When it comes to vacations, Ilocos isn't really top of mind. For one thing, getting there entails a 10 to 12 hour bus ride—twice the amount of time you'll spend traveling to Baguio. You can opt to cough up some cash for a plane ride, but if you're a cheapskate like us, that might be out of the question (unless you're lucky enough to book during a seat sale). But set aside the arduous travel time, and you'll find a charming region with several surprises waiting for you. The best part? Your adventure need not be crazy expensive, especially when you're with your whole barkada.
Leave for Ilocos from Metro Manila. If you're commuting, you can catch a Partas bus from their terminal in Cubao (P797 First Class, P965 Deluxe). It'll take around 10-12 hours to get there, so brace your ass!
You should be in Laoag in the morning. Have some sotanghon for breakfast at Macy's Diner before checking out the sights.
After breakfast, get a tricycle to tour you around Batac, the stronghold of the Marcoses. You'll visit the Marcos Presidential Center and Mausoleum (P50 entrance fee), the World Peace Center, the Aglipay Shrine, the General Ricarte National Shrine, and the Batac Church. The tour should cost around P250.
After exploring Batac, have lunch at Cuisine de Iloco. P200 here should see you through!
After lunch, ride a bus to get to Pagudpud. It's a two-hour ride that should cost around P75.
Check in at your accommodation, then get a tricycle tour around Pagudpud. You'll be visiting Kabigan Falls, Bantay Abot Cave, the Patapat Viaduct, Paraiso ni Anton, Aqua Grande, and Blue Lagoon Beach (P20 entrance fee). The tour should cost around P600. Alternatively, you can just bum around at Saud Beach and catch the sunset from there. Either way, it should be fun!
When you're done seeing the sights, treat yourself at BergBlick Restaurant for some great Filipino-German chow. It's a great place to get beer, too. Dinner and drinks would cost around P300 per head.
WHERE TO STAY IN PAGUDPUD: There are lots of homestay options in Padugpud for the kuripot traveler. Top picks are Juanita Uddon Homestay, Cathy's Homestay, and Marites Homestay.
If your hotel doesn't serve free breakfast, you can have breakfast at the roadside eateries to start your day. Food here can be pretty expensive since Pagudpud is a tourist trap, so you can save some cash for breakfast.
Get a tricycle tour around the nearby town of Burgos, where you can see the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (P20 entrance fee), the Bangui Windmills, and the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations (P15 entrance fee). The tour should cost around P600.
Stop by Kang Kang Windmill Cafe Restaurant for lunch, where you can dine while enjoying a neat view of the windmills. Expect to spend around P200 for a meal here.
Go back to your hotel and check out. Ride a bus or a jeepney going back to Laoag, and check-in at your hotel.
Time for another tricycle tour! This time, you'll be checking out the town of Paoay. Stop by the Paoay Church, the Malacanang of the North (P30 entrance fee), and Fort Ilocandia, and end your day at the fun La Paz Sand Dunes. The tour should cost around P250. Surfing the sand dunes in La Paz would set you back around P3,000 for a group of five to six people.
Head back to Laoag and have dinner at Johnny Moon Cafe, a pretty restaurant with a Juan Luna theme. Expect to shell out around P250.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAOAG: There are several affordable accommodation options in Laoag, like the Texicano Hotel, the UKL Ever Hotel, and Ziur Inn.
Stop by Kahel de Luna for breakfast and snack on their yummy empanadas. P100 should make your tummy full!
Walk around the town and check out the sights. Visit the Provincial Capitol and the Museo Ilocos Norte, take a photo at the Sinking Bell Tower, and say a prayer at St. William's Cathedral.
Check out of your hotel and ride a bus going to Vigan.
Have lunch at Hidden Garden (budget: around P200 per head), then spend the afternoon going around the old town.
Stroll down Calle Crisologo and admire the town's Spanish-era architecture, and visit the Pagburnayan to try your hand at pottery.
You can also visit Chavit's Baluarte, but it's not for everyone. If you don't like seeing animals is cramped cages, you might want to skip this.
Have an early dinner at Cafe Leona (budget: around P200 per head) before riding the bus back to Manila and back to reality. Good thing you can always come back!