Peeking through the southwest of the mountains of Cagayan and bounded by the land of provinces such as Apayao, Abra, and Ilocos Sur, lies a glimmering and promising land of Ilocos Norte. Ilocos Norte is one of the provinces in the northern part of the Philippines. The region is well-known in the country due to the local’s talent in crafts such as pottery and weaving. As it is very rich in culture and festivities that are always celebrated with glee, Ilocos Norte is also very famous for its amazing tourist destinations that tourists love to visit and go back to ever year. From beaches of Pagudpud to the historical churches and religious landmarks, Ilocos Norte has attractions that are definitely eye-grabbing. Here are some of the many tourist spots in Ilocos Norte that you can visit.
Before we dive deep with the wonders that Ilocos Norte could offer to the locals and its tourists, let’s first get to know Ilocos Norte and its history. Ilocos Norte is an administrative region of the Philippines and is commonly known as Region I. Located at the right-uppermost part of the country, Ilocos Norte can be considered the crown of the Philippines. Ilocos got its name from “ylokos” which is a local word that means “from the lowlands.” Would you believe that Ilocos Norte already existed even before the Spaniard came to the Philippines? It is believed that along with Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Abra as an extensive region, Ilocos Norte was the Malay origin and were famous for its gold mines. With the quick rise of population in the region, Ilocos was decided to be split into two thus giving us Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Ilocos Norte consists of 21 municipalities and 2 component cities some are Paoay, Vintar, Banna, and Pagudpud and its capital city is Laoag.
Tourist Spots in Ilocos Norte
With Ilocos Norte being a top tourist destination in the Philippines, businesses and attractions are built every year to accommodate the rising number of visitors. The best way to keep your visitors interested is to offer something new every time and that is why you’ll never ran out of things to do while visiting Ilocos Norte, which is also an eco-zone. There are attractions for everybody, for any kind of activity. If you’d like to have a dip in the sea or just have a nice walk along the shore, there are beaches in the region that you can go to. If you wish to visit religious sites and say a prayer, there countless churches waiting for you. The number of places to visit in the Region is almost endless. Here are some tourist spots that you can take a look at before planning your trip in Ilocos Norte.
1. Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon can be found in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte which is considered as the Boracay of the North. This is due to the fact the sand is white and fine. Due to the beach being one of the most visited tourist spots in Ilocos Norte, there are countless restaurants and activities to do scattered around the island. One of the most common activity to do in Blue Lagoon is to have an amazing experience riding the longest zipline that is over water in the entire world. The zipline spans for 1.7 kilometres long! It’s the perfect activity to face your fear of heights and have one of the best experiences of your life. The fun at the Blue Lagoon doesn’t stop as there are chill celebrations and parties at night, but if you prefer a tranquil activity then walking along the shore is still an amazing activity to do.
2. Paoay Church
Even if you haven’t visited Ilocos Norte before or haven’t even read about it in this article, there’s a high chance that you’re already familiar with Paoay Church. Paoay Church is probably on the list of the most iconic churches in the Philippines and is considered a national architectural treasure. It is a UNESCO world heritage site which means that is open for the public but is also highly protected by the government. It was erected back in 1896 by Augustinian friars with its main material for construction being coral bricks. It was built following the famous Baroque style which was the trending style during that time. It joins three other churches as the only four Baroque churches in the Philippines.
3. Museo Ilocos Norte
If you like to know more about history, the history of Ilocos Norte in particular, then you must visit the Museo Ilocos Norte. Other than the history of the region, the museum also gives insights and shows exhibits that features the culture of the Ilocanos and how it changes and adapts overtime. It showcases also the roots of pride of being born in the region and shows the rich ancestry and traditions that Ilocos is known for. The building that houses the Museo Ilocos Norte was an adaptive reuse project and was used to be a tobacco warehouse named Tabacalera. This tobacco warehouse was a witness of history itself and could be considered as one of the exhibits as it was built during the 19th century.
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4. Bantay Abot Caves
The Bantay About caves are located in Balaoi, in Sitio Gaoa to be exact. Its name translates to ä sea mountain with a hole.” The formation became popular for its unique features that resembles a donut. It is a cave near the seashore and was shaped and sculpted by the waves themselves. If you don’t think that the Bantay Abot Cave is amazing enough, you might be surprised that there is a church inside it and while being in there, you can hear the unusual and captivating echoes of the waves. The sound is almost comforting telling you that it’s alright to be out of your usual routine for a while, that it is alright to rest and have time for yourself.
5. Anat Falls
If you wish to visit a body of water other than the ocean, then we suggest visiting a waterfall. Ilocos Norte is also dotted with lovely waterfalls and one of them is Anat Falls. Anat Falls is located in Adams, Ilocos Norte. Although Anat Falls doesn’t boast with a steep fall, the entire composition of the area is truly a natural wonder. Being in Anat Falls feels like going to a land that is never been visited by any human being, it’s like a scene from a fairy tale. Visiting the area immediately transports you to a place where you feel like you’re a mountain deity. It’s a completely instagrammable place but make sure that you don’t leave any valuables and litter in the area to preserve the natural beauty of Anat falls for future visitors to enjoy.
6. Bangui Windmills
If people ask for tourist spots in Ilocos Norte, then the Bangui windmills will always be mentioned. The Bangui windmills are so iconic that it’s almost the image of the region and top tourist destination that people want to go to first. The Bangui Wind Farm is composed of twenty units of 70-metre-high windmills that are parallel to the Bangui Bay and faces the West Philippine Sea. As people found that the wind in Ilocos tend to be stronger compared to others, they’ve decided to build this wind farm that became an alternative source of energy for the people in the region and is responsible for lowering the area’s carbon footprint. Besides enjoying the scenic view of the bay and the windmills, you can also experience a horseback ride along the shore for a small fee. As it became a top tourist spot in Ilocos, business owners also build souvenir shops at the place so that visitors can but tokens and remembrance pieces to remember the experience in the Bangui Wind Farm.
7. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
One of the historical sites that you can visit in Ilocos Norte is the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse or sometimes called the Burgos Lighthouse. Aside from being a historical site, the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is also a cultural heritage structure that is located at Burgos, Ilocos Norte. The lighthouse was built during the Spanish Colonial period in the Philippines and the world first saw it lit up on the 30th of March, in 1892. It stands an amazing height of 20 metres at the top of Vigia de Napartian Hill which oversees Cape Bojeador. The lighthouse helped thousands of early galleons that used to sail by. Even after over a hundred years of being erected, the Cape Bojeador lighthouse still works and welcomes ships that enters the Philippines with warm inviting light. The lighthouse is the northwest sister of Cape Engaño Lighthouse in Cagayan in the northeast. The lighthouse is in an octagonal shaped and was often visited by tourists especially lovers with the thought of the lighthouse guiding their love with light through troubled waters.
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8. La Paz Sand Dunes
One of the favourite tourist spot in Ilocos Norte is the La Paz Sand Dunes that can be found at the capital of the province which is Laoag. It is a unique attraction in the Philippines compared to the common religious structures and scenic beaches. It is a sandy coastal desert that spans 85 square kilometres. The La Paz Sand Dunes is considered as a National Geological Monument and is part of a long stretch of Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes. The La Paz Sand Dunes were a result of continuous erosion and disposition made possible by an unusual interaction of the earth with the wind and water. Besides taking cool pictures with the amazing sand dunes, you can also go for a trekking adventure with a guide, in which you can drive or ride a 4-wheel vehicle designed for the unique terrain of the sand dunes. There are tons of activities in the sand dunes so better set a day for the entire adventure because this tourist spot will surely consume your energy and time for an entire day and it would be worth it.
9. Sinking Bell Tower
Another tourist spot in Ilocos Norte is the famous Sinking Bell Tower that is located in the city of Laoag. The Sinking Bell Tower is the bell tower of the St. William’s Cathedral, which is one of the reasons why it is unique, because the bell tower is a little bit far away from its main cathedral compared to the usual wherein the bell tower is just beside the cathedral. The Sinking Bell Tower got that intriguing name due to the fact that, for some reason, the structure sinks an inch every year. Nobody knows the exact reason why but some people suggests that the foundation was built on a sandy soil that’s why it’s not holding its own weight. When the Sinking Bell Tower was erected, it stood at an amazing height of 150 feet, during those days, it’s considered such a tall structure and had been an icon and landmark for many Ilocanos. It is believed that people mounted on horses could enter the gates of the bell tower but due to its annual sinking, visitors now have to duck just to enter the bell tower. Although the bell tower is open for viewing since it stands in the middle of a public place, local authorities are doing their best to preserve the historical structure that’s why entering the bell tower is prohibited.
10. Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Located in Burgos, the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is one of the most visited tourist spots in Ilocos Norte, despite the process of getting there is a little bit rough, the sights of this attraction are truly worth it. The rock formation is very unique due to its light colour and its shape that resembles a dragon. The rock formation was naturally created by years of erosion of the waves. The sight is accented by a scenic view of the sea and it is definitely Instagram-worthy.
These are just some of the most popular tourist attractions that can be found in Ilocos Norte, and there more that aren’t on the list. It is up to you to discover them one by one, and the only way to do that is to visit Ilocos Norte yourself. Travelling to the north from Manila is not that hard either due to the ever-evolving mode of transportations and improving roads and channels. You can now visit Ilocos without worrying about a single thing.
These tourist attractions aren’t the only thing that Ilocos Norte could offer. Being near other amazing provinces such as Pangasinan and Tarlac, Ilcoos Norte is very accessible to other neighbouring provinces which makes it a top spot to start a living.
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Written by Rashid Mansan