SAGADA BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE (with itinerary, expenses and top attractions)

UNDERSTANDING SAGADA


Roughly twelve hours of bus ride from Manila, that’s how far Sagada is. But is it worth a long journey? Read the blog and find out.

Sunrise at Kiltepan viewpoint, 4 kilometers away from Sagada town proper.

SAGADA is the ancestral dwelling of Kankanaeys, one of the 6 ethno-linguistic groups of Igorot that dominate the Cordillera Administrative region encompassing the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and the Mountain Province. It is a community of small populous situated five thousand feet high between the mountain ranges of Cordillera and Ilocos. Because of its remote location, Sagada remained untouched from the influence of Spanish conquest; thus was able to keep most of its indigenous culture over time.

Limestone cliffs and pines on forested valleys are a typical sight in the area. Mornings are tranquil, bearably cold and are usually met with shrouded mist. People go for long walks on the many hiking trails, eat on a freshly picked vegetables, and brew locally grown coffee. Though a world away from how the Philippines is usually perceived: being a tropical paradise of fine beaches, Sagada speaks for the often overlooked side of the country and the nearest thing you can associate in terms of culture to its Southeast Asian neighbors.

The Bay-yo rice terraces of Bontoc. Choose the Banaue route on your way to Sagada and find yourself looking at the scenic view of Bay-yo rice terraces.

Sagada is the right mix of Filipino ethnic culture, nature and adventure. If you are eyeing on this kind of experience then getting on a long journey to its highlands is definitely worth it.

QUICK FACTS AND TIPS ABOUT SAGADA


Here are few facts and tips to consider when traveling around Sagada.

  • The months of November to February are the best time to visit Sagada while the weather is temperate.
  • In December, between Christmas and New Year, Sagada observes its annual bonfire festival. Travelers can take part in this celebration for a minimal fee of around P250. Food, drinks and transport to the venue are already included in the fee.
  • Holy Week and the Bonfire festival are the most crowded time to visit Sagada. Arrange your accommodation ahead and pack a load of patience while lining up in your visit to its top attractions.
  • The rice terraces in Cordillera are at their greenest during the months of March to April.
  • A traditional Kankanaey rice festival called Begnas is celebrated in Sagada and other areas in Cordillera 3 times a year: during planting, when the seedlings start to offshoot, and harvest time in June. During the festivity, women wear a woven skirt called tapis and older men put on G-strings. They will lineup in a single file and walk to the mountain and back to perform a ritual. At this time, locals also offer a traditionally cooked chicken called pinikpikan, where the fowl is repeatedly beaten with a stick while alive to soften its meat before it’s cooked – an age-old tradition that has met a backlash from animal rights supporter.
  • Trekking is a major activity in Sagada. It is a must to bring non-slippery sandals or shoes. Also, always see to it that you hike with a walking stick or pole to lessen exhaustion.
  • Bring a jacket. The weather can be too cold early in the morning.
  • There are no taxis and tricycles. Getting to the tourist spots (which are mostly accessible) are done on a jeepney or by walking.
  • Sagada Pines is the place to be for a drinking session at night. The bar is quaint and a great vibe. It has a section where you can dedicate notes, like that of Korean cafe, and enjoy a display of different mementos from guests all over the world. While here, try their very own rice wine.
  • There is curfew in Sagada from 9:00 PM to 4:00 AM.
  • Accommodations in Sagada are basic and may not provide toiletries.
  • There are only 2 ATMs in Sagada, one inside the tourism center and another on the 2nd floor of the next building. To avoid hassle, stack up some cash.
  • Smart and Globe cellular networks work fine, but mobile data and wi-fi connectivity may not be reliable.
  • Roads to Sagada are mostly paved and smooth but are narrow once you enter Banaue area.

Some elderly Igorots at the Banaue Viewpoint. Take a side trip to this beautiful place on your way to Sagada.

HOW TO GET TO SAGADA


As of late, travel to Sagada can only be done by land. Below are directions on how to get to Sagada from the different areas in Luzon.

Direct bus from Manila (via Banaue)

Coda Lines Corporation offers an overnight bus trip direct to Sagada from Cubao HM Terminal in Quezon City. The night bus leaves daily at 8PM, 9PM and 10PM. Regular bus fare is P760, travel time is 12 hours. For inquiry and reservation, contact them at +63 977 186 0548 and +63 939 467 7863 or visit their website at Online Bus Booking.

Via Banaue

If you plan to drop by Banaue for its rice terraces before going to Sagada, you can take the Ohayami bus in Sampaloc, Manila. Their buses leave daily at 10PM. Make your reservation at their website at ohayamitrans.com or by contacting them at  +63 927 649 3055. Bus fare is P490, travel time  is roughly 8 hours. At the bus stop you can either go immediately to Sagada or take a side trip to Bontoc.

  • If you opt to go directly to Sagada, you can take the van at the bus stop in Banaue near the tourism office. Fare is P300, travel time is roughly 4 hours.
  • If you plan to drop by Bontoc for its set of attractions, ride a tricycle to Banaue town proper for P30 and then catch a jeepney or bus that leaves for Bontoc for P150, travel time is 3 hours. From Bontoc, ride another jeepney to Sagada for P50, travel time is 1 hour. While on a ride, you can go to the roof of the jeepney to get the best view of the surroundings.

Via Baguio

There are a number of bus companies that travel to Baguio from Manila. The most recommended of them is the Victory Liner which leaves for Baguio in an hourly basis whole day. Their bus stations are in Caloocan, Cubao, Pasay, and Sampaloc. Regular bus fare is P450, travel time is around 5 hours. Once in Baguio, grab a taxi to Baguio Dangwa terminal, just behind Baguio Center Mall, fare is roughly P70. At the terminal, take the bus from GL Liner to Sagada. Fare is P250, travel time is 6 hours. Last trip is 1PM.

From Vigan

Trip from the Ilocos region will require three transfers and will commence in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur. Follow these steps:

  • Go to Bitalag UV Express van terminal and take a passenger van bound for Cervantes. Trips start at 6AM and end at 5PM. Fare is P150, travel time is 90 minutes.
  • At the town of Cervantes, take a van for Bontoc. Van terminal is located at the plaza in sitio Bulaga. It leaves as early as 6AM, last trip is around 2PM. Apart from the vans, you can also take a bus or jeepney at Cervantes Market. Fare is P120, travel time is another 90 minutes. Tell the driver that you will drop off at Sagada junction.
  • At the junction, catch a jeepney or bus to Sagada. Travel time is 15 minutes. Fare is around P30.

Going Away from Sagada

For travelers from Manila, take a Coda Line bus which departs at 2PM and 3PM daily. For Baguio, there are buses in Sagada that leave daily from 5AM to 5PM. For Bontoc bound, jeepneys are available as early as 6AM, last trip is around 1PM.

The Banaue Rice Terraces as seen from the viewpoint.

TOP ATTRACTIONS IN SAGADA


Here are 7 top tourist spots that you can cover in a day tour or with an itinerary for 2 to 3 days while in and near Sagada.

ECHO VALLEY

A natural wonder that truly lives up to its name. The valley does echo through the mountains whenever you shout. To get here, you need to embark on an easy stroll under a dense cluster of pine trees and thinly dispersed walls of limestones, pass by a cemetery, and go down a low-lying trail leading to the hanging coffins. You can go by yourself, though it’s best to arrange the hike with a guide from the tourism office.
Rating: 3/5

HANGING COFFINS

Easily one of the most photographed attractions in Sagada. Hanging the coffins is an ethnic approach used for the dead from the upper-class. They believe that by hanging, spirits will have an easier path to reach the great unknown. 
Rating: 3/5

LUMIANG BURIAL CAVE

The Lumiang cave welcomes its visitors with an enormous pile of 500-year old coffins that are splattered with lichens. To get to this ancestral burial ground, you will have to trail on steep steps so get those knees ready.
Rating: 3/5

LAKE DANUM

A nature lake in the middle of a forest which offers a perfect spot, on its elevated ground, to watch over sunset and the surrounding landscape.
Rating: 2.5/5

SUMAGUING CAVE

A beautiful cave that is physically demanding to explore. It is enormous, steep on some descents, slippery, narrow in some pathways, and deep in the underground. Just as you thought it’s all that there is, a certain section in the cave would require a rappel on a rockface to cross over. Truly, Sumaguing cave is not for the faint of hearts, but if you can handle yourself physically and mentally, the perks of seeing the beautiful rock formations is all worth a try.
Rating: 4.5/5

BOMOD-OK FALLS

Bomod-ok falls

A towering waterfall with a catch basin in deep green waters that are surrounded by boulders of different sizes, Bomod-ok falls is majestic in all of its glorious properties. Getting to its location would require an hour-long hike in the vast field of Fedelisan rice terraces. It will be tiring but easy and full of breathtaking views.
Rating: 4/5

KILTEPAN VIEWPOINT

Weather permitting, the Kiltepan Viewpoint showcases a fascinating display of the sun as it hovers a thick sea of clouds which would slowly dissipate later in the day to reveal the wondrous details of the Kiltepan rice terraces underneath. The viewpoint is situated 4 kilometers from the town proper. To get here, you can either walk with a guide or charter a vehicle.
Rating: 4/5

TOP THINGS TO DO IN SAGADA


Here are top things to do and activities that are worth a try around Sagada.

  • Drop by at Sagada Weaving and take great pleasure in the making of hand-weaved bags and other textiles.
  • Walk down memory lane and learn the rich history of Sagada by visiting the Ganduyan museum.
  • Watch the sunrise at Kiltepan or the sunset at Lake Danum.
  • Enjoy the local cuisine. Visit some of Sagada’s finest eats: Yoghurt House, Log Cabin, Lemon Pie House and Salt&Pepper Diner.
  • Try civet and the local coffee of Sagada at Gaia cafe, Sagada Brew or Bana’s Cafe.
  • Go spelunking on a cave connection tour for 3 to 4 hours in the massive cave system of Lumiang and Sumaguing.

SAGADA SAMPLE ITINERARY


In getting around the top tourist spots in Sagada, one can go on a DIY or an arranged tour package. The late is preferred by travelers who are in a shoestring budget. Here is a sample DIY itinerary for Sagada good for 3 days and 2 nights which assumes a party of two and will set back a budget of P4,800.00+ per person, excluding expenses for accommodation, souvenir and other incidentals.

Side note: Here is a travel guide for Batad-Sagada-Baguio good for 5 days.

DAY ONE

Activity Time Budget
Arrive in Banaue 6:00AM P490
Banaue Viewpoint 8:00AM
Arrive in Sagada 11:00AM P300
Register at Tourism Office 11:15AM P35
Lunch at Salt & Pepper 12:00PM P200
Yoghurt House 1:00PM P200
Check in 2:00PM
Cave Connection Tour 2:30PM P400
Lumiang Cave
Sumaguing Cave
Dinner at Sagada Homestay Diner 6:00PM P200
Socials at Sagada Pines 7:00PM P200
Curfew 9:00PM
The cave connection tour cost for P800 for the first 2 persons, and P400 for each succeeding person.

A beautiful rock formation inside Sumaguing cave. Note that some sections in the cave require a rappel on a rockface to cross over.

DAY TWO

Activity Time Budget
To Kiltepan Viewpoint 4:00AM P300
Sunrise 6:00AM
Rock Farm Café and Orange Picking 7:00AM P50
Bomod-ok Falls 9:00AM P200
Lunch 12:00PM P200
Echo Trail Tour 1:00PM P300
The Episcopal Church of St. Mary
Sagada Cemetery
Echo Valley
Hanging coffins
Sagada Weaving 3:00PM
Sagada Pottery 4:00PM P100
Lake Danum until sunset 5:00PM P300
Dinner at Log Cabin 7:00PM P200
Lemon Pie House 8:00PM P200
Curfew 9:00PM

The Lemon Pie House

DAY THREE

Activity Time Budget
Coffee at Gaia Café 8:00AM P150
Ganduyan Museum 10:00AM P25
Buy Souvenirs 11:00AM
Lunch 12:00PM P200
Dessert at Strawberry Café 1:00PM P150
Check out and depart to Baguio 2:00PM P250

Gaia Cafe is one of the shooting locations of the local film “That Thing Called Tadhana”. The movie helped promote Sagada’s tourism at the peak of its popularity.

Things to remember in getting around the tourist spots of Sagada:

  • Tour packages that are offered in the Tourism office are good for a maximum of 6 persons. You may tag along other solo travelers to save up your budget.
  • Most of the attractions are physically exhausting. Take enough rest at night so you can go on for another activity the day after.
  • You will need a transport to get to Bomod-ok falls, Kiltepan viewing deck and Lake Danum. You may charter a van or jeepney at a round trip rate of P500-P700 per attraction, good for 6 to 10 persons.
  • Spelunking, caving and the cave connection tour require a tour guide from the tourism office. You will also be asked to present the tourism fee receipt as you enter the caves.
  • Spelunking is an extreme activity and is definitely not for the claustrophobic. Please avoid taking any risk.
  • Waterproof gadgets and always be prepared to get wet in going to the waterfalls and caves.
  • Most of the attractions in Sagada are sacred to the locals, please behave yourself.
  • Ask permission when taking pictures of the locals, especially the elderly.
  • Sagada is a sleepy town and gets very dark at night. Make sure to get back to your accommodation before nightfall.

Local coffee and lemon pie. 😉

WHERE TO STAY IN SAGADA


Here is a list of accommodations in Sagada, take note that most stays are basic and non-luxurious.

  • Ganduyan Inn +63 921 273 8097
  • George Guest House  +63 918 548 0405
  • Indigenous Inn +63 921 645 5679
  • Masferre Country Inn +63 918 341 6164
  • Misty Lodge & Cafe +63  926 123 5240
  • Rock Inn & Cafe +63 905 554 5950
  • Sagada Guest House +639 189 385 601
  • Sagada Homestay +63 919 702 8380
  • Travelers Inn +63 920 799 2960

Camping is allowed in Lake Danum, Mt. Ampacao, Marlboro Hills, Calvary Hill and in Kiltepan viewdeck.

Go for an orange picking at the Rock Inn and Cafe.

USEFUL PHRASES


People in Sagada generally speaks Filipino or Tagalog, but on the off-chance of talking to an elderly Igorot, here are phrases that prove to be useful:

English to Kankana-ey (language of the Igorots in Sagada)
Good morning – Gawis ay agsapa
Good afternoon – Gawis ay masdem
Good evening – Gawis ay labi
Where did you come from? – Nalpuam?
Let’s go – Entako

A clear view of the Kiltepan Rice Terraces as the sea of clouds moves away.

BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER


Lastly, have fun and don’t forget to be awesome! 😉

EXTEND YOUR TRIP


Visit other top destinations in Luzon:

Or, go to Visayas and visit these fascinating islands:

Or, go to the surfing capital of the Philippines – Siargao! Budget Travel Guide here.

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