­Rice terraces of Batad

 

Everything you need to know about traveling to Batad.

 

Batad, you are fabulous! It is one of the most impressive landscapes I have ever seen. I could not have wished for a better location for a photo/video project than Batad. Last year, I started my trip in the Philippines in Batanes, which was one of the best trips I’ve ever had and very hard to top. I am now in my 14th month in the Philippines and everything in between has been good to great, Siargao and Palawan being the other highlights. From before the start of my trip, I knew I had to visit Batad in April/May when it would be at its greenest and prettiest. It was for that reason I decided that my stay in Siargao should last the rest of the year so I could be in Batad at this time when the fields are at their greenest. Hiking or just simply walking around Batad was intense – think of dangerous paths, huge drop-offs, endless stairs, and high temperatures. You will sweat like crazy here, and so I did, sore muscles and all. But it’s so worth it. I’m not very fit myself, so I hard a pretty hard time, but managed. Just have a few more breaks 🙂 Batad, Philippines (aerial panorama)   The rice terraces are among the most beautiful in the world. And knowing how they were created, the energy that went into building it, is nothing short of mind-blowing. All day long you’ll see people walking up and down the huge stairs, carrying all sorts of heavy stuff – bags of sand, rice, wood etc. It’s not an easy way of life and you can’t help but admire the people living this lifestyle. I had big plans for Batad, I wanted to capture it in all its splendour by shooting photo series, a time lapse movie and aerial movie. I planned the best week of the year for it, when the rice terraces are greener than green and when the Milky Way visibility is at its best and in perfect position. Batad, Philippines   But things didn’t come easy and I ended up extending my stay to 11 days to capture the footage I was after. The weather and electricity were the main problems. There were 4 brownouts during my stay, so I couldn’t charge anything at those times. And knowing that a brownout may last up to a week, I was very selective with what I would shoot. Also, it is summer time, so it’s not supposed to rain. But it was like rainy season, every day. Thanks to that and the clouded skies, I missed almost every sunrise and sunset and my big plans of shooting the Milky Way over Batad were not accomplished. Nevertheless, I had a great time and captured some great footage. Flying my drone here was so much fun. I was able to capture some stunning panoramas by shooting multiple rows of 360-degree shots, stitching up to 60 photos for a vista like the first few in this post. https://youtu.be/4Ax98pJlrq4  

About Batad

The rice terraces were built over 2000 years ago by the Ifugao people who carved the landscape (1500m above sea level) to create the picturesque view that we see today. All the stones to support the walls were carried up the hills from the river, an incredible achievement by itself. Reaching a higher altitude and built on steeper slopes than any other, the complexity of the stone and mud walls, the intricate water system, and complex farming system shows the mastery of engineering by these people. Batad is therefore rightfully deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site (not Banaue, as what many people think). As in many places in the Philippines, people are poor and the young generation move out to other areas, mainly Manila. So, years ago, 30% of the rice terraces weren’t even used anymore. But thanks to the government’s efforts to maintain this beautiful town and the rice terraces, all are being cultivated now. They do only have 1 harvesting season now, instead of 2 before. One of Batad’s charm is that there are no roads and no traffic whatsoever. 15 Years ago you had to walk from Banaue. Times have changed and the road now leads close to Batad, you only have to walk for 15 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iujncszy0U  

Visiting Batad

Most people come to visit Banaue, which is more popular and easier to access, but many don’t even know Batad is the real gem. Of the people that visited Batad, most do so on a day trip from Banaue. Batad is small, so if you’re on a tight schedule it’s enough to see the gorgeous amphitheater rice terraces. But if you want to experience it a bit more, which I highly recommend, stay at least a night or two. A lot of people make it sound as if Batad is a very hard and dangerous place to walk. In a way it is, there are definitely risks, but I didn’t find it to be that bad – at least not if you have a good balance and stick to the amphitheater area where drop-offs aren’t very dangerous. Yes, you will walk on the edges of rice terraces (a bit freaky for a first-timer and those with a fear of heights), where sometimes the drop-off is often one to several meters, although at most areas you’ll just fall into water and mud. In the past, incidents have happened and, thus, it is advised to have a guide for safety reasons. Also wear good walking shoes and maybe even use a walking stick (guides can provide them). Personally, I just wore my slippers after a few days and was fine without a stick. It helps of course to get used to the tracks and avoid walking the dangerous paths, especially after rain when it gets really slippery. Read more about visiting Batad in the section below ‘Things to know about visiting Batad’ Structure of Batad rice terraces  

Get a local Batad guide

Once you arrive in Banaue you will find plenty of guides willing to take you to Batad or wherever. But what you should understand is that Batad guides aren’t very pleased with this, because this is their area and the other guides are ‘stealing’ their jobs this way. But if you’re only doing Batad on a day trip it is understandable you want everything organised before you go there. Although once you reach Batad, you will find guides there as well. So please consider hiring a local Batad guide to support the community, especially if you’re staying in Batad. For myself, I hired a tricycle to get me to Saddle Point. There, I met Andy, one of the local red-mouthed, beetlenut-chewing (all young guys do) guides. He took me down the end of the road, helped me carry my gear to the guesthouse, and took me around Batad for the whole day for p800. After that I felt comfortable enough to walk by myself. Sunset at Batad rice terraces  

Batad viewpoints

Guides will tell you about viewpoints 1, 2 and 3, although there are some other nice viewpoints to be found. My favourite one was just below Transient guesthouse, where a path to the right takes you to a shelter where you have a great view towards the main viewpoint and the rice terraces. Also here you don’t have those ugly electricity wires in your frame. Transient guesthouse is a great place to rest from your walk up and to enjoy the view/sunset while having a drink or meal. Viewpoint 1: At the top of the town, view from one of the buildings. I didn’t really like the view here, or at least not for taking photos, because you’ll have a lot of ugly tin roof houses in your frame. Batad viewpoint 1   Viewpoint 2: The main viewpoint across town on the opposite side of the amphitheater. All guides will take you here, for a good reason; it’s a great viewpoint (it’s a fairly easy walk compared to the rest and you won’t really need a guide if you’re not into it). Go up from the shop to get a higher view and walk around the corner to get a view of the neighbouring town. There’s a sign showing that the path to the town is from there. It’s about a 3-hour walk one way. You could do it yourself, but drop-offs here are high and falling down could be fatal. Take a guide or skip it altogether if your balance isn’t very good. If it’s crowded at the shop, walk down a bit to the other shop. Batad viewpoint 2   Viewpoint 3: The best viewpoint they say, it gives you a view on the whole town and all rice terraces. But it’s quite a walk, you’ll have to go down to the river (a nice trek by itself and a great location to swim and cool down), cross the bridge and go up from there. It’s a 2-hour walk one-way and a guide is advised. I went down to the river one day and thought I might as well head up there while I was so close, but only made it up to the rice terraces. The road was rough and very slippery (it had rained that night) and with 2 bags swinging around my shoulders I didn’t feel safe doing it. Luckily, I have a flying camera (my drone), so the next day I just flew it up there to get the view 🙂 Keep in mind it’s a long way down to the river, roughly 400+ steps from the town. Going down isn’t so bad, but going up is pretty intense. That’s an understatement; it was actually the roughest walk I ever did. Batad viewpoint 3  

Tappiya waterfall

The Tappiya waterfall (1h trek one way) is one of the main attractions, besides trekking to the viewpoints and between the rice terraces. What I haven’t read in any of the blogs or websites is about the fatalities that have occurred here. Apparently, there is a huge hole underwater where the water falls down, as deep as the waterfall is high, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. So there is a strong current of water going into the hole. Swimming close to the waterfall is therefore very dangerous, as the current will drag you into it. Anyone visiting the waterfall with a guide will be warned about this, but if you go there by yourself and don’t know about this, be warned! During my visit, the waterfall was actually closed to public due to a recent incident where someone sat on the railing and fell to his death. So now they’re (forced to) constructing a new railing to avoid this in the future. But why on earth do people sit on railings with the danger of falling down? Don’t be that idiot. When you walk down to the river and follow it towards the left side, there’s another waterfall you can visit – don’t expect to reach the Tappiya waterfall by walking this way, you won’t get any further. I managed to get my shot of the waterfall though, thanks to my drone 🙂 Batad Tappiya waterfall  

How to get to Batad

Going to Batad

Unless you’re already in the north, you’ll probably go to Banaue by bus from Manila. The most popular bus is Ohayami (p490/€10), leaves at 10pm (during high-season, like holidays and summer months, they have another bus that leaves at 9 pm from the small Ohayami bus station). It takes 9+ hours and stops twice for a break. The alternative buses are the Coda and Florida (p540, more luxurious) bus that leave from stations close to the Ohayami one. Bring a sweater, buses get cold thanks to the over-active airconditioning. Unless you’re doing a guided tour to Batad, you’ll have to arrange your own transport to Batad. A tricycle will charge you P350-500 one way, but will only take you to Saddle Point. From there you have to walk 45-60 down to the end of the road before going down to Batad. You might find guides that will take you down on their motorbikes (probably around p100 or free). Batad in the mist  

Heading back from Batad to Banaue

There’s a jeepney that travels from Batad to Banaue daily at 9am and going back to Batad from Banaue at 3pm. Jeepney ride will cost P150. Go sit on top of it to enjoy the breeze and view! Going to Batad sit on the right side, going to Banaue sit on the left side to see the view. Depending on how busy it is, the jeepney might fill up early or might wait till it fills up a bit more. Be on time, but expect to wait. Ours left 9am sharp though. Your other option is to join people in a van or jeepney. If you go with a van, you can book your ride back on the way there. I’ve heard people pay p200 to p800 for a one-way ride. There’s no real set price, haggle down to p200 if you can. Your guesthouse can also book you a ride back to Banaue. A few years ago they extended the road from Saddle Point, so you no longer have to do the one-hour walk down the staircase to town. From the end of the road it’s a 15-minute walk down to Batad village. Walking up will take you 30 minutes. Travel light, get a porter or prepare to sweat! View during walk to viewpoint 2 in Batad  

Things to know about visiting Batad 

I’ve seen a lot of people visiting Batad without having done any research beforehand. They get dropped off by a tricycle at Saddle Point, with all their bags/luggage and found themselves having to walk down to town and eventually back up to the end of road when leaving Batad. It is a killing walk with heaps of stairs and rough terrain, even without any bags. I’m glad you are here and reading this:

  • Walking/hiking around Batad comes with risks and challenges. Drop-offs can be huge and deadly. Batad is an amphitheater-shaped place, meaning you will have to walk a lot (!) of stairs if you’re going around. Massages are available though for p300-350.
  • Bring only your necessary items to Batad and leave your other stuff at one of the guesthouses in Banaue. I stored my main bag at Halfway for p50.
  • If you want to be taken directly to the end of the road (advised!) take a motorbike or van, tricycles tend to drop you off far from where you’re supposed to start the hike. Be sure to ask your driver to drop you to where the road ends going to Batad.
  • You may find a porter willing to carry one of your bags for p100.
  • Walking sticks aren’t very necessary, but if you want one, you can rent it for p10 at the end of the road before you head to town.
  • There’s no internet in Batad and you won’t have a phone signal. Only locals with local phones will be able to get a signal under certain conditions.
  • Don’t be surprised to find that drinks are a bit more expensive here. Consider they have to go to Banaue to buy their goods and carry it all the way down. Otherwise things are cheap.
  • Expect to pay for charging your gear (p20 phone, p30 camera, p40 laptop, p60 powerbank at Lhorens). I’m not sure all places do so, but some do, even in Banaue.
  • The menus are rather simple and food isn’t very spectacular. But their pizzas are great, especially the vegetable pizza at Transient.

Aerial view at the Batad rice terraces across the river  

Where to stay in Batad

There are quite a few guesthouses in Batad, some of which you can book online. But I wouldn’t say booking is necessary, even in this high season there were plenty of rooms left. You’ll pay p50 more per night for booking online as well. Transient guesthouse has the best view, their food is good to great, staff is friendly, rooms are p350 for 1 person and they have hot shower! I stayed at Lhorens Inn (2 minutes up from Transient), which had great online reviews (somehow not online anymore). No view, but a nice balcony and sitting area upstairs. The family was really friendly and helpful and the food was fine. Room was p250, cold shower only. I’d recommend staying at the upper side of town, fewer stairs to walk with your bags! Both these guesthouses are conveniently located. Lightning while shooting the Milky Way in Batad  

Conclusion & Rating

Batad is absolutely stunning. ‘One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited’ is something I heard from various travellers and I agree completely. It is not just the landscape that is beautiful. But realising these are man-made rice terraces and the effort that went into building this piece of farming-art is insane. A trip to the Philippines is not complete without visiting Batad. I found it to be one of the most stunning places I have visited in the country. Do yourself and the locals a favour, stay a night or two and wander around these ancient rice terraces enjoying the view from all possible sides.   Rating (out of 10): OVERAL EXPERIENCE 10 BUDGET-FRIENDLY 8 OFF THE BEATEN TRACK 9 EASY TO TRAVEL 7  

Links to check out!

Have a look at my Batad photo collection. I spend a ton of time shooting at this gorgeous location, day and night, from the land and sky! Subscribe to you my YouTube channel to stay up to date with my videos and follow me on Instagram for awesome travel photos & videos! Milky Way and lightning at Batad