SAGADA: A PRACTICAL TRAVEL GUIDE FOR DIY & BUDGET TRAVELERS [UPDATED as of 2021]

Note: As a precautionary measure in this time of COVID-19 pandemic, it is best to check with the authorities the updated travel requirements and possible restrictions that might affect your travel plan. Contact Sagada tourism office at tourism.sagada@yahoo.com or at +63 995 013 8303 to know the latest update.

Remember to always follow the health and safety protocols imposed from your travel origin to your destination. I wish you a safe trip ahead!

Traveling to Sagada for the first time? This detailed DIY travel guide is exactly what you need. Scroll down and take note of the outlined information from sample itinerary and budget, best places to visit, top things to do, recommended transports, budget-friendly accommodations, and other travel tips. Have a fun and enjoyable trip ahead!

Notice to Travelers: Due to the recent threat of COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus), the local government of Sagada ordered a temporary suspension of its spelunking and sunrise viewing activities. All tours are required to start at 7:00 a.m. To get the latest updates, check the official Sagada tourism page in Facebook via this link: Sagada Tourism.

START HERE!

SAGADA AT A GLANCE

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.

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 during the conquest; thus was able to keep most of its indigenous culture over time.

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

Limestone cliffs and pines on forested valleys are a typical sight in the area. Mornings are tranquil, bearably cold and 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 a try.

WHERE TO STAY IN SAGADA

Wandering around Sagada requires a lot of walking so it is important to choose an accommodation that is at a close distance from the main road or that is near the town proper where most tourist spots are situated.

Below is a snapshot of the available accommodations within 2 kilometers from Sagada town proper. Hover on the price tag to know more details.

To set your expectation right, most accommodations in Sagada are basic with less-to-no internet or WiFi connectivity.

Here are top value accommodations that are ideal for a group of 4 persons:

BAEY BOGAN HOMESTAY
– price at around P1,700+ per night
– with shared kitchen and laundry service
– provides free coffee in the morning
Click the photo to book or check for more details.
KANIP AW PINES VIEW LODGE
– price at around P1,100+ for a group of 4 persons
– has access to WiFi in public areas
– near the main road, yet peaceful
Click the photo to book or check for more details.

For backpackers and budget travelers, below are accommodations that you can choose from. Click the link to book or check for more details.

For campers, camping is allowed at Lake Danum, Mt. Ampacao, Marlboro Hills, Calvary Hill and Kiltepan viewpoint.

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

HOW TO GET TO SAGADA

Sagada is only accessible via land trip as there is no available airport in the area.

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 8:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. Regular bus fare is around P700, travel time is roughly 12 hours. Check the search box above for specifics.

(If you are looking for a travel guide for Manila, check this link: Manila DIY Budget Travel Guide)

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 10:00 p.m. Make your reservation by contacting them at  +63 927 649 3055. Bus fare is close to P500, travel time is at 8 hours minimum. 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 around 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 P40 and then catch a jeepney or bus that leaves for Bontoc for P170, travel time is 3 hours. From Bontoc, ride another jeepney to Sagada for P60, 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. Hold tight and be careful.

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 close to P500, 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 around P300, travel time is 6 hours. Last trip is 1:00 p.m.

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 6:00 a.m. and end at 5:00 p.m. Fare is around P170, 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 6:00 a.m., last trip is around 2:00 p.m. Apart from the vans, you can also take a bus or jeepney at Cervantes Market. Fare is around P140, 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 P40.

GETTING AROUND & AWAY SAGADA

Getting Around: Transport options in Sagada are limited. To get around tourist spots within the town center, you have to go on foot for at least 10 minutes to get from one attraction to another; for places of interest outside the town center, your best option is to get a tour. Tourism operations in Sagada is well regulated and organized.

Getting Away: For travelers bound for Manila, take a Coda Line bus which departs at 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. daily. For Baguio, there are buses in Sagada that leave daily from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For Bontoc bound, jeepneys are available as early as 6:00 a.m., last trip is around 1:00 p.m.

The Banaue Rice Terraces as seen from the viewpoint.

BEST TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN SAGADA

Here are top seven (7) 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, Echo Valley does echo through the mountains whenever you shout. To get there, you need to embark on an easy stroll under a dense cluster of pine trees and thinly dispersed walls of limestone, 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, the Hanging 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, Sumaguing Cave 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 definitely one for the books.

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 (temporarily closed)

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 there, 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 Weaving

SAGADA TOUR RATES

The tour rates below were shared by the Tourist Information center last June 1, 2018. You may reach them for more updates through these mobile numbers:

  • +63 910 851 4888 (Smart Trinet)
  • +63 995 013 8303 (Globe Trinet)

ECHO VALLEY TOUR: (Mission Compound, Cemetery, Hanging Coffins)

  • P300 for 1-10 visitors (1 guide)
  • P400 for 11 visitors (1 guide)
  • P600 for 12-20 visitors (2 guides)
  • P700 for 21 visitors (2 guides)
  • P800 for 22-30 visitors (3 guides)
  • P900 for 31 visitors (3 guides)
  • P1,000 for 32-40 visitors (4 guides)
  • *41 pax and above— 30 pesos per head

ECHO TOUR: (Mission Compound, Cemetery, Hanging Coffins, Latang Underground entrance, Bokong Water Falls.)

  • Guide Fee: P800 for 10 visitors or less (1 guide)
  • P1,600 for 11-20 visitors (2 guides)
  • P 2,400 for 21-30 visitors (3 guides)
  • *31 and above 60 pesos each

ADVENTURE TRAIL: (Mission Compound, Cemetery, Hanging Coffins, Latang Underground, Bokong Water Falls.)

  • Guide Fee: P1,000 for 10 visitors or less
  • *31 and above 100 pesos each

SUMAGING CAVE or SHORT COURSE CAVING (1-hour walk from the town center, passing by the Dokiw Hanging Coffins and Lumiang Burial Cave Entrance. Plus, 1 and a half hours exploration inside the cave.)

  • Guide Fee: P800 for 4 visitors or less (1 guide)
  • P900 for 5 visitors (1 guide)
  • P1,600 for 6-9 visitors(2 guides)
  • P1,800 for 10 visitors (2 guides)
  • P2400 for 11-12 visitors (3 guides)
  • P200 per person for 13 visitors or more
  • Optional: Two way Transportation: P350

CAVE CONNECTION (40-minute walk to Lumiang Burial Cave Entrance, passing by Dokiw Hanging Coffins, emerging at Sumaguing Cave. Plus, 3-4 hours exploration inside the cave)

  • Guide Fee: P1,000 for 2 visitors or less
  • +P500 each additional visitor
  • Optional: Two way Transportation: P400

MARLBORO-BLUE SOIL TRAVERSE TREK (4-5 hour trek passing through limestone formations)

  • Guide Fee: P 1,600 for 5 visitors or less
  • P300 each for 6 visitors and up
  • Transport Fee: P1,350.00
  • P135 each for 10 persons and up

LAKE DANUM SUNSET (Leave for Lake DANUM at 4:30 p.m. then a 10-minute drive from the town center.)

  • Transport Fee: P550 for 1-10 visitors
    P55.00 per person for more than 10 visitors
  • one day tour guide: P2,200
  • one day shuttle: P2,400 —

SAGADA SAMPLE ITINERARY & BUDGET

Here is a sample Sagada itinerary that is good for 2 to 3 days. It 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 (budget per person: P2,298.00)

ActivityTimeBudget
Arrive in Banaue (from Manila)6:00AMP648
Banaue Viewpoint8:00AM
Arrive in Sagada11:00AMP300
Register at Tourism Office11:15AMP50
Lunch at Salt & Pepper12:00PMP200
Yoghurt House1:00PMP200
Check in2:00PM
Cave Connection Tour2:30PMP500
Lumiang Cave
Sumaguing Cave
Dinner at Sagada Homestay Diner6:00PMP200
Socials at Sagada Pines7:00PMP200
Curfew10:00PM
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 (budget per person: P1,650.00)

ActivityTimeBudget
To Kiltepan Viewpoint4:00AMP250
Sunrise6:00AM
Rock Farm Café and Orange Picking7:00AMP50
Bomod-ok Falls9:00AMP250
Lunch12:00PMP200
Echo Trail Tour1:00PMP400
The Episcopal Church of St. Mary
Sagada Cemetery
Echo Valley
Hanging coffins
Sagada Weaving3:00PM
Sagada Pottery4:00PMP100
Lake Danum until sunset5:00PM
Dinner at Log Cabin7:00PMP200
Lemon Pie House8:00PMP200
Curfew9:00PM
The Lemon Pie House

DAY THREE (budget per person: P825)

ActivityTimeBudget
Coffee at Gaia Café8:00AMP150
Ganduyan Museum10:00AMP25
Buy Souvenirs11:00AM
Lunch12:00PMP200
Dessert at Strawberry Café1:00PMP150
Check out and depart to Baguio2:00PMP300
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 note when following the sample itinerary:

  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Sagada is a sleepy town and gets very dark at night. Make sure to get back to your accommodation before nightfall.

NEW RULES & REGULATIONS FOR VISITS IN SAGADA

  • Visitors are required to register at the Tourist Information Center and pay P50 for the Environmental Fee.
  • Strictly No Guide, No Tour for all the tourist spots.
  • Only registered local tour guides that are assigned by Tourist Information Center are authorized to accompany the tourists.
  • Receipts given by the Tourist Information Center serves as the official entrance pass to the sites. Make sure to bring it in your tour.
  • Visits to Marlboro at sunrise is regulated to only 800 tourists per day. Be sure to enlist yourself ahead at the Tourist Information center.
  • Central Town tourist spots including Echo Valley, Sagada Weaving, Ganduyan museum are part of a walking tour. Vehicles are not allowed to ferry guests to the sites.
  • Always ask permission when taking photos of the locals and their rituals.
  • Respect all sacred grounds and sites. Minimize your noise, especially during night time.
  • Wear respectable clothes and strictly no public display of affection.
  • Park only at designated areas.
  • No littering. Bring your own disposal bag and throw your trash accordingly.
  • Minimize the use of plastic. Bring your own water bottle on tour and an ego-bag when shopping.
  • Establishments and accommodations are regulated by curfew. Always notify the owners in case you will not be back by 10:00 p.m.
Local coffee and lemon pie. 😉

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 during these times.
  • 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.
  • Trekking is a major activity in Sagada so it is a must to bring non-slippery footwear. 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 has 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 10:00 p.m.-4:00 a.m.
  • 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 Banaue Viewpoint. Take a side trip to this beautiful place on your way to Sagada.

USEFUL PHRASES

People in Sagada generally speaks Filipino or Tagalog and can understand English, but on the chance of talking to an elderly Igorot, here are phrases that proved 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.

MY TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS IN SAGADA

What I like?

Sagada being one of those places that you can temporarily disconnect to the real world was a plus. I like that you can commune both with nature and locals who are a great representation of a true-blue Filipino culture. I dig the fact that the place is laidback and pretty much untouched to urbanization. To a greater extent, getting a taste of how spelunking felt like was totally the real deal. The caves were massive and beautiful, perfectly different from some of the small caves I’ve tried on in the Philippines. And oh, the local coffee and home-made yoghurt were something that kept me wanting for more. I don’t need to say much, but Sagada was pure bliss!

What I don’t like?

Hmmm… it’s not a major letdown but personally, I felt that the hanging coffins didn’t live up to the hype. However, I still recommend that you give it a try. Other than that, the transports to get away from Sagada which is only available until 6:00 p.m. was something that you really have to take note. All else really served me well.

MEET THE BLOGGER

Leaning on our boat at Punta Sibaring 1. This photo was taken during a high tide.

Hey there! I’m Ker, The Fun-sized Traveller. Fun-size because I’m a short guy from the Philippines. Thanks for checking out this virtual block I have started building since my 30th birthday to document my 2nd quarter life. Yup, it’s more of a personal pursuit, but a part of me also wants to give back to the travel community that is why I make it a point to share travel articles out from my trips around Asia.

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