Ilocos Sur Travel Guide

Overview of Ilocos Sur

You'll be delighted to enter the charming Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Ilocos Sur. The Spanish-style homes have been conserved over time, giving the impression that you are traveling back in time. While strolling the streets, be sure to sample local specialties like the Vigan longganisa and Ilocos empanada.

Where to Go

Vigan City

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vigan is famous for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. Take a stroll along Calle Crisologo, visit the iconic Vigan Cathedral, explore ancestral houses such as the Syquia Mansion and Crisologo Museum, and experience a horse-drawn carriage ride known as "kalesa."

Santa Maria Church

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Church of Santa Maria is known for its distinct architecture, particularly its massive bell tower located a short distance away from the church itself. The church is an excellent example of Baroque architecture in the Philippines and is worth a visit for its historical and architectural significance.

Bantay Bell Tower

Located in Bantay town near Vigan, the Bantay Bell Tower offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Climb to the top of the bell tower for breathtaking vistas of the Ilocos Sur landscape, including rice fields, hills, and the Abra River.

Baluarte Zoo

Owned by former Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson, Baluarte Zoo is a popular tourist attraction featuring a variety of animals, including tigers, zebras, and exotic birds. Visitors can enjoy animal encounters, photo opportunities, and leisurely walks around the zoo's spacious grounds.

Crisologo Museum

Housed in a heritage building along Calle Crisologo, the Crisologo Museum showcases the life and legacy of the Crisologo family, one of the prominent political families in Ilocos Sur. The museum displays various artifacts, memorabilia, and photographs related to the family's history and contributions to the province.

Beaches and Coastal Areas

While Ilocos Sur is not primarily known for its beaches compared to its neighboring province Ilocos Norte, it still offers some coastal destinations worth visiting, such as Santiago Cove in Santiago, Ilocos Sur. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and water sports activities in the scenic coastal areas of the province.

Tirad Pass National Park

For outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs, Tirad Pass National Park offers hiking trails, camping sites, and historical landmarks. This mountainous area played a significant role in Philippine history as the site of the Battle of Tirad Pass, where General Gregorio del Pilar fought against American forces during the Philippine-American War.

What to Do

Heritage Tour

Embark on a heritage tour in Vigan City and explore its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. Wander along the cobblestone streets of Calle Crisologo, visit ancestral houses-turned-museums, and admire landmarks like the Vigan Cathedral and Plaza Salcedo.

Cultural Immersion

Immerse yourself in the local culture by participating in traditional activities such as pottery-making in the town of Candon, learning the art of weaving at the Abel Loom Weaving Center in Santa Maria, or watching a cultural performance featuring the Ilocano folk dance, "Pamulinawen."

Food Trip

Indulge in Ilocano cuisine and savor local delicacies such as empanada (deep-fried turnover filled with meat and vegetables), bagnet (crispy fried pork belly), longganisa (local sausage), and the famous Vigan royal bibingka (rice cake). Visit local eateries, food stalls, and restaurants to taste the authentic flavors of Ilocos Sur.

Nature Exploration

Discover the province's natural wonders by visiting scenic spots like Bantay Bell Tower for panoramic views, the towering Kapurpurawan Rock Formation in Burgos, or the breathtaking beaches of Santiago Cove and Mindoro Cove. Go hiking in Tirad Pass National Park or explore the lush landscapes of Sinait and Narvacan.

Adventure Activities

For adrenaline junkies, Ilocos Sur offers exciting outdoor activities such as zip-lining in Banaoang, ATV riding in Paoay, or sandboarding in La Paz Sand Dunes. Explore the rugged terrain and experience thrilling adventures amidst the province's diverse landscapes.

Beach Relaxation

Unwind and soak up the sun at the province's picturesque beaches, including Santiago Cove and Mindoro Cove. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, beach picnics, and water sports activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, and jet skiing.

Shopping for Souvenirs

Take home souvenirs and mementos of your Ilocos Sur adventure by shopping for local handicrafts, textiles, and products. Visit souvenir shops, markets, and pasalubong centres to find unique items such as Abel blankets, woodcrafts, pottery, and traditional woven products.

When is the Best Time to Visit Cavite

The dry season typically spans from November to April, Cavite enjoys generally sunny weather with minimal rainfall. This period is ideal for outdoor activities such as sightseeing, hiking, and exploring historical sites. The cool and pleasant weather, especially in destinations like Tagaytay, makes it perfect for enjoying outdoor attractions and scenic views.

The wet season in Cavite usually occurs from May to October, characterised by frequent rain showers and occasional typhoons. While the wet season brings lush greenery and is a great time for nature enthusiasts to witness the province's vibrant landscapes, it may not be suitable for certain outdoor activities due to the unpredictable weather.

How to Get Ilocos Sur

By Air

The nearest major airport to Ilocos Sur is the Laoag International Airport, located in nearby Ilocos Norte province. From the airport, travelers can take a taxi, shuttle service, or rent a car to reach Ilocos Sur. Several airlines operate flights to Laoag International Airport from Manila and other key cities in the Philippines. Once in Laoag, it's approximately a 2 to 3-hour drive to reach popular destinations in Ilocos Sur such as Vigan City.

By Sea

While Ilocos Sur does not have its own major seaport, travellers can opt to travel by sea to nearby ports in neighbouring provinces such as La Union or Ilocos Norte. From there, they can continue their journey to Ilocos Sur by land transportation. Ferries and passenger ships operate routes between Manila and these ports, offering an alternative mode of travel for those who prefer sea travel or wish to combine it with a scenic coastal journey.

By Car / Bus

The most common and convenient way to reach Ilocos Sur is by land transportation via car or bus. From Manila, travelers can take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) to reach the North Luzon provinces.

From there, they can continue their journey northward along the MacArthur Highway (also known as the Manila North Road) until they reach Ilocos Sur. The travel time by car from Manila to Ilocos Sur is approximately 8 to 10 hours.

How to Get Around

By Taxi / Ride-Sharing Services

Taxis and ride-sharing services like Grab are available in major towns and cities in Ilocos Sur, offering convenient transportation options for travellers. You can easily hail a taxi or book a ride through a mobile app to get around within towns or travel between destinations in the province.

By Car / Motorcycle

Traveling by car offers flexibility and convenience for exploring Ilocos Sur and its surrounding areas. If you have your own vehicle or have rented one, you can navigate the province's road network and visit various attractions at your own pace. Major highways and roads connect towns and cities in Ilocos Sur, making it easy to access popular destinations such as Vigan, Santa Maria, and Bantay.

What to Buy

When exploring Ilocos Sur, consider taking home souvenirs that reflect the province's rich culture and heritage. Shop for handwoven textiles known as "abel," which are traditionally crafted by Ilocano artisans and come in various designs and patterns. Look for unique pottery and ceramics made by local artisans, as well as intricately crafted woodcarvings and handicrafts. Don't miss out on trying local delicacies such as bagnet (crispy fried pork belly), longganisa (Ilocano sausage), and Vigan empanada, which you can bring home as edible souvenirs or gifts for family and friends.

What to Eat

Local Food

Travellers can indulge in the flavourful local cuisine of Ilocos Sur at restaurants like Hidden Garden, Ihawan sa Caoayan, and First Sinanglaoan.

Fresh Seafood

Travellers exploring the coastal towns and beachside areas of Ilocos Sur will discover an abundance of seafood restaurants and eateries serving a diverse selection of ocean-fresh delicacies. Among these establishments are Angkong Seafood Restaurant, Ikan Dampa, and Mang Romeo's Seafood & Ihawan sa Caoayan, where travellers can indulge in a variety of delicious seafood dishes while enjoying the laid-back scenic coastal views.

Western Food

For travellers visiting Ilocos Sur, there are several dining establishments that present an enticing selection of Western cuisine, offering a delightful departure from the region's traditional flavours.

Travellers can explore options such as Comedor Restaurant, Bistro Candon By Chef Nic, Amare La Cucina, and The Sisters Restaurant, providing a diverse culinary experience during their visit to the province.

Where to Stay

In Ilocos Sur, there are various accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. For those looking for a luxurious stay, several boutique hotels and resorts offer upscale amenities and picturesque settings. Consider staying at heritage hotels located in historic towns like Vigan, where you can immerse yourself in the charm of colonial-era architecture while enjoying modern comforts.

Bed and breakfasts and guesthouses in quaint villages provide cosy accommodations with personalised hospitality, giving visitors a taste of local life. If you prefer more budget-friendly options, there are also affordable hotels, inns, and hostels scattered throughout the province, providing comfortable stays without breaking the bank.

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 Sur, 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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