Travel to Ilocos Norte and explore Laoag City. What makes Laoag a unique travel destination? What are the must-see tourist spots in Laoag? What are the dishes and delicacies you should not miss out on? What activities should you include in your itinerary? Read more to learn about the awesome experiences you can try when you visit Laoag, Ilocos Norte.

Laoag City, the jewel of Ilocos Norte, is a city that deserves to be on everyone’s travel bucket list. Travelers will be delighted that this city, whose name was derived from the Ilocano word meaning “light” or “bright,” offers a lot of unique experiences that will bring smiles as bright as the sunshine.

Laoag is also aptly nicknamed “The Sunshine City,” not only because its charms will make even the sourest of moods make a 180-degree turn, but also because the city gets more than the usual amount of clear, sunny days.

It might not be a sprawling megacity; after all, with only 116.08 square kilometers of total land area, Laoag can be safely classified as a small city. But what it lacks in size is well-compensated by its rich and diverse tourist destinations, from majestic sand dunes along the Ilocos coastline to the awe-inspiring natural rock formations; from the centuries-old stone churches to must-try restaurants.

You can go on a thrilling 4x4 ride, climb up on rock formations, discover the city on foot, and even go swim at beach resorts in nearby towns. Travelers of all types wouldn’t run out of things to do in Laoag!

There are many ways to get around Laoag and its environs. For short trips, you can take tricycles. Jeepneys will be able to take you to the nearby towns of San Nicolas, Paoay, Currimao, Batac, Bacarra, and Pasuquin. Most jeepney trips from Laoag to the nearby towns only take about 15- to 30-minutes. You can also opt to drive to Laoag or hire a van to take you around for a more convenient trip.

Planning to add The Sunshine City to your list of travel destinations this year? Here are the top things to do in the city and its neighboring towns that you should include in your itinerary. From history to food adventure, Laoag City definitely has something for every type of traveler.


Visit These Family-Friendly Tourist Spots in Laoag

laoag malacanang of the north

Laoag is a perfect destination not just for backpackers or group of friends, but for families as well. Do include these destinations when you plan your holiday in Laoag:

1. Walk the Halls of Malacañang of the North

This two-story-mansion-turned-museum was the former holiday residence of the Marcos family. The home is done in Spanish colonial style, with a large spacious living room area, a grand staircase, and wide hallways. The museum displays memorabilia and some personal effects of the Marcos family.

The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 N.N. and 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. Entrance fee is PHP 30.00 per person.

2. Find Peace and Quiet at Paoay Lake

One of the largest natural lakes in the province of Ilocos Norte, Paoay Lake draws visitors not just because it’s right beside the Malacañang of the North, but because of its serene and calm beauty. The local legend says that the lake used to be the site of a barangay called San Juan de Sahagun, which sank after an earthquake and eventually submerged the village.

Today, Paoay Lake is a feeding stop for migratory birds, and you can go birdwatching near its banks. Try to spot the Philippine duck, great egret, great cormorant, and more when you look towards the lake from your vantage point at Malacañang of the North.  

3. Marvel at the Majestic Paoay Church

The Paoay Church, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, is worth a visit when you go up north. The church, also known as the San Agustin Church, is about 19km southwest of Laoag. It is built in the usual earthquake-baroque style, characterized by its wide base and massive flying buttresses flanking its sides. Like most old churches in the country, the exterior walls of Paoay Church are made with large coral stones and bricks. The church’s facade is also reminiscent of Javanese architecture bears a striking similarity to the Borobodur temple in Indonesia. Construction of the church began in 1704 and was finished 90 years later. Masses are heard in Ilocano, English, and Tagalog.

In addition, Paoay Church’s three-story bell tower, which is detached from the main church, played an important part at certain points in Philippine history. It served as an observation post for the Katipuneros against the Spaniards in the 1800s, and then again by Filipino guerillas against the Japanese during World War II.

4. Be Awed by the Bangui Windmills

The Bangui Windmills are a long line of 70m-high wind turbines lined up over a 9km stretch of the Bangui Bay shoreline. Standing tall over the black sand beach, the windmills make up the first wind farm in the country and generate enough electricity to support 40% of the power requirements of Ilocos Norte.

You can clearly see the windmills on the road leading to the bay. There’s little to no signs to tell you where to turn, though, so it’s best to book a tour so you don’t miss the turn going down the beach.

There is no entrance fee to the Bangui Windmills. But there are a few souvenir stalls in the area, so you might want to consider getting a little wooden replica of a wind turbine as a souvenir. There are also a few establishments dotting the 9km stretch of the wind farm, where you can sit and chill with a bottle of cold beer while looking out into the West Philippine Sea.

5. Make a Stop at the Batac Museum

The Batac Museum, also known as the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum, is dedicated to the late President Ferdinand Marcos. View various pieces of memorabilia of the former president that are on display inside the museum. The museum also served as the old resting place of the former president.

There is no entrance fee to the museum, but donations are welcome. The museum is open daily from 8:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.

Experience Exhilarating Adventures in Laoag

paoay sand dunes

Are you an adrenaline junkie? Laoag also offers all-natural playgrounds where you can unleash your inner child! Go on a day of adventures and include these exciting activities in your Laoag itinerary:

1. Ride a 4x4 and Go Sandboarding at the La Paz and Paoay Sand Dunes

The sand dunes of La Paz and Paoay, the natural coastal desert shaped by sea and wind, are located along the coast near Laoag City. Its rolling and sometimes steep slopes make it a perfect place for a heart-pumping 4x4 ride and sandboarding.

The best time to visit the sand dunes is in the afternoon so that you can avoid the worst of the sun's rays and be able to ride your 4x4 into the sunset.

2. Discover Kapurpurawan, the White Rock of Ilocos Norte

Many tourists go to Laoag for the sand dunes, or to nearby Pagudpud to swim in its beaches. But in the nearby town of Burgos, a hidden gem is waiting to be discovered: the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. It is a natural formation that juts out of the rock along the beach. Its name was derived from the Ilocano word “puraw” meaning “white.” The rock formation is known for its creamy white rock surface sculpted and shaped by the relentless pounding waves.

The rock formation is about 3km away from the drop-off point along the main highway. From the drop-off point, you need to go down a flight of stairs and trek towards the beach to reach the rock formation. Horseback rides are available at PHP 100.00 per person for those who can’t (or won’t) walk.

Explore the City of Laoag

laoag paoay church

Most of the tourist spots in Laoag City are either within walking distance from each other, or only a short tricycle ride away. Dedicate one full day in your itinerary to tour the city center. Here are some of the things you can include in your city tour:

1. Offer a Prayer at the Laoag Church

Laoag Church, also known as St. William’s Cathedral, is the current seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ilocos Norte. It was first built out of wood and thatch in the 1500s. Over the years, the church has evolved to its current Italian Renaissance architecture design. Masses are held in Ilocano, English, and Tagalog.

2. See the Sinking Bell Tower

Along a busy road about 85 meters away from the Laoag Church is the Sinking Bell Tower. The bell tower was built in the 1600s by the Augustinian friars, who did not immediately realize that it was on sandy soil. Since its construction, the bell tower has been sinking at a rate of about 1 inch per year. But despite its slow descent into the underground (literally), the bell tower still rings its bell every Sunday for mass. Visitors are not allowed to enter the tower though.  

3. Relax at the Rizal Amusement Park

Despite its name, the Rizal Amusement Park isn’t really an amusement park, at least not in the conventional sense. Instead of circus rides and game booths, this park is instead a huge garden filled with lush greens. If you’re looking for a place to relax, have an afternoon picnic under the trees, and people-watch, this is the place for you. Local restaurants and food stalls surround the park, should you want to grab a snack before settling into one of the park benches.

4. Visit the Museo Ilocos Norte

An old Tabacalera warehouse found a new lease of life as the Museo Ilocos Norte, which showcases the cultural heritage of the Ilocos Region. It houses a large collection of Ilocano, Igorot, and Itneg traditional clothing and artifacts, as well as exhibits telling the stories of the region’s Spanish-era churches. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch special performances and view exhibits from local artists.

The museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., and on Sundays from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Entrance fee is at PHP 30.00.

Get a Well-Deserved R&R at These Laoag Hotels

laoag fort ilocandia

Most hotels in Laoag are located close to the city center, which makes it convenient for travelers to explore the city on foot. Here are the top Laoag hotels that are popular with tourists and other travelers not just as a home away from home but also for staycation trips in Laoag.

1. Enjoy a Luxurious Break at Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel

Step foot inside the Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel and you will feel like you’ve been transported into a time when the pace of life was slow, relaxed, and peaceful. Take your time shopping at the hotel’s shopping arcade, sip your morning coffee while watching the golfers tee off at the golf course, and sink into their large, comfortable beds after a long day of sightseeing and food tripping, all of which will make your stay in Laoag a truly luxurious holiday.

2. Book a Room at Casa Felipa

Traveling on a budget? Casa Felipa just might be one of your best bets for comfortable accommodations. Situated in Laoag City proper and less than 15 minutes away from most establishments, it’s a quiet enough place for you to relax, but also near where all the activities take place. The rooms and bathrooms might be a little on the smaller side and with only the basic amenities but are clean and well-maintained.

3. Experience Affordable Luxury at Sola Hotel

One of the newest hotels in Laoag is Sola Hotel, which only started welcoming guests in February 2019. Spacious interiors and large gardens make it a good choice for small groups and families who want a luxurious, yet laid-back vibe for their accommodations. The hotel also offers a complimentary set breakfast for checked-in guests.

4. Stay with Your Family at Balay da Blas Hotel

Looking for family-friendly accommodations? Check out the Balay da Blas Hotel. Its cozy and roomy interiors make it the perfect home-away-from-home for your family. The rooms are also equally spacious and even has a small kitchenette. As a bonus, the popular Saramsam Ylocano restaurant is located right inside this hotel!

Have the Best of Ilocano Cuisine at These Restaurants in Laoag

what to eat

The Ilocos Region is home to a unique and delicious cuisine shaped by Asian and European influences, as well as locally available produce and you can taste the rich and diverse Ilocano cuisine in many of the restaurants in Laoag. Here are some of the restaurants you can check out to sample the best of Ilocano cooking.

1. Order the Poqui-Poqui Pizza at Saramsam Ylocano

Poqui-poqui is a traditional Ilocano vegetable dish made with roasted eggplants, tomatoes, and eggs. At Saramsam Ylocano, this dish is topped on fresh pizza dough for a unique Ilocano and Italian fusion dish. Pinakbet lovers will also enjoy the pinakbet pizza, while meat lovers can indulge in the longganisa pizza. Appetizers and side dishes start at PHP 80.00, while their pasta dishes and pizz go from PHP 165.00 to PHP 350.00.

2. Experience Ilocano Dining at its Finest in La Preciosa

Get the best value for your money at Laoag’s favorite restaurant, La Preciosa. Order the chicken ala pepian aka chicken kare-kare Ilocano style (PHP195.00), bagnet (PHP 195.00), crispy dinardaraan aka dinuguan (PHP 195.00), and the Warek-Warek or meat salad (PHP 220.00). Appetizers and main dishes are good for sharing.

Make sure you don’t miss out on La Preciosa’s moist and fluffy carrot cake topped with white icing and sweetened shredded carrots (PHP 120.00 a slice), considered by locals and visitors as one of the best carrot cakes in town.

3. Taste Authentic Ilocano Home Cooking at Cuisine de Iloco

Looking for a restaurant that perfectly captures and represents the food culture of the Ilocos region? Stop by Cuisine de Iloco! The restaurant serves a variety of bagnet dishes that will surely satisfy one’s craving for deep fried (twice!) pork belly. Start off with the original bagnet (PHP 199.00). You can also order the pinakbet (PHP 159.00), sinigang na bagnet (PHP 219.00), Ilocano Express (PHP 229.00), and kare-kare (PHP 219.00).

4. Have a Quirky Brunch at Johnny Moon Café

This cute little café is located inside the La Tabacalera Ilocano Lifestyle Center, at the side of Museo Ilocos Norte. The café name is a play on Juan Luna, the artist behind the famous painting called Spoliarium. The café interiors feature replicas of Luna’s paintings.

If you’ll be there for lunch, try the poqui-poqui lasagna (PHP 130.00) and bagnet salad (PHP 120.00) for starters. If you’re taking a touring break in the middle of the afternoon and in need of some coffee with a kick, you can order their Parisian Life (PHP 45.00), a special mix of coffee and wine, or the Heneral Blanco (PHP 40.00), fresh brewed coffee with basi (Ilocano wine) and nutmeg topped with whipped cream.

5. Savor the Original Ilocos Empanada at Dap-ayan ti Ilocos Norte

Complete your Ilocano food experience by sampling the famous empanada at the Dap-ayan ti Ilocos Norte outdoor food court. The deep-fried, bright orange pastry is filled with green papaya, minced longganisa, mung beans, and egg is well worth all the extra calories. Get one big empanada (can be shared, but really meant to be fully enjoyed individually) for around PHP 50.00. Other food stalls also offer a sampling of local dishes.

Head to the North for a Dose of Excitement!

bangui windmills

Laoag is a city of contrasts. It is a small, compact city, yet it’s bursting with one lovely attraction after another. It is the center of business and politics of Ilocos Norte province, yet it boasts of a traditional small-town charm that will lure in visitors escaping the hectic city life. It is also where wonders of nature exist side-by-side with man-made marvels.

A 3- to 4-day visit to Laoag City will rekindle your love for the simplest of things, satisfy your curiosity for both the old and the new, tickle your taste buds, and ignite your adventurous spirit.

Are you planning a trip to Laoag City soon? Use this guide to whip up your tour itinerary! You can also check out the different Laoag tours and activities that can help you make the most out of your holiday in the north’s Sunshine City.