held during the first week of February so that may be another fun time to go.

MAR-APR: From March to April is when the rice terraces in Sagada are at their greenest. However, it also gets warm and dusty during these months. Like anywhere in the Philippines, Holy Week is the busiest time in Sagada so avoid that time if you dislike crowds. On top of that, Sagada has been known to experience water shortages during dry and peak seasons.

MAY-JUL: Though it isn’t hot compared to the rest of the Philippines, these are the warmest months of the year in Sagada with average temperatures at about 25°C (77°F). The rains begin to fall more regularly during this time as well. Typhoon season in the Philippines typically begins in June.

AUG-OCT: From July to August is the height of typhoon season in the Philippines. Landslides are more frequent at this time so it’s best to avoid these months if you can. On top of that, it would be dangerous to enter Sumaguing Cave during rainy season since water levels can rise very quickly during a storm. Typhoons become less frequent in September and October though the rain doesn’t taper off until November.

I’ve been to Sagada several times. I’ve been there more than once in January and also in May. Unless it’s Holy Week or typhoon season, there’s really no bad time to go to Sagada in my opinion. With that said, I do firmly believe that November to February is ideal. Sagada is a mountain town so its best to experience it at its coldest.

HOW TO GET TO SAGADA FROM MANILA

Sagada isn’t the easiest place to get to. It entails going on long bus rides on mountain passes that are twisty and often very bumpy. Up until a few years ago, there weren’t any direct buses to Sagada so travelers had to go through either Banaue or Baguio to get there, which is fine because Sagada is often paired with trips to those destinations as well. The entire trip will take around 12-13 hours.

To give you a better understanding of where all these places are in relation to one another, I’ve included the map below borrowed from the Bisayang Manlalakbay blog.

The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Direct from Quezon City

Thanks to Coda Lines, trips to Sagada are now much easier. As far as I know, they’re the only bus company offering direct trips to Sagada from Manila. The terminal is in Quezon City and the fare costs PHP 720 each way. This is by far the easiest way to get to Sagada from Manila. Buses leave from their terminal near St. Luke’s Hospital in New Manila (277 E Rodriquez Sr. Ave, Cathedral Heights) at 9PM daily. I’ve never gone direct before but I’m guessing that the entire trip lasts around 13 hours.

For reservations, you can call Coda Lines at 0927-559-2197 or send them an email at codalinescorp@gmail.com. You can also visit their website or Facebook page to make bookings. Another way to make bus reservations is to book your ticket through 12Go Asia. It’s a popular transportation website that services many destinations in Southeast Asia. You’ll be happy to know that Coda Lines offers return trips to Quezon City as well, leaving Sagada at 2PM daily.

Via Banaue

If you’d rather go via Banaue, then the first leg of your trip will be a 9-10 hr overnight Ohayami Trans bus to Banaue. It leaves at 10PM daily (and 9PM during peak seasons) from the Ohayami station near UST (Lacson Avenue cor. Fajardo Street). The fare is PHP 490 each way and it gets you into Banaue at 7AM the next day. Buses get full, especially during peak seasons, so be sure to reserve your ticket in advance to guarantee yourself a seat. You can visit the Ohayami Trans website for information on how to reserve a ticket. Alternatively, you can book advanced tickets through 12Go Asia as well.

From Banaue, you have three options to get to Sagada (ranked from cheapest to most expensive):

OPTION 1: You can take a 2-hr van to Bontoc for PHP 150. I’ve never taken this route personally so I don’t know what time and from where the van leaves, but you can ask around and people will direct you to the stop. From Bontoc, you can then take a public jeep to Sagada. The 45-min ride costs PHP 45 each way with jeeps leaving every half hour or so from 8:30AM until 5:30PM.

OPTION 2: I’ve read that there are vans which take you directly to Sagada from Banaue. Soon as you arrive in Banaue, you’ll be approached by locals asking if you’re interested in van transfers to Sagada. The van leaves at 9AM near the Banaue Tourism Office and the fare costs PHP 300 each way. I believe the van makes quick stops at one (maybe more) tourist spots along the way.

OPTION 3: If there are enough people in your group, you can hire an entire jeep to take you straight to Sagada from Banaue. I did this over 10 years ago and it cost PHP 4,000 to rent the entire jeep. I believe it still costs PHP 4,000 today. A straight 3-hr journey, this is the fastest and most convenient way to go if you can divide the cost between enough people.

If you’d like to go back to Banaue from Sagada, then please refer to my Batad Travel Guide for more information.

Via Baguio

Many bus companies take you to Baguio from Manila, but I prefer Victory Liner. They have buses leaving for Baguio every hour for 24 hours from their four terminals in Manila (Manila, Pasay, Cubao, Caloocan). A 5-6 hr trip, the fare from Pasay costs PHP 455 each way. Buses get full, especially during peak seasons, so be sure to reserve your ticket in advance to guarantee yourself a seat. You can visit the Victory Liner website for terminal and reservation information.

If you plan on going straight to Sagada soon as you arrive in Baguio, then I suggest taking the 11PM from Manila. This will get you into Baguio at around 5AM. From the Victory Liner station, take a taxi to the GL Liner Station in Baguio Dangwa Terminal. The taxi fare should run you around PHP 70. Be sure to tell the driver that you’re taking a bus to Sagada in case the terminal has moved.

Buses to Sagada leave every hour from 6:30-11:30AM, with the last bus departing at 1PM. Roughly a 6-hr ride, the fare is PHP 220 each way. If you can catch the 6:30AM, then you should arrive in Sagada in time for lunch.

To go back to Baguio from Sagada, you can catch the bus from the lot near St. Mary’s Church. The first bus departs at 5AM, then every hour on the hour from 7-10AM, with the last bus leaving at 12:30PM.

HOW LONG TO STAY

Though you’ll only need a few days to visit all of its attractions, Sagada is one of those places where you can stay for weeks doing little more than soaking up the cool mountain air. It’s inexpensive, even by Philippine standards, so you can pretty much stay as long as you like. I stayed for a week and a half once just reading and walking around. I enjoyed every minute of it.

For most travelers, 3 days should be enough to see all the major sights. You can refer to our 3D2N sample itinerary to help plan your trip. As previously mentioned, Sagada is often paired with a trip to Banaue, Baguio, or Bontoc, so you may want to plan your trip with those other destinations in mind. Check out my First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Batad — home of Banaue’s most beautiful rice terraces — for more information.

HOW MUCH MONEY TO BRING

As mentioned above, Sagada is cheap. If you’re taveling with one other person and hiring guides to all the major sights, then you’ll be fine with a budget of around PHP 1,500-2,000 per day. This takes into account your hotel, guide fees, 3 daily meals, and some light shopping. The more people in your group, the cheaper it will be since the guide and transportation fees will be divided between more people. If you choose to walk to the attractions and guide yourselves (except Sumaguing Cave), then your daily expenses will be considerably less.

Please be advised that Sagada is a cash only town. As far as I know, establishments still do not accept credit cards nor are there any money changers around. There’s just one ATM there (which I’ve never tried to use) so be sure to bring enough cash to fund your trip.

WHERE TO STAY IN SAGADA: Lodge Labanet

At the time of this writing, Lodge Labanet was one of the newest hotels in Sagada. In fact, it was still being finished when we stayed there. Owned by the popular George Guesthouse, it’s about a 5-10 minute walk from the tourism office. You’ll see it on your right going towards Sumaguing Cave. A room with private bathroom goes for just PHP 300 per person. As you can see below, rooms are basic but spacious and clean. Every room has a balcony and there’s free wifi in the lobby. To reserve, call or text +63 920-948-3133 / +63 920-948-3133.

Alternatively, you can look for Sagada accommodations on Booking.com, Agoda, or AirBnB. It’s a small town so it doesn’t really matter where you stay. If you’re new to AirBnB, then you can get USD 22 free travel credit via THIS LINK.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Approximate Room Rate: PHP 300 per person (with bathroom, as of September 2017)

WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO DO IN SAGADA

Soon as you arrive in Sagada, the first thing you should do is register at the tourism office and pay the PHP 35 environmental fee. They’ll give you a receipt which you should keep with you during your entire stay in Sagada. You may be asked to present it before entering many of the sites listed below.

Listed below are the most popular activities in Sagada. For the complete list of attractions with guide and transportation fees, then you can check out this list of Sagada tours borrowed from the Sagada Tourism Facebook page.

1. Go Spelunking in Sumaguing Cave

Far and away the most frequented destination in Sagada, Sumaguing Cave is an awe-inspiring cave system that will simultaneously amaze and test you. Popular for its stunning rock formations and potential for danger, this cave is an absolute must-do for any first-time visitor to Sagada.

Sumaguing Cave is a lot of fun but be warned that it can be dangerous so it should NEVER be attempted without a guide. It’s pitch black and many of the rocks are very slippery. Losing your balance and hurting yourself is a real possibility. Apart from keeping your balance and watching your step, it isn’t physically demanding but it does have its challenges (ie rapelling up and down a 10-ft rope).

To go, register at the tourism office and hire a guide for PHP 500 (up to 4 pax). The entire caving experience will take at least 2 hrs. You’ll be wading through chest-high waters so be prepared to get wet. Flip-flops are recommended.

For the more adventurous and physically fit, you can do the advanced Lumiang-Sumaguing cave connection route for PHP 800 (up to 2 pax, +PHP 400 for each additional guest). This is a 4-5 hr test of endurance and flexibility that will take you much deeper into the cave system.

Check out my post on Sumaguing Cave in Sagada for more information.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Estmated Time Needed: 1.5 – 2 hrs / Fitness Level: Moderate / Guide Fee: PHP 500 (up to 4 pax)

2. Visit the Hanging Coffins of Echo Valley

After Sumaguing Cave, the hanging coffins are the second most popular attraction in Sagada and another must-do for first-time travelers. It’s pretty amazing to see them up close, especially the ones perched high up on the side of the rock!

To get to the coffins, go to St. Mary’s Church and the cemetery. Walk past the cemetery and make your way down into the valley. From the top, it’ll be a relatively easy 15-20 min hike to the coffins. The coffins are easy enough to find on your own, but it is possible to get lost in the valley. For your own safety and peace of mind, you may want to hire a guide from the tourism office for just PHP 200 (up to 10 pax).

Check out my post on Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins of Sagada for more pictures and information.
Echo Valley and its Hanging Coffins, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Estmated Time Needed: 1 – 1.5 hrs / Fitness Level: Low / Guide Fee: PHP 200 (up to 10 pax)

3. Go for a Swim at Bomod-ok Waterfalls

I’ve been to Sagada five times but I have never been to Bomod-ok Falls. I’ve tried twice, but both times the falls were closed for a ritual. Bummer.

Also known locally as the “Big Falls”, you need to first make your way to the information center in Barangay Banga-an. It’s about an hour’s walk from St. Mary’s Church. It’s a nice, leisurely walk with good scenery, but you may want to hire a van considering that the next half of the trek involves a shitload of steps. You can arrange for a van at the tourism office for PHP 650 round trip.

Once at the Banga-an information center, you can hire a guide for PHP 500 (up to 10 pax). You’ll then begin the hour-long trek down to the falls where you can go for a swim in the freezing waters if you like. I’ve read that the way there is fairly easy. It’s the trek back up all those steps that’s tough.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Estmated Time Needed: 4-5 hrs / Fitness Level: Moderate / Guide Fee: PHP 500 (up to 10 pax) / Transportation: PHP 650

20111031-DSC_4161.jpg” by jojo nicdao , used under CC BY 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom

4. Play Tomb Raider at Lumiang Burial Cave

Lumiang Burial Cave is located just a few meters before Sumaguing Cave. At its mouth is a pile of stacked coffins that are different from the ones you see hanging in Echo Valley. Apart from the big pile on the ground, many are wedged high up in cracks that run along the cave’s walls. It makes you wonder how on earth the locals got them up there!

As mentioned earlier, there’s a more advanced spelunking route called the Lumiang-Sumaguing cave connection that starts here.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Estmated Time Needed: 30 mins – 1 hr / Fitness Level: Low / Guide Fee: None

5. Go Orange Picking at Rock Inn

I’ve never done this but orange picking at Rock Inn & Cafe is another popular activity in Sagada. From September to February, you can pick and eat as many oranges as you like within 30 minutes for PHP 50. If you want to bring them home, then you can do so for PHP 60 per kilo. The oranges are said to be at their best in December.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Estmated Time Needed: 30 mins – 1 hr / Cost: PHP 50 (30 mins)

Orange Picking” by kurohime03, used under CC BY-ND 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom, cropped

6. Watch the Sunrise at Kiltepan Viewpoint

Kiltepan Viewpoint is a terrific way to start your day in Sagada. The highest point in the area, it’s known for its breathtaking views of the sun rising from behind the Cordillera mountains over an ocean of clouds. Made famous (or infamous) by that Tadhana movie, the spot has been flooded with tourists lately so this may be an activity best enjoyed during the off or shoulder seasons. Around 4 km from town, vans can be arranged at the tourism office for PHP 500 round trip. They’ll pick you up from your hotel at 5AM.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Estmated Time Needed: Around 1 hr / Transportation: PHP 500 (up to 10 pax)

Start Of A New Day” by Paul David , used under CC BY-ND 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom, removed watermark

7. Enjoy the Trek to Lake Danum

Save this trek for last and do it only if you have time to spare. About an hour’s trek each way, the lake itself is nothing to be excited about. It’s pretty shitty to be honest. But the walk there is beautiful and very relaxing. I’ve done this trek several times just because I enjoy the walk so much.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Estmated Time Needed: 2 hrs / Fitness Level: Low / Guide Fee: None / Transportation: PHP 550 (up to 10 pax)




WHERE TO EAT IN SAGADA

With Sagada being so remote, supplies are limited. Pretty much all restaurants here offer the same things so don’t expect too much variety (or any seafood). With that said, food is cheap and decent, and often served in big portions to satisfy hungry trekkers. Expect to spend around PHP 300 per meal with drinks.

1. Yoghurt House

This is still my favorite place in Sagada. When I used to come here over 10 years ago, there was only one floor and Bob Marley’s Legend was always playing on the stereo. Today, it looks more like a proper restaurant, complete with a second floor and balcony seating. Not quite the hippy hangout it used to be but still with its charms. Be sure to get one of their yoghurt lassis. They’re really good.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Open-faced sandwiches and their famous yoghurt lassi
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

2. Salt & Pepper Diner

Located on the second floor, Salt & Pepper Diner is a little hard to spot so watch out for the sign pictured below. Be sure to order the dinakiw (scroll down).
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

A pan-fried pork dish served with lots of onions, dinakiw is fatty and a little unctuous but very good.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

3. Sagada Brew

One of Sagada’s most modern-looking restaurants, Sagada Brew serves some of the best coffee and desserts in town. They offer a lot of savory items on their menu too.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Coffee and ultra-sweet desserts. 😆
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

4. Sagada Lemon Pie House

The Lemon Pie House is best known for one thing. Can you guess what it is? 🙂 They offer a few savory dishes here as well but people really come here for the lemon pie. It was pretty good.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

When life gives you lemons, you make lemon pie.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

5. Masferre Country Inn & Restaurant

Like Yoghurt House, Masferre is another Sagada dinosaur. It’s been around forever. They bake their own breads here so be sure to get a sandwich. The bread is delicious.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

SAMPLE 3D/2N SAGADA ITINERARY

As previously described, Sagada is cheap and relaxing so you can easily spend weeks here at a time. Most people don’t have that luxury though so if you only have time for the best of Sagada, then I’d say 3D2N is enough. It will give you enough time to see all the major sights. Here’s a sample itinerary to help you plan your trip.

DAY 1

Around 11AM – Arrive in Sagada. Register at the tourism office and check in to your hotel.
12NN-1PM – Have lunch.
1:30-4:30PM – Make a quick stop at Lumiang Burial Cave en route to Sumaguing Cave. Be sure to hire a guide at the tourism office before entering Sumaguing Cave.
6-7PM – Have dinner and relax in the evening.

DAY 2

5-6:30AM – Go to Kiltepan Viewpoint to watch the sunrise. Be sure to arrange for pickup and transportation the day before.
7:30-8:30AM – Have breakfast.
9-10AM – Go orange picking at Rock Inn.
10-11:30AM – Visit the hanging coffins of Echo Valley.
12NN-1PM – Have lunch.
1-5PM – Visit Bomod-ok Waterfalls. Be sure to ask first if the waterfalls are open to the public. If not, then you can take a leisurely walk to Lake Danum instead.
6-7PM – Have dinner and relax in the evening.

DAY 3

7-8AM – Have breakfast. Say goodbye to Sagada.

WHAT TO BUY

If you’re looking to bring back souvenirs and pasalubong (homecoming gifts), then I suggest picking up a few bags of mountain tea. I’m not a tea drinker but this was really good. It was aromatic and very soothing. If I remember correctly, the big bags went for PHP 100 apiece.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Woven bags with that signature pattern
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

TRAVEL TIPS

1. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device

If you’re a foreigner traveling in the Philippines, then a pocket wifi device will come in very handy. Many public places like your hotel and cafes do have free wifi but the connection isn’t as good nor as reliable. For that reason, I suggest renting a pocket wifi device so you have uninterrupted wifi access at all times.

You can rent a device from Konbini Rentals for PHP 450/day. It’ll give you wifi speeds of up to 42 mbps and allow you to connect up to 10 devices. They’ll deliver the wifi device to any hotel in the Philippines a day before you arrive. The package comes with bubble wrap and a self-addressed plastic envelope so you can drop it off at the front desk of your last hotel before leaving the Philippines. Very convenient indeed. Follow the link to rent a pocket wifi device from Konbini Rentals.
Konbini Rentals

I was happy to learn that Smart Communications, one of the country’s leading wireless service providers, recently started a pocket wifi rental service called GoLocal. I haven’t used it yet but Smart is a good company and their rental prices are less than Konbini. They don’t follow the traditional per day rental scheme either. Instead, you can rent a device in 1-day, 7-day, and 15-day bundles for USD 5.99, USD 14.99, and USD 24.99 respectively. You have up to 3 days of the end of your rental period to return the device and get your USD 45 deposit back. Conveniently, they offer airport pick-up and drop-off as well on top of Metro Manila hotel delivery. You can follow this link to learn more and rent a pocket wifi device from GoLocal.

2. Get Travel Insurance

If you’re a non-Filipino, then I strongly suggest you get travel insurance before visiting Sagada or anywhere else in the Philippines for that matter. The fact is, you never know what can happen. In a place like Sumaguing Cave where you can easily lose your footing, having travel insurance will be a godsend.

We buy travel insurance from World Nomads because every long-term traveler I know recommends it. From the sound of it, they’re the best in the industry by a mile. Not only do they provide a high coverage limit for medical expenses (up to USD 5 million with the Standard package), they also cover things like trip delays, missed flight connections, theft/loss of passport and luggage, etc. Follow this link to learn more and get a free travel insurance quote from World Nomads. It’s super quick and easy.

3. Buy Your Bus Tickets in Advance

If you’re coming from Manila, then you’ll be riding a Coda Lines, Ohayami Trans, or Victory Liner bus en route to Sagada. Be sure to reserve your ticket in advance to guarantee yourself a seat. If you’re going directly to Sagada, then go to the Coda Lines website to book tickets. If you’re traveling through Banaue, then you can visit the Ohayami Trans Website for information on how to reserve a ticket. If you’re going through Baguio, then check the Victory Liner Website for ticket and terminal information.

4. Register & Hire Guides Only from the Tourism Office

As previously advised, the first thing you should do upon arriving in Sagada is to register at the tourism office and pay the one-time environmental fee of PHP 35. This will go towards the preservation of the environment.

By law, tourists are required to hire guides only through the tourism office. That way they have a record of where you are to better ensure your safety. If I understand correctly, the guides here are on a rotation basis to make it fair for everyone. Don’t mess up their system and put yourself in danger by hiring unregistered guides. Because if something happens to you, then they may have no way of helping you if they don’t have a record of your whereabouts.

5. Bring Cash, Towels, and a Flashlight

Sagada is a small town with no money changers and just one ATM. No establishment accepts credit cards or traveller’s cheques either, so be sure to bring enough cash to fund your trip. Also, hotels in my experience do not provide any amenities like towels, soap, or shampoo. You can bring these or buy them in town. A flashlight could also come in handy should you find yourself still out after nightfall.

6. Prepare Properly for Sumaguing Cave

Do not, I repeat DO NOT, enter Sumaguing Cave unguided. As described earlier in this post, it’s very dangerous to attempt on your own so be sure to register and get a guide at the tourism office. You’ll definitely get wet so wear flip-flops and shorts. Anything valuable like your wallet or cellphone should be kept in a Ziploc bag so they don’t get wet. For your safety, it’s best to have both hands free since many parts of the cave are slippery.

7. Be Back Before Sunset

Be sure to start your treks as early as possible so you can make it back before nightfall. There are no lightposts along these roads and trails, making them difficult and even dangerous to walk on at night.

8. Please Don’t Eat Pinikpikan

A Cordillera delicacy, the word pinikpikan stems from the Ilocano word pikpik, which means “to hit repeatedly”. It entails slowly beating a live chicken with a stick to break its bones and clot its blood before dismemberment. Known colloquially in English as “killing me softly” chicken, the practice is said to tenderize the meat and make it tastier.

I went camping with a pair of Thai filmmakers I had met in Sagada once, and this was one of the dishes that their local guides prepared. To me, it tasted no different than regular chicken. I understand that pinikpikan is a local custom, but it’s also a brutal practice that inflicts much suffering to the animal. I’m an advocate for the humane treatment and killing of animals for food, so tradition or not, this isn’t a dish that I can easily stomach. 😥

9. Be Respectful, Don’t Litter, Do Conserve Water

When visiting the hanging coffins, caves, or waterfalls, please keep your voices down and pick up after yourselves. Many of these sites are sacred to the locals so always be respectful. And speaking of the locals, don’t take pictures of anyone without their permission. They aren’t animals in a zoo. Duh.

Sagada has seen a massive influx of local tourists since that Tadhana movie. While great for the local economy, it hasn’t been so good for the environment. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating to see how many tourists just leave their trash everywhere, even inside Sumaguing Cave! Enjoy Sagada but please do so respectfully and responsibly. We Filipinos need to start taking better care of our environment.

Lastly, water is often scarce in Sagada, especially during dry and peak seasons. If you’re visiting during that time, or any time for that matter, then please be mindful of the water situation and use only what you need.

AROUND SAGADA

I always find it frustrating how difficult it is to capture the feel of a place in one photograph. It’s so hard to do, at least for amateurs like me. I can be looking at a scene, completely overwhelmed by its beauty, only to find that my picture hardly encapsulates the essence of what I was just looking at. Sucks.

Sagada is one of those places that has a mystique and allure that goes beyond what most pictures can capture. It feels like you’re in a different world when you’re there. Since I can’t capture that feeling with just one picture, perhaps I can do a better job with several. I hope these pictures give you a feel for the shire-like beauty of Sagada.
The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

The First-Timer's Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

Have fun!

I’m not an expert on Sagada but I do hope that you find this post useful. I’m only sharing some of the things that I’ve learned from my trips. If you have any suggestions or simply want to share your own experiences, then please feel free to do so in the comments section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well. We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the cool mountain atmosphere of Sagada!

OUR GEAR

These are some of the things we brought with us to Sagada. As you can tell, I document a lot of content for this blog so most of the things I bring are photo and video equipment. 😆 If you’d like to see what other gear we use, then you can check out our “What’s in Our Backpack?” post. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon affiliate links.)

Disclosure

Some of the links in this guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase at NO extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!

JB Macatulad

JB Macatulad

JB is one half of Will Fly for Food and its chief itinerary maker.  He's the one to blame for all the crappy photos and verbal diarrhea on this blog.  Don't listen to him.
JB Macatulad


There are 24 comments for this article
  1. Nick castillo at 11:16 am

    Very informative and comprehensive presentation. I plan to go there tuloy. Ty

  2. Bambi at 6:48 pm

    Very informative. Hopefully I can visit Sagada one of these days.

  3. Nash Galaggher at 9:49 pm

    Hi. Great read. I don’t see how you are frustrated with how you feel like failing to capture the feel of the scenery because your photos definitely gave me “the feels.” Maybe it’s not exactly the same with how you expect from your photos, but this post overall definitely help me decide Sagada is the place for my soul searching.

    Also, you mentioned you stayed there for a week or so. Did you stay at one place? Would it be possible to find a that I can like book for a week and get a cheaper deal?

    Also I’m thinking of camping as well to save some costs. Do you think Sagada is ideal for camping? So far I’ve research I can set camp at a lake around 2km from town and the kiltepan peak. Any suggestions?

  4. JB Macatulad at 1:04 pm

    Hi Nash, thanks for the comment and the kind words. Much appreciated! 🙂

    Yes, I did stay at one place. I stayed at St. Joseph’s Resthouse which is one of the first guesthouses in Sagada. It was really cheap at the time, around PHP 150 if I remember correctly, for a single with communal bathroom. Not sure how much it is now but I don’t imagine it being much more than that. You may want to call and ask if they offer discounts for longer term stays.

    I have been camping there once but it was a spur of the moment thing. I met a pair of Thai filmmakers on the way there and they invited me to stay at their camp for a night. I don’t remember where we set up camp or know how much everything cost because they didn’t charge me for anything. It was a great experience though so yes, I would say Sagada is definitely ideal for camping. Wherever you decide to stay, perhaps you can ask your hotel for more information on camping.

    In any case, I hope that helps and enjoy soul searching in Sagada! It’s definitely the right place for that. 🙂

  5. Toni C. at 4:49 am

    Hi! I’m planning on going to Sagada by the end of the month as a solo female traveler. is it safe? it’s not my first time to travel solo but i would like to make sure. Btw, your photos are amazing!

  6. JB Macatulad at 7:04 am

    Hi Toni, yes it’s safe. If you feel unsure, then you may want to join bigger groups when visiting the attractions but you should be fine. Enjoy Sagada! 🙂

  7. Jay B. at 9:30 am

    I’m planning to go there by the end of the month, it’s my first time to do a budget DIY trip. I’m just wondering since from your list of Sagada tours link, it shows that each attraction has a guide fee. is this optional? as this would be expensive if it is required. What would be a budget friendly for 2 including all activities fr 3d/2n?

  8. JB Macatulad at 9:43 am

    Hi Jay, the only time the guide is mandatory is for Sumaguing Cave. It would be dangerous to go in without a guide. Everything else you can do on your own. We did. Hope that helps and have a great time in Sagada!

  9. Mikhail Jethro Montes at 7:59 am

    wow…nice. mahal na kita. thanks sa info.

  10. Kallen Velasco at 9:14 am

    Thank you for a very informative post about Sagada. We’re going to visit Sagada this week, then to Batad, and you’re post is very helpful! Keep it up 😉

  11. Jessica at 6:36 pm

    Hi! We want to DIY our trip to Sagada but our greatest hurdle is transportation around Sagada. Can we rent vans once we get there? Will that be expensive? What do you recommend?

    Well-written article, by the way. Envious you stayed for a week and a half. Sounds like fun!

  12. JB Macatulad at 8:50 pm

    Hi Jessica, Sagada is a really small town so you can easily get around on foot. The only time I’d suggest hiring a van is to get to is Kiltepan Viewpoint early in the morning to catch the sunrise. Bomod-ok falls is a little far too but the walk is so pleasant that I personally don’t mind it at all. Anyway, thanks for the compliment and have an awesome time in Sagada! 🙂

  13. Gazle Padua at 7:18 pm

    Hey! awesome post, i was hooked. I had a great read. I feel like going there after reading all this. Thanks for this precise information! I will save the link for future purposes 😉

    By the way do i really need a guide in most tours i want to go?

  14. JB Macatulad at 7:23 pm

    Happy you found it useful Gazle! The only time you need a guide is to Sumaguing Cave. Everything else you can do on your own. Hope that helps and enjoy Sagada! 🙂

  15. Aljun Nacion at 10:02 pm

    It felt like I’m having a conversation with you while I am reading your travel blog. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences!

  16. Tina at 2:40 am

    Hi, thanks for this article. Do you have a pdf file of this where I can print it out?

  17. JB Macatulad at 7:53 am

    Hi Tina, you can click on the light green button at the bottom (just above my profile, second icon from the right). That will allow you to print the page or generate a PDF version of it which you can download. Hope that helps and enjoy Sagada! 🙂

  18. Cristine Yap at 7:03 pm

    Does anyone tried to do trekking in Marlboro Country + Blue Soil Traverse?
    My friend and I were Planning this coming December.

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