Sagada in the North Luzon region of the Philippines is an excellent place to enjoy nature and unwind.
It’s also a great place to go to if you want to add some variety to your stay in th Phillipines. Having spent months in cities or around tropical forests and beaches, Sagada was a breath of fresh air to me. Quite literally, as the air was very fresh with the smell of pine trees (thanks to its higher elevation), something that I had not experienced in months while in South-East Asia.
Sagada is primarily a destination for trekking. Here are some things you can do in the area.
1. Get on top a Jeepney roof
Jeepneys are the Philippines’ signature mode of transportation. They make it easy to get around everywhere for just a couple of pesos. If you take a Jeepney in Sagada I very much recommend setting in the roof so you get to enjoy the sun and the scenery!
My friend Yvonne on top of a Jeepney, about to drive to the Marlboro Country hike
2. See Echo Valley and the hanging coffins
Despite tour operators trying to sell you guides to these sights, they can be easily reached independently (it’s just a 15 min walk from the main town road). Ask around for the cemetery, then pass the cemetery and you will be almost in the Echo Valley, which is named so because… well, it’s very echoey. The valley makes for a fun 20-30 min walk. There is also a cliff where you can try rock climbing. Follow the path further and you will get to the famous hanging coffins, which are coloured traditional coffins that hang from the cliffs above.
3. Hike up to “Marlboro Country”
There’s a hill plateau area that is referred, somewhat cheesily, as Marlboro Country as it is home to several wild horses. Go there in the early morning or around sunset and it will look very much like one of the old Western style cigarette ads. When I was there in 2013 there was unfortunately only one wild horse left, pictured above. The trek goes through some dense forest with huge tree-size ferns and ends in a flat landscape with short bushes and mountain flowers, where you can get good views of the surrounding valleys. It takes about 2-3 hours total.
The trek can be done independently. It starts at a fairly non-assuming road about a 10 min drive out of town. There isn’t any signage at all, but asks locals and you’ll find it. The path gets a little confusing and splits up a lot towards the end, but it’s very difficult to get lost as all paths lead to the same plateau area.
Poor lonely horse…
4. Visit the Bomod-Ok Waterfalls
About a 2 hour hike from Sagada are the Bomod-Ok waterfalls, which are down in a lush green valley. On the way there you will pass many stunning rice terraces. A guide is mandatory (but inexpensive) in the little town at the top of the trail; it’s a main source of income for the town.
You might spot some little crabs around the waterfall
The rice terraces near Bomod-Ok are stunning
5. Go caving
Sagada has several high-rated cave treks ranging from 2-3 hrs to a full day. Inquire at the trekking company in town. Guides are, not surprisingly, mandatory for this activity.
6. Witness the Festival of Lights
Are you in Sagada on the 1st of November? Then you can’t miss this festival during which Sagadians go to the local cemetery and remember the departed by lighting candles and little campfires. The event was beautifully film in the first episode of Brian Cox’ “Wonders of the Life” programme for the BBC. (I happened to watch it and recognized the place!), there to illustrate how some believe that it is some kind of soul or spirit that gives us life and somehow lives on after death.