Part 9 of the Cordillera Series
How to get to Sagada and things to do
Sagada is one of the sought after municipalities in the Mountain Province. It is the center of backpacking in the Philippines due to its topography, being on top of the mountains at 1520+ meters above sea level; many tourist spots that can only be reached through hours of trekking, climbing, and spelunking. Hotels are not available instead transient homes and hostels are the only means of accommodation in Sagada. Aside from the touristy sites, the town also reflects the rich culture of the Igorots, the natives of Sagada, and at the same time, the town also is a great place for food trippers as it provides authentic Igorot cuisines and other desserts not usually found on other parts of the country due to its cold climate. This comprehensive travel guide aims first-timers and returners alike to discover what Sagada can offer.
Just like Baguio City, Sagada is one of the coldest places in the Philippines brought about by its topography to which its town center is already at 1540 meters above sea level. The difference is the accessibility of this town being at the end of the highest highway in the Philippines, the Halsema Highway and the laid back atmosphere of the town to which locals have maintained and preserve the heritage of their ancestors.
How to get there?
Coming from Manila, you can ride a bus to Baguio (west) or to Banaue (east) then from there get another transport to get to Sagada.
Manila to Baguio to Sagada (west-bound)
Victory Liner (coordinates 14.62429N 121.04852E) and Genesis buses offers non-stop transportation to Baguio. Their stations are along EDSA in Cubao and Pasay.
The travel to Baguio City from Manila is about 8 hours. Best time is to leave at night time to reach Baguio early in the morning for the bus to Sagada.
Cost: Php 450 (air conditioned, deluxe)
From Baguio, head on to Dangwa Bus Station at the back of Baguio Center Mall (coordinates 16.41611N 120.59695E)
You can ride a cab to Dangwa or walk for about 1.7 kilometers.
GL Trans Buses have routes heading to Ambasing and Besao which passes by Sagada.
First trip is 6:30AM and last trip is 1:00PM.
Travel time from Baguio to Sagada is about 6 hours passing through Halsema Highway.
Cost: Php 220 (ordinary)
Manila to Banaue to Bontoc to Sagada (east-bound)
Using this transport route is limited as at the time of this writing, only one bus company is servicing this route which is Ohiyami Transit. However this is the best option if you want to pass-by Banaue and enjoy the sights it can offer including the Banaue Rice Terraces or if going to Banaue and staying here for its tourist spots (multitudes of very scenic rice terraces).
Ohayami Bus station is located at Sampaloc, Manila (coordinates 14.60723N 120.99478E) and leaves daily to Banaue except December 31 at 10:00PM. On peak seasons, they also have buses that leaves at 9PM. Due to the very limited buses, you need to book in advance if you plan to head to Banaue.
Travel time from Manila to Banaue is 7 hours and from there you may ride a van heading directly to Sagada for Php 300. The terminal is at Banaue Public Market.
|The Banaue Rice Terraces|
Or wait for a Von-von or Immanuel bus passes by in front of the Municipal Tourism Center at 8AM, 9AM, 11AM towards Bontoc. (coordinates 16.91115N 121.06116E)
These buses are ordinary buses and you can ride its roof if you want an adrenaline rush ride while it passes through several mountain ridges and ravines. Highest of which would be at Mount Polis pass at 1880 meters above sea level.
The ride from Banaue to Bontoc is about an hour and a half and costs Php 120.
|On the way to Bontoc from Banaue, Ifugao|
From the drop off point at the Municipal Hall of Bontoc is a 300-meter walk towards Walter Clapp Centrum (coordinates 17.08812N 120.97745E) where you can find muticabs that also top-loads and will transport you to Sagada for about an hour for Php 45.
|Walking at Bontoc, Mountain Province|
|The top-load transport from Bontoc to Sagada|
You will be dropped off at the Eduardo Gaudan Longid Centrum (coordinates 17.08451N 120.90085E) or known as the "Centrum" and at the back of it heading to the South Road is the Sagada's Municipal Tourism Center where you need to register for Php 35 environmental fee.
Sagada's Tourism Center would be your key access to the town as the tourism official can help you on your transportation to various tourism sites of Sagada.
Sagada's South Road is the road that has a line of hostels, restaurants, bars, and cafe and this road also leads to the famous cave connection sites such as the Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves.
Most accommodations are located at the South Road and are all hostels. Rooms with shared restrooms/bathrooms usually costs Php 200-250 per person per night for a 2-person bedroom however there are also rooms that costs Php 600 per night that are already good for 2 people with a dedicated bathroom.
Some hostels have a kitchen to where you can cook your own food. All you need to do is buy your ingredients at the Sagada Public Market which is just beside the Tourism Center which is also at South Road, or you can check out a lot of restaurants, bars, and cafes along the road to satisfy your tummies.
The West Road is almost similar to South road where there are also a lot of hostels and places to dine at. But the more famous restaurants are at the South Road.
The main highway of Sagada, the Staunton Highway has a few yet larger hostels. This includes the Rock Inn which is famous for orange picking during the months of November and December. Its proximity to Kiltepan Peak (the sunrise viewpoint of Sagada) is also notable as it is only about 250 meters away from its jump-off.
The North Road has only about 3 hostels. The farthest is the Sagada North Inn however it is the nearest hostel to the Bomod-ok Falls (big falls) jump-off.
We stayed at Alibama Inn which happens to have the Pinikpikan Haus just at our ground floor!
For a list of accommodations in Sagada and their numbers, here is a list of them as mapped by Schadow1 Expeditions. Accommodations in Sagada.
Transportation Rates and Tour Guides
The rates for transportation and tour guides are strictly standard in Sagada as they are all held by a cooperative. Eventhough we were there for a mapping expedition, it seems no one from the locals would like to negotiate with the costs and they stick with the standard. However, they are all friendly and their service is just business as usual. Once you get a transportation, you can hire him and contact him directly and he will be your transport all throughout your stay in Sagada. They speak extremely well in English, in fact they would be more conversant if you speak English than in Tagalog.
Eventhough the nearest tourist spot from the town center is about 2 kilometers away, the cheapest rate would be Php 350 (Sumaguing Cave). The farthest tourist spot would be at the Aguid jump-off of Bomod-ok falls which is Php 650 (7.5 kilometers away). The rate however is back and forth and is per transportation and not per head.
Jeepney transport is also available in front of the Centrum however most of them are those transportation going back to Bontoc or one via the North Road toward Barangay Bangaan, which by the way also a jump-off to Bomod-ok Falls.
Establishments in Sagada does not accept credit cards and there are only two banks with ATMs. And these banks are either a cooperative bank or a rural bank. If you do cash advance with your credit cards, be sure to do it in Baguio or when you are still in Manila. However if you have debit/saving ATMs, these two banks are Megalink, Bancnet and ExpressNET compatible. Just be prepared because aside from the bank fee (which is usually Php 8), the ATMs also collect an automatic transaction fee of Php 30 in addition to your withdrawals.
The cooperative bank is at the 3rd floor of the Centrum while the Sagada Rural Bank is at the basement beside the Public Market. Do note that these ATMs shut down as early as 4PM.
What are the things to do in Sagada?
There are various caves in Sagada and the most famous would be the cave connection exploration where Lumiang and Sumaguing caves interconnect each other which would test your agility and strength for about 3 hours. If you are not up to it, you can however just explore Sumaguing Cave for 1.5 hours towards its deepest chamber and back.
|Sumaguing Cave Entrance|
For a more detailed article regarding Sumaguing Cave and the stacked coffins at Lumiang Cave, check out our in depth article Adventure and Cultural Exploration - a Spelunking Experience with Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves .
Balangagan Cave is also one of the Cave locations at the southernmost part of Sagada at Barangay Suyo.
There are numerous trekking locations in Sagada, in fact there are too many that a week is not enough to cover everything.
You can trek to Lake Danum and Banao at the western part of Sagada where you can bid goodbye to the sun as this is the best location in Sagada to watch the sunset. Or you can also camp by its campsite and enjoy the pine trees.
|Lake Danum of Sagada|
Lake Danum is discussed in detail at our article Sagada's Lake Danum Sunset.
Kiltepan peak is at the eastern part of Sagada and is the best place to wait for the sunrise as it offers a great view of Barangay Kiltepan and the rice terraces below as the sea of clouds dissipate as the sun rises in an awesome display of colors.
|Sunrise at Kiltepan Peak|
For more information about Kiltepan peak, you may go to our article Kiltepan Peak of the Sagada - an awesome way to greet the sunrise.
Echo Valley is the nearest trekking location from the town center as it is only less than 2 kilometers away which you can trek down until you reach the famous Hanging Coffins of Sagada. A guide is not needed in my personal opinion however if you wish to hire a guide, it costs Php 600 including the trek to Bokong Falls without transportation.
|Hanging Coffins of the Echo Valley in Sagada|
Before you reach the Hanging Coffins, you can also do rock climbing and climb a 30-meter high cliff for Php 800 good for 2 people.
For more information on Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins, you may refer to our article Hanging Coffins and the Irony of the Echo Valley - when death meets life in Sagada.
Bokong Falls or the "small falls" is about 3 kilometers away from the town center and is located at the North Road. You can just go down a not-so-steep descent and reach the small falls flowing over a natural rock formation that creates a natural swimming pool. Personally, a guide is not needed if you want to reach Bokong however, if you wish to hire a transport, Php 400 already includes the transport and the guide for a maximum of 10 people.
Bomod-ok Falls or the "big falls" is 7.5 kilometers away which can be accessed via two jump-offs at the North Road. The Bangaan jump-off is the nearest however it is the hardest due to continuous ascent. Transportation to Bangaan costs Php 500. The farther jump-off is the easier way to reach the big falls and costs Php 650 of transportation. The guide fee to the big falls is Php 600 for up to 10 people.
Pongas Falls is at the southernmost part of Sagada at Barangay Suyo and can be reached via an hour of hiking then back which requires Php 600 of guide fee and Php 650 for transportation.
Twin Falls is also near Pongas however it traverses to at different route and requires 3 hours of hike to reach it with ravines of 30 meters down and requires more climbing ability. This trek required a Php 2500 guide fee good for 5 people and a Php 650 transport to the jump-off.
Mountain Biking and Motorcycling
You can rent a mountain bike or a motorcycle to go around Sagada with a per hour basis fee. However I tried to contact the numbers but no one answers. The bikes are kept at Olahbinan Resthouse which is also along the South Road. (coordinates 17.08304N 120.90077E)
You can climb several mountains in Sagada. One mountain is Ampacao which traverses all the way from Ambasing towards Lake Danum for 3 hours. Once on top, this is a perfect view point to see Sagada at your east and the faint Ilocos shoreline at your west which requires Php 800 of guide fee for up to 10 people.
You can trek the "Marlboro Grassland" for 2-3 hours and view horses that roams freely in the wild.
Mount Sisipitan is the highest range of Sagada at 2200 meters above sea level and requires a day with a guide fee of P2000 per person.
Hot spring trekking is a continuation of the Bomod-ok trail where you will be climbing and descending for 7 hours on various villages, rivers and rice terraces until you reach Bontoc and enjoy a natural hot bath from the very cold weather of Sagada. This costs Php 2,500 per person for a guide.
Mt. Polis (this is different from the Mt. Polis at Banaue) is a high ground between Ampacao and the Marlboro Grassland which you can climb with a guide for Php 1500 for a maximum of 3 people.
Check out the native Sagada weaving and pottery making by the Igorots and be amazed with the quality and their artistry using traditional tools.
For more info on Sagada Pottery, check out our article Sagada Pottery - emotions and artistry from the hand to the clay.
Brave the rocky and chaotic waves of the Amulong River (or Upper Chico River) as it flows from Bomod-ok falls towards the Chico River for P3500 per person.
After a day of outdoor activities, Sagada will also reward you with the best international and local traditional dishes including coffee and desserts to which the ingredients are all fresh as they are all harvested in Sagada.
This includes Otop - a type of Arabica coffee which was brought in Sagada by Spain during the 19th century as well the oranges and lemons that are main ingredients on their Lemon Pie as planted by John Masferre during the Spanish colonization era.
Traditional mountain tea is sold at the public market which is naturally sweet and natural honey is also harvested from bees that feed from sunflowers which are abundant at Sagada.
|Honey Production of Sagada|
Yogurt is one of the famous desserts in Sagada as well as berries that are also turned into wine.
|Strawberry Yogurt from Strawberry Cafe|
|Fruit wines of Sagada|
The rice at Sagada is commonly the red variant which is healthy and organic and is best for people who wants to control their sugar intake.
The etag is an authentic Sagada delicacy which is a smoked and preserved pork that is commonly one of the ingredient of another local dish called Pinikipikan, a chicken soup dish similar to Tagalog's Tinola in presentation however it tastes entirely different.
For more information on Sagada food tripping, you may refer to our article Food Tripping Sagada.
Festivals and Special Events
- Orange Picking - November to December is orange picking month at Rock Inn
- Festival of Lights - November 1 is a time when locals burn pine figs at the Anglican Cemetery of Echo Valley
- Tangeb di Ogas - Celebrated on July as a merry-making festival at a camp ground near the Echo Valley and South Road as they celebrate the end of the rice harvest.
Going back to Manila via Baguio
GL Trans Bus to Baguio leaves starting at 5AM to where the bus stops in front of the basketball court near the St. Mary's Church and the hospital. Other trips are 7, 8, 9, 10, 11:30 AM and the last trip is 1:00PM
|St. Theodore Hospital|
It will pass through the scenic Halsema Highway to which the highest point of the highway is about 2340 meters above sea level. From here Pulag, Luzon's highest peak and Philippines' third is seen blocking a sea of clouds from the other side (Cagayan Valley)
|Pulag as seen from Halsema Highway|
The bus stops at Baguio's Dangwa station. Walk your way (1.7 kilometers) or get a taxi to Victory Liner (which leaves every 30 minutes) or Genesis (every hour) bound to Manila.
|Walking the busy Baguio City|
We were at Sagada for our mapping expedition of the Cordilleras. We do not have an arduously planned itinerary when we went to Sagada as aside from the expedition, we were there to enjoy it and stay there before my office work resumes so we have a very comfortable stay for 6 days. There was a time when we just walked around the whole day just to check various parts of Sagada and enjoy the sunny yet still very cold weather which is not common in a tropical country such as the Philippines. And there was also a time that we just went out and tried all the restaurants we can find. Sagada is one of the peaceful, scenic and laid back destinations in the Philippines!
But anyhow, here is a slightly tweaked run down of cost for a budget travel to Sagada.
Budget Travel to Sagada
Customized 4D3N Stay at Sagada divided individually for 2 people using the Banaue - Bontoc - Sagada - Baguio Route
- Bus Ride Sampaloc to Banaue - Php 450 (deluxe)
- Bus Ride Banaue to Bontoc - Php 120
- Van Ride Bontoc to Sagada - Php 45
- Environmental Fee - Php 35
- Lodging - Php 750
- Food (Brunch and Dinner for 5 days) - Php 1500 (average of P150/meal)
- Sumaguing and Lumiang Tour and Transportation (short cave exploration) - Php 575
- Bomod-ok Falls Tour and Transportation - Php 625
- Lake Danum - trek and its free
- Kiltepan Peak - trek and its free
- Echo Valley - trek and its free
- Bus ride Sagada to Baguio - Php 220
- Bus ride Baguio to Manila - Php 450
Total Expenses: Php 4,770
The Sagada tour is part of our Cordillera mapping expedition last January 1-6, 2014 in our advocacy to promote Philippine tourism and help local government units using the mapping data for their disaster risk resiliency planning.
Data has been contributed to +OpenStreetMap Philippines and a routable GPS map of the whole country is being compiled weekly to aid drivers and outdoor recreationists on their navigation/trek within the Philippines.
Google Maps (link)
Schadow1 Expeditions Contributions (link)
How to use for your Navigation System (link)
For a more detailed account of Schadow1 Expeditions on its Cordillera Mapping Expedition, check on the links below:
- Part 1: Discovering the Cordilleras - a mapping expedition
- Part 2: Banaue Rice Terraces - a surreal sight of a town 1300 meters above sea level
- Part 3: Kiltepan Peak of the Sagada - an awesome way to greet the sunrise
- Part 4: Sagada's Lake Danum Sunset
- Part 5: Sagada Pottery - emotions and artistry from the hand to the clay
- Part 6: Hanging Coffins and the Irony of the Echo Valley - when death meets life in Sagada
- Part 7: Food Tripping Sagada
- Part 8: Adventure and Cultural Exploration - a Spelunking Experience with Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves
- Part 9: Sagada Travel Guide by Schadow1 Expeditions