Ilocos Norte Travel Guide

Overview of Ilocos Norte

The most famous place in Ilocos Norte is the two-story palace that served as the former vacation home of the late President Marcos and his family. It is now a museum where guests can wander around and check out practically every inch of the residence. When you're finished, you may proceed to Paoay to relax by the lake, visit the Paoay Church, which is classified as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, or take a 4x4 out and slide down the sand dunes.

Where to Go

Paoay Church (Saint Augustine Church)

A UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its distinct architecture, particularly its massive buttresses made of coral stones.

Bangui Windmills

Iconic wind turbines standing along the coast of Bangui Bay. They are not only functional in generating electricity but also serve as a picturesque attraction, especially during sunset.

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

A natural wonder characterized by its white limestone formations sculpted by the forces of wind and waves. It offers a unique landscape for exploration and photography.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Situated atop a hill in Burgos, this historic lighthouse offers panoramic views of the West Philippine Sea and the surrounding countryside.

Sand Dunes

Experience the thrill of riding a 4x4 vehicle or sandboarding on the expansive sand dunes of Paoay or La Paz. It's an exhilarating activity, especially for adventure enthusiasts.

Malacañang of the North

Formerly the official residence of the Marcos family in Ilocos Norte, this mansion now serves as a museum showcasing memorabilia and artifacts from the Marcos era.

La Paz Sand Dunes

Another location where you can experience the thrill of sandboarding and enjoy scenic views of the coastline and surrounding areas.

Pagudpud Beach

Known for its pristine white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, Pagudpud offers a relaxing coastal getaway. Blue Lagoon and Saud Beach are among the popular spots in Pagudpud.

Sarrat Church

One of the largest churches in the Philippines, known for its Baroque architecture and historical significance. It is where the former president Ferdinand Marcos got married.

Bantay Abot Cave and Timangtang Rock

These natural formations in Pagudpud offer scenic views and are perfect for sightseeing and photography.

What to Do

Explore Historical Sites

Visit iconic landmarks such as Paoay Church, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, and Sarrat Church to learn about the province's rich history and cultural heritage.

Experience Sand Dunes Adventure

Go on an adrenaline-pumping adventure by riding a 4x4 vehicle or trying sand-boarding on the vast sand dunes of Paoay or La Paz.

Beach Relaxation

Spend a day lounging on the pristine beaches of Pagudpud, such as Blue Lagoon and Saud Beach. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and water sports like snorkelling or kayaking.

Windmill Watching

Marvel at the majestic Bangui Windmills, especially during sunset when the turbines create a mesmerising backdrop against the sea.

Cultural Immersion

Immerse yourself in the local culture by attending cultural performances, visiting traditional markets, and sampling authentic Ilocano cuisine like bagnet, empanada, and longganisa.

Nature Trips

Explore natural attractions like Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Bantay Abot Cave, and Timangtang Rock. These sites offer opportunities for hiking, sightseeing, and photography amidst stunning natural landscapes.

Visit Museums and Heritage Sites

Gain insights into Ilocos Norte's history and culture by visiting museums like the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum, Museo Ilocos Norte, and the Malacañang of the North.

Lighthouse Tour

Take a tour of the historic lighthouses in the province, including Cape Bojeador Lighthouse and Burgos Lighthouse, and enjoy panoramic views of the coastline and surrounding areas.

Try Local Delicacies

Indulge in Ilocano cuisine by trying local delicacies such as pinakbet, dinardaraan, and bagoong. Don't forget to taste the famous Ilocos empanada and enjoy freshly caught seafood.

Shopping for Souvenirs

Shop for souvenirs and pasalubong (gifts) at local markets and stores, where you can find handicrafts, textiles, and other products unique to the region.

When is the Best Time to Visit Ilocos Norte

The dry season typically occurs from November to April, Ilocos Norte enjoys sunny weather with minimal rainfall. This period is ideal for outdoor activities such as beach-going, sand-boarding on the sand dunes, and exploring historical sites without the interruption of heavy rains. The months of December to February, in particular, offer cooler temperatures, making it pleasant for sightseeing and outdoor adventures.

The wet season in Ilocos Norte lasts from May to October, bringing more rain and occasional typhoons. While this might not be ideal for some travellers, it also means lush green scenery and fuller waterfalls and rivers, making it a great time for nature lovers to visit.

How to Get to Ilocos Norte

By Air

The quickest and most convenient way to reach Ilocos Norte is by air. The province is served by Laoag International Airport (also known as Gabriela Silang Airport), located in Laoag City, which is the capital of Ilocos Norte. You can book a flight from Manila or other major cities in the Philippines to Laoag Airport. Several airlines operate regular flights to Laoag, offering both domestic and international connections.

By Sea

If you prefer traveling by sea, you can take a ferry or a passenger ship to the nearby port cities of Currimao or San Fernando in Ilocos Norte. These ports serve as entry points for travellers coming from other parts of the Philippines, particularly from ports in Luzon and nearby provinces.

From the port cities, you can continue your journey to various destinations within Ilocos Norte by land transportation options such as buses, vans, or taxis.

By Car / Bus

Another option is to travel to Ilocos Norte by land, either by driving your own vehicle or taking a bus. If you're driving from Manila or other parts of Luzon, you can take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) until you reach the MacArthur Highway (also known as the Pan-Philippine Highway or Maharlika Highway).

From there, continue northward until you reach Ilocos Norte. The journey by car typically takes around 8 to 10 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.

How to Get Around

By Taxi / Ride-Sharing Services

In urban areas like Laoag City, taxis are readily available for short-distance travel within the city and its surrounding areas. Travellers can easily flag down taxis on the street or find them at designated taxi stands. Additionally, ride-sharing services like Grab may also operate in some parts of Ilocos Norte, providing another convenient option for getting around.

By Car / Motorcycle

Renting a car or motorcycle is a popular option for travellers who want the flexibility to explore Ilocos Norte at their own pace. Several car rental agencies operate in Laoag City and other major towns, offering a range of vehicles from compact cars to SUVs.

Motorcycles, particularly scooters, are also available for rent in some areas. With your own vehicle, travellers can easily visit attractions like Paoay Church, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, and Pagudpud Beach, as well as explore off-the-beaten-path destinations.

What to Eat

Local Food

Experience the delectable cuisine of Ilocos Norte by delighting in local specialties at renowned eateries such as La Preciousa, Macy's Diner Laoag, and Planaxis Grill & Restaurant, where you can relish hearty meals showcasing the region's culinary richness.

Fresh Seafood

In coastal towns and beachside locales, visitors can discover an abundance of seafood dining establishments and eateries serving an extensive selection of freshly caught ocean delights. Restaurants like Ekhikaia Seafood Restaurant, Princess Dhapne Seafood Grill, and AJ Seafood Hauz are among the notable options to indulge in the region's bountiful seafood offerings.

Western Food

In Ilocos Norte, you can find restaurants serving delicious Western dishes alongside the local favorites. Places like Eagles' Nest Bar & Restaurant, Ambin's Grill, and Smoke Bar & Restaurant offer a tasty variety of Western cuisine for those looking to try something different during their visit.

What to Buy

When visiting Ilocos Norte, don't miss the opportunity to purchase some unique souvenirs and local products that showcase the province's rich culture and heritage. Look out for traditional woven textiles like Abel Iloco, intricately crafted woodwork and pottery, and vibrant handwoven baskets made by local artisans.

Other popular items include delicious local delicacies such as bagnet (crispy pork belly), longganisa (local sausage), sukang Iloco (Ilocano vinegar), and traditional snacks like cornick (fried corn kernels) and chichacorn (crunchy corn kernels). You can also find a variety of pasalubong (gift) items like keychains, fridge magnets, and shirts featuring iconic landmarks of Ilocos Norte, making for perfect mementos of your trip to this picturesque province.

Where to Stay

In Ilocos Norte, you'll find a range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses. For a luxurious stay, consider beachfront resorts in Pagudpud offering breathtaking views of the ocean and top-notch amenities. If you prefer a more immersive experience, boutique hotels in heritage buildings in Laoag City or nearby towns provide a charming ambiance with modern comforts.

For budget travellers, there are plenty of affordable guesthouses, homestays, and backpacker hostels available, especially in tourist areas like Laoag City and Pagudpud. Additionally, camping and glamping options are available in certain beach areas for those seeking a unique outdoor experience. Whichever accommodation you choose, you'll find warm hospitality and easy access to the province's stunning attractions and cultural landmarks.

What to Bring

  • Bring sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun's rays.
  • Comfortable sandals or flip-flops are ideal for beach outings, while a pair of sturdy walking shoes may be useful for hiking or exploring.
  • If visiting during the wet season, a compact umbrella and a lightweight rain jacket can come in handy.
  • Stay hydrated by carrying a reusable water bottle, particularly if you're engaging in outdoor activities.
  • Ensure your electronic devices stay charged by bringing the necessary travel adapters.
  • While there are ATMs in urban areas, having some local currency can be useful, especially in more remote locations.

What to Wear

For your journey to Ilocos Norte, it is advised to pack lightweight and comfortable attire, taking into account the tropical climate. Choose breathable materials such as cotton and linen to remain cool in the heat.

Bring swimwear for beach outings, and consider modest clothing when visiting religious sites. Comfortable sandals or flip-flops are suitable for casual outings, while a pair of sturdy walking shoes may be useful if you plan to explore nature reserves or hike.

Things to Note

  • Stay hydrated, especially in the warm weather, and use sunscreen to protect against the sun. Consider bringing insect repellent, particularly if you plan to explore nature reserves.
  • The local currency is the Philippine Peso (PHP). While ATMs are available in urban areas, it's advisable to have some local currency on hand, especially in more remote locations.
  • Keep a list of important contacts, including the local emergency numbers, contact information for your accommodation, and the nearest embassy or consulate.
  • Filipino and English are widely spoken, but learning a few basic Filipino phrases can enhance your travel experience and interactions with locals.

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