Local Man in Banaue, the Philippines

Discovering the Banaue Rice Terraces

We’ve seen some spectacular beauty so far on our travels; in New Zealand we encountered towering volcanoes and sparkling emerald pools on the Tongariro Crossing; vast shimmering lakes surrounded by cloud-capped mountains in Queenstown and patchwork fields studded by lush rolling hills in Golden Bay. In Indonesia we were again awed by huge fiery volcanoes when we visited Mount Batur and Bromo and hit paradise when we washed up on the golden beaches of the Gili Islands. None of these sights, however, prepared us for the extreme beauty we discovered when we travelled through the Ifugao and Mountain provinces of the Philippines.

The Banaue Rice Terraces, the Philippines

The Banaue rice terraces

Our Sickening Journey to Banaue

As we headed to Manila after our week on the beautiful island of Bohol I began to feel a slight soreness in the back of my throat every time I swallowed. I tried hard to ignore the fact that my glands were swelling up and my sinuses sore as I battled to complete a freelance work assignment over the next couple of days but by the time we boarded the overnight bus to Banaue I was feeling sicker than ever.

A vicious 10-hour journey followed whereby we were pelted with freezing air conditioning and flung from side to side as we climbed ever-higher up winding mountain roads. At some point I must have slept because when I awoke, both my ears were completely blocked and nothing I did could equalise them. I emerged from the bus journey in a deafened, exhausted stupor, sneezing my way up a steep hill to find a guest house.

View from our Lodge in Banaue

Even in my sickened state however, I was already charmed by this small mountain village with its tall wooden buildings, hordes of chickens and narrow windy paths. We threw open the rickety shutters in our bedroom to be greeted by a cool rush of clean mountain air and our first glimpse of the famous Banaue rice terraces lying under a haze of misty cloud in the distance. After a short nap, some breakfast and a cocktail of cold medicine and pain killers we headed out to explore.

The Banaue Rice Terraces and Locals – in Pictures

I was feeling too weak to hike up to the top-most viewpoint in Banaue so we whizzed up on a trike instead, catching glimpses of tiny wooden houses, packs of stray dogs and the green-yellow terraces beyond as we went. When we got to the top, Andrew and I stood in silence, taking in the most incredibly beautiful view we’ve ever seen. From a grassy bottom bisected by a glistening river, steep flights of lush rice terraces climbed upwards on either side to meet a low, white-grey sky, heavy with the promise of rain.  The outlines of tiny villages perched on mountain-sides stretched off into the distance and if you squinted you could just make out the tiny ant-like shapes of people walking through the terraces below.

Banaue Rice Terraces, the Philippines

Statue on the Banaue Rice Terraces

Save for two other tourists we had the view completely to ourselves and stayed up there for a long time, taking pictures, breathing in the crisp air and checking out some weird stone statues. A group of old women with brown, creased faces dressed in traditional clothing asked us to take their pictures in exchange for a donation, thanking us with wide, almost-toothless smiles.

Local Women in Banaue

Andrew with Locals in the Philippines

Eventually we decided to head back down the mountain as the sky darkened with rain, on the way we passed dogs trotting up the road and small houses with washing hung outside and chickens pecking around in the grass. As we passed one porch a little girl in a pink top called out to us in greeting:

“What’s your name?” she asked, grinning and posing for pictures with her two brothers, “My name is Tellika.”

Cute Kid in Banaue, the Philippines

Cute Little Boy in Banaue, the Philippines

As we carried on down the path we were met by a steady stream of children heading home from school; many of them were keen to ask us our names while a group of three little boys puffed out their chests and demanded that we give them all our Pesos. As we stopped again to take pictures we encountered an old man clad in a traditional headdress wanting to pose for us and challenge Andrew to a spear fight.

Local Man in Banaue, the Philippines

Spear Throwing in Banaue, the Philippines

Eventually, we were chased back to our guesthouse by the thickening rain and settled in for the night in our cosy lodge, preparing for our difficult journey to the supposedly more impressive rice terraces in Batad the next day – what followed were the toughest and most amazing few days of trekking I’ve ever done in my life.

The Banaue rice terraces are the most beautiful place we've been so far on our round the world trip; here are our pictures from visiting Banaue

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16 Comments
  • Beast
    Posted at 19:58h, 24 September Reply

    Wow, you make it sound so amazing I could shut my eyes and imagine I’m actually there! X

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:28h, 25 September Reply

      Thanks Beast, it was such a beautiful place, we loved it.

  • Patti
    Posted at 22:10h, 25 September Reply

    Love the photos, especially of the 3 children – what faces! The surrounding country looks to be beautiful! Hopefully, you weren’t sick for too long, that’s so unfortunate!

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:48h, 26 September Reply

      The children were so cute Patti and the scenery was incredible, even being sick didn’t detract much from the experience.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 14:46h, 26 September Reply

    I’m so looking forward to reading these posts—we really wanted to explore northern Luzon, but transport being what it was in the Philippines, we ran out of time before getting to head that way. It’s at the top of our list of things to do when we go back. We’ve seen plenty of pretty rice terraces in our time in Asia, but everyone we’ve talked to who has been to Banaue says that they are the best!

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:00h, 27 September Reply

      The Banaue and Batad rice terraces are definitely the best ones we’ve seen so far on our trip Steph. I wish we’d had longer than a week to explore the area, we’ll be returning there when we make it back to the Philippines.

  • Pingback:Capture the Colour Competition | Our Capture the Colour Photos
    Posted at 08:43h, 28 September Reply

    […] met this colourful local at the Banaue rice terraces in the Philippines; he was keen for us to photograph him in his traditional red headdress in […]

  • Alyson
    Posted at 03:11h, 29 September Reply

    Now that really does look special! We’re going next year, it’s decided ( medical dramas allowing!)

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:01h, 29 September Reply

      Yep, don’t miss out on the Philippines Alyson; hope Chef is recovering from his medical drama.

  • Heidi Wagoner
    Posted at 20:18h, 29 September Reply

    Oh, how I love your photos. The rice terraces are gorgeous, but I love the people. Great shots. Sorry you were sick, that is unpleasant.

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:59h, 01 October Reply

      Thanks Heidi, the people in Banaue and the Philippines in general were so lovely, welcoming and polite.

  • Pingback:Our Mountain Retreat in Sagada | Why we Love Sagada, the Philippines
    Posted at 09:47h, 06 October Reply

    […] our exhausting trekking adventures in Banaue and Batad we were searching for somewhere to relax for a few days before leaving the Philippines. […]

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    Posted at 09:07h, 18 October Reply

    […] Hills in Bohol and exploring caves in Sagada. We also wanted to visit the famous Batad and Banaue rice terraces which meant we needed to hire a guide in Batad. While these kinds of experiences would cost us a […]

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    Posted at 09:37h, 18 October Reply

    […] the journey from Banaue to Batad itself was no easy feat. As we awoke in Banaue I noticed the fog of illness I’d been struggling under for the last few days had receded somewhat […]

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    Posted at 10:24h, 12 December Reply

    […] to Banaue.  I was sick with a bad cold the night we took the nine-hour bus ride from Manila to Banaue in the Philippines. As well as leaving almost an hour late, we were pelted with freezing cold air […]

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    Posted at 20:32h, 10 July Reply

    […] provinces which are littered with rarely-frequented UNESCO-rated rice terraces. Our journey from Banaue to Batad was hard but the actual trek  over the terraces was the toughest but most spectacular and […]

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