Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

Find out what’s so special about Vigan in Ilocos Sur and why it is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. What are the top tourist spots and activities you shouldn’t miss? Which Vigan food should you try? When is the best time to go and how to go? Which hotels should you stay in? Read on to learn everything you need to know about traveling to this unique city in the North of Luzon.

A visit to Ilocos Sur's capital, Vigan, is a trip to the old days of the country. Established way back in the 16th century, Vigan was once a stop on the Silk Route that made it a relevant trading post. In 1572, conquistador Juan de Salcedo took over the city and became the lieutenant governor of the Ilocos region. It then became the center of political, religious, and commercial activities of the North of Luzon.

Today, Vigan is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it is the best-preserved planned Spanish colonial town remaining in Asia today. Though it followed the Renaissance grid plan for cities of the Spanish Empire, it is also highly influenced by the various architectural designs such as those from China and Europe. It is also recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities. 

Vigan is a city that combines the rich history of the colonial era and the bustling atmosphere of an Asian city. But, it never forgot its roots. The Spanish-era architecture remained, attracting more than a million visitors, both Filipinos and foreigners, every year.

Aside from its historical and architectural significance, a trip to Vigan can also be packed with gastronomic adventures where you can feast on Ilocano food. Do you want to organize a Vigan tour to experience this unique city’s old-world charm and cuisine? Here is everything you need to know for a complete Vigan experience:

CONTENTS

Going to Vigan

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the PhilippinesDepending on your transportation budget and available time, there are commonly two options to reach Vigan City: land travel and plane. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is the main jumpoff point of travelers. Here we list down the ways on how to go to Vigan City if you’re coming from Manila and other points in Luzon:

By Bus 

Buses are the cheapest way to travel to Vigan. There are many bus lines to choose from, but their prices do not differ that much from one another. However, expect the more premium rides like that from Partas Bus in Cubao and Fariñas Transit in Pasay that come with Wi-Fi, TV, and the toilet to be on a higher tier. Tickets can be booked in advance.

Partas, Dominion Bus Lines, Viron Transit, and St. Joseph/Aniceto Transit have direct trips to Vigan daily, while Philippine Rabbit Bus Line, Fariñas, Maria de Leon, Florida, Baliwag, and RCJ Transit have regular trips that pass by Vigan via the Manila-Laoag route. If you want to save more time and money, go for an overnight ride. There’s less road congestion, and you won’t need accommodation for the night. 

For those coming from the following locations in North Luzon, here are some suggested ways to get to Vigan:

  • From Clark International Airport in Pampanga – Take the shuttle service or a taxi to Dau Bus Terminal where you can ride a bus for Vigan. Travel will take 7 to 9 hours.

  • From Baguio – Take buses to Laoag and get off in Vigan. The travel time is around 5 hours.

  • From Abra/Tuguegarao – GMW and Florida Liner bus lines have trips that stop in Vigan.

By Private Car/Van

From Manila, Vigan-bound vehicles, both public buses, and private cars should take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) route. These highways also serve passengers going to other provinces in Northern Luzon. Going to Vigan from Manila will take roughly 8 to 10 hours. You can also hire private van tours that will take you directly to Vigan from destinations in Luzon. 

By Flights

Air travel to Vigan is a quick solution if you’re short on time but willing to shell out more. There are no direct flights, but you can fly from Manila to Laoag Airport and ride a bus to Vigan. The entire trip will take around 3 hours. If you’re coming from Visayas or Mindanao, fly to Manila first then to Vigan.

Vigan used to have a community airport named Mindoro Airport that served the whole province of Ilocos Sur, with InterIsland Airline and Sea Air having regular flights. However, operations had to be canceled due to low traffic, though the airport still serves chartered flights.

Best Time to Go to Vigan City

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

The majority of tourist spots in Vigan City are best explored when it's dry and sunny. Plan your itinerary around the months when there is little to no rain so you can maximize your time. Here is a detailed guide on when to go to Vigan City:

Dry and Summer Season | November to May

Vigan can be explored at any time of the year, but it's highly recommended to do your Vigan tour visit between November to May, the dry months. It is also when some of the city's distinct festivals are held. December to February is having lower temperatures but still dry months in Vigan. Plan your trip during this time if you don't like the intense summer heat.

Longganisa Festival | January

Every January 22, the locals of Vigan celebrate a longganisa-themed festival. Longganisa is a local sausage with a creamy garlic flavor and a breakfast staple in the country. Eating Vigan longganisa (or buying bags of it for souvenirs) is a must when in this city. During the Longganisa Festival, stalls are installed around the streets selling the delicacy.

Vigan Town Fiesta | January

Just a few days after Longganisa Festival is the Vigan Town Fiesta. It is a week-long celebration in honor of St. Paul the Apostle that starts on January 25. This festival fills the streets of Vigan with colorful exhibits, carnivals, and locals performing street dances.

Viva Vigan Festival of Arts | May 

This festival during the first week of May celebrates and promotes Vigan City's cultural and historical heritage. The highlight of the festival is during May 3 (Tres de Mayo) where the celebration starts with a mass at the cemetery chapel and follows by dancing in Calle Crisologo and a parade of their local kalesa.

Climate and Weather 

Vigan has two climates, dry and wet, like other destinations in the Philippines. The dry months are from November to May, with the hottest from April to May. The wet months are from June to October, with August receiving the most rain. Vigan City’s average temperature is  26 °C, with the average warmest 30.9°C and an average lowest at 21.1 °C. Here’s a graph showing Vigan’s temperature and rainfall for the whole year: 

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

Source: NOAA

What to Wear 

Exploring Vigan will require a lot of walking around the streets of Calle Crisologo. Wear breathable clothes that are perfect for the summer season, especially if you’re traveling there during the peak dry months. Wear a hat or bring an umbrella, wear sunglasses, and choose comfortable shoes or sandals that are good for walking around. If your trip is during the cooler months of December to February, bring a light jacket, especially at night. 

Getting Around Vigan City 

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

The main tourist spots of Vigan like Calle Crisologo are within walking distance and can be explored by foot or riding a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage). Other attractions will need to be explored by riding different public and private transportation options, depending on your preference and budget. Here are your options when discovering the tourist spots of Vigan City: 

Kalesa 

These horse-drawn carriages are a staple in the Calle Crisologo area and are perfect for short-distance travel for a unique cultural experience. These are the only public transportation allowed inside the old street of Calle Crisologo. It’s a great option if you don’t want to walk under the heat. They are paid every hour and can be taken to tourist spots within Vigan City. 

Tricycle

For short to long distances within Vigan City that cannot be traveled by foot, you can ride a tricycle (auto-rickshaw). These can accommodate up to 4 passengers. You can also hire these for a day tour around Vigan City if you’re up for a rugged style of transportation with the open air.

Private Cars or Van 

You can bring your car or hire a private tourist van for a more comfortable and convenient way to see the tourist spots in Vigan City. These are perfect for exploring other destinations in the Ilocos region like Laoag, Paoay, and Pagudpud. All you need to do is sit back and relax while your driver and guide navigate the roads of Vigan City and Ilocos region. 

Where to Stay in Vigan

Being a well-known destination, Vigan City is teeming with hotels, hostels or inns, and other accommodations for tourists who want to stay for a night or longer. However, it understandably gets fully booked quickly during peak seasons, especially for the hotels located in the City Center or near Calle Crisologo. An alternative is to book accommodations somewhere away from the main tourist attractions. You may even be in luck as these places are no doubt cheaper. 

Types of Accommodations

There are different hotels that tourists can stay in Vigan City depending on your needs, size of the group, and budget. Find out which type of accommodation is perfect for your trip to Vigan with these choices:

Hotels 

There are numerous hotels in Vigan City that are centralized in the City Center or near Calle Crisologo. Most of these hotels are in the mid- to luxury-range prices. They offer complete amenities like cable TV, hot and cold shower, Wi-Fi, and some even have their restaurants and bars. These are your best options if you want the most comfortable stay in Vigan and are willing to pay for convenience.

Hostels/Inns/Transient Houses

For budget travelers, there are some options for hostels, inns, or transient houses in Vigan. These are usually located outside the City Center. They offer basic accommodations but without the luxuries provided by hotels. You will also need to ride public transportation to the City Center if you're staying in these.

Vacation Rentals 

There are multiple privately-owned houses by locals that are listed for rental. These vary in location, with the pricier ones located in or near the City Center. These are good for families or big groups who want to cut costs on food because these have fully-equipped kitchens.

Neighborhoods and Areas

When booking a hotel in Vigan City, you only have two areas to choose from: the City Center and the neighboring barangays. It's critical to learn where you're hotel is located since it will affect how you get around Vigan City. Here is more information on where the accommodations in Vigan City are located.

City Center (Poblacion)

The premier tourist and hotel spot in Vigan City is in the City Center (Poblacion) where you can find the streets that surround Calle Crisologo. Most of the hotels located here are in the mid- to luxury-range since you're paying for the best location. Booking accommodation here means you only need to walk to go to the top tourist attractions and restaurants in Vigan City.

Neighboring Barangays 

Vigan City has 39 barrios and barangays, which also cover the City Center (Poblacion). The other hotels outside of the City Center are cheaper. However, you will need to travel by tricycle or private car/van to go to the tourist spots. If you don't mind the extra commute, then you can book a hotel in the neighboring barangays instead.

Accommodation Highlights in Vigan City

Now that you know the type of accommodations and the best places to book your hotel, let us help you choose where to book based on the budget. Here are a few highly recommended Vigan hotels and accommodations depending on amenities and the prices. 

Luxury Accommodations

These accommodations are close to the City Center and offer the best amenities and services in Vigan, thus the higher price point. If you’re highly meticulous in your choice of accommodation, these will not let you down. 

Hotel Luna

Hotel Luna has been touted as the best in Vigan thanks to its variety of quality rooms, amenities, and services. Their most affordable room can accommodate two adults with its queen-sized bed and a separate tub and shower. It also comes with Wi-Fi and cable TV. You can even take a dip in their outdoor pool if you feel like taking a break from walking around Vigan.

Paradores de Vigan

Paradores de Vigan is also the right choice if you have some cash to spare. Their rooms boast of a kitchen and dining area, while some even have a balcony. Guests get to enjoy an Asian breakfast too.

West Loch Park Hotel - Vigan

It is the branch of West Loch Park Hotel located in Gen. Luna St, near Calle Crisologo. All rooms come with air-conditioning, sofa, toilet with a bidet, and television to help you relax. 

Mid-range Accommodations

If you're not keen on walking too far from the main attractions, you can choose to book a hotel or inn located near or within the Vigan City Center. These accommodations are priced in the middle of the budget to luxury due to their convenient location.

Hotel Salcedo De Vigan

Hotel Salcedo De Vigan's rooms are very spacious. The hotel has a restaurant known for its superb local and international cuisine menu. You can also make an accessibility request like a bathroom in advance if you or your companion has special needs.

Ciudad Fernandina Hotel

At Ciudad Fernandina Hotel, you have everything you need after a long day of traveling. All rooms come with cable television, air-conditioning, electronic door lock, and hot and cold shower. It even has a restaurant and bar for your unwinding needs.

Gordion Hotel

Another short walk away from Calle Crisologo is Gordion Hotel. Its interiors also adapt the Spanish colonial style of the city with four-post beds and antique decors. Guests can enjoy a filling breakfast of either Filipino or Continental.

Budget Accommodations 

For those who are keeping an eye on their expenses, Vigan City is filled with lodges and inns. These offer inexpensive rooms but ideal places to rest their weary bodies after a long day of exploring. These are highly recommended not just for the affordable price but because of their convenient location. 

Escolta’s Homey Lodge

Escolta’s Homey Lodge is a basic accommodation without many amenities (though they have free Wi-Fi!). It’s located right in the heart of Calle Crisologo, so you pretty much have everything you need.

Metro Vigan Inn

This pet-friendly budget hotel has two locations, with the closest one to the City Center just across Plaza Salcedo. All rooms come with air-conditioning and are inclusive of breakfast. There's also full and secured parking space for those who would be driving to Vigan.

Cordillera Inn

The rooms at Cordillera Inn are clean and straightforward. They offer both air-conditioned and fan-cooled rooms. A night's stay comes with a breakfast of Vigan longganisa, tapa (cured beef), or daing (dried fish).

What to See and Do in Vigan 

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

Vigan has successfully preserved its long history by maintaining the look it had during the colonial years. It also conserved important sites, practices, and items that date back to the Spanish era. With that, here are some of the activities and tourist spots that you should add in your Vigan tour itinerary to immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Vigan.  

Revisit History at Calle Crisologo 

The cobblestone streets and Spanish-style homes are what made Calle Crisologo in Vigan one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. It’s a walk down memory lane that would give you an idea of how people from the colonial era saw Vigan.

Walking is the best way to tour Calle Crisologo, as there is little to no vehicular traffic (except for the kalesas that are allowed). You can go inside some of the houses, which have been restored or turned into souvenir shops, hotels, or restaurants. Most of them still maintain the old-world charm through red-tiled roofs, decorative doors, high ceilings, and capiz windows. Do stay until nighttime when the lamps along the street are lit, and tables are set up for dining, as it gets more charming and a tad romantic.

If you want an extra flair of colonial style, visit the Ilocos Sur Provincial Tourism Office. Here you can rent a filipiniana or barong (traditional Filipino costumes) to authentically exude that era’s style as you walk through Calle Crisologo.

Watch the Fountain Show at Plaza Salcedo

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

Nearby Calle Crisologo is Plaza Salcedo, Vigan's main square and gathering point. At night, it's an audio-visual spectacle thanks to a dancing fountain light show. Be at the Plaza Salcedo before 7:00 P.M. on weekdays to witness this 30-minute show that synchronizes the spouting of the water fountain to colorful lights and infectious music. On weekends, there is a second show at 8:30 P.M.

Attend Mass at Vigan Cathedral

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

It is located in the main square of the city. Also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Conversion of St. Paul, it was founded in the 17th century, and is one of the oldest Augustinian churches in the Philippines. It boasts of a modified Baroque architecture, made by the Ilocanos to withstand earthquakes. The church has also gone through many disasters but has been restored.

Visit the Bantay Bell Tower

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

Bantay Bell Tower serves the nearby Saint Augustine Parish Church. It was established in 1950, making it one of the oldest in the Ilocos region, and was used during the colonial era as a watchtower against pirates, thus the name bantay or "to guard." Climb up and enjoy an awe-inspiring view of neighboring towns.

Try Pottery and Weaving at Pagburnayan

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

Along Liberation Boulevard are factories and stores of handmade earthenware. The area is more commonly known as Pagburnayan from the root word burnay or clay pot. Here, you can try cultural activities like pottery and weaving. The pots or jars are made from bantog clays that are dug from the western side of the city. They are primarily useful in the fermentation of sugar cane into basí (sugarcane wine) and in making bagoong (fish paste). Choose from any of the potteries in the area and get your hands muddy on pottery making. Or, you can watch the pros and buy souvenirs instead.

More handcrafted masterpieces await you at Abel Iloco Weaving in the town of Caoayan. Abel refers to the locally produced cotton fabric that is handwoven into shawls, tablecloths, barong, napkins, etc. In Brgy. Camanggaan, you can marvel at the intricacies of the hand-weavers at Rowilda’s Weaving Factory or Cristy's Loom Weaving.

Go Museum Hopping

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

There is no shortage of history lessons here in Vigan thanks to its many museums. As a city that prides itself on its historical and cultural significance in the Philippines, there are several museums that best explain Vigan's past. Go museum hopping at these tourist spots when you’re in Vigan: 

  • Crisologo Museum - This museum commemorates the life of Floro S. Crisologo, a congressman known for landmark legislation like the creation of the North’s first state university, the University of Northern Philippines, and the state-run social insurance program Social Security System.

  • Syquia Mansion - It is the ancestral home owned by former President Elpidio Quirino’s wife, Doña Alicia Syquia Quirino. The former president was born in this city, and the Syquia Mansion houses his extensive memorabilia. 

  • Father Burgos Museum - It is the satellite branch of the National Museum in Manila. It is dedicated to the martyr priest who was also born in Vigan City.  

  • Museo San Pablo - Museo San Pablo houses photographs of Vigan in the 19th century by a German photographer and old religious statues.

  • Museo Nueva Segovia - In 1758, Vigan was the seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, making it the position of power of Roman Catholicism up North. Museo Nueva Segovia is the museum of the Arzobispado and where the Archbishop of Nueva Segovia resides. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and his men used it as headquarters when they were in Vigan in 1898.

Get Educated at Baluarte Zoo

Baluarte Zoo houses both native and exotic animals like lions, tigers, monkeys, camels, deer, ostrich, ducks, kangaroos, and a variety of birds. It also houses a butterfly sanctuary. It's ideal for visiting early in the morning to watch the animals being fed and released in the open field.



What to Eat and Drink in Vigan 

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

A trip to this historical city is not complete without tasting what food Vigan is known for. A big part of your itinerary will involve a lot of eating because Vigan has several delicacies that you should never miss trying. Here's what you need to know when planning a food trip in Vigan City: 

Local Cuisine

As a part of the Ilocos Region, Vigan City's main food offerings are Ilokano cuisine. Ilocanos, the locals of the Ilocos region, are known great cooks in the Philippines. Their dishes are cooked and served in Filipino homes and restaurants all over the country. Ilokano dishes are usually cooked with bagoong (fermented/salted fish or small shrimps), fresh seafood, and vegetables. Here is some must-try local cuisine when in Vigan that are served in most Filipino restaurants:

Vigan Travel Guide | Guide to the Philippines

  • Ilocos Empanada - This delicacy is made with a mixture of grated green papaya, mung bean sprouts, shredded carrots, whole egg, and skinless Vigan longganisa. All wrapped in a dough of rice flour that is then deep-fried to get a crusty shell. Irene's Empanada in Plaza Burgos is one of the go-to places for this sinful but heavenly and cheap delicacy.

  • Bagnet - Deep-fried crispy pork belly cooked in its fat. Best eaten with Sukang Iloko (local vinegar).

  • Pinakbet or pakbet - A staple Ilokano dish cooked with fresh vegetables and bagoong (fermented/salted fish or small shrimps). Bits if bagnet bagnet (deep-fried pork belly) is sometimes added to this dish.

  • Sinanglao – Beef or carabao innards boiled in beef soup stock that is served with vinegar and kamias. You can add leeks and onion rings if you want to add more flavor.

  • Okoy – A pancake-like dish made with tiny local shrimps and usually eaten as an afternoon snack.

  • Tinubong – A sticky sweet rice cake cooked in coconut milk and sugar with strips of young coconut. It is sold in bamboo tubes.

  • Chichacorn or chichapop – A variation of Cornick or a corn snack. These are excellent food souvenir (pasalubong) items since it's easy to snack on.

  • Sukang Iloko – Vinegar made from fermented sugar cane, mixed with chili pepper and Samak leaves.

  • Royal Bibingka – A chewy rice cake topped with cheese and margarine and resembles a mamon (Filipino sponge cake), but with chewy texture like that of cassava cake.

Recommended Restaurants and Bars 

Check out these top restaurants while exploring the historic cobbled streets of Vigan. Most of these are located in or near Calle Crisologo. The majority offer Filipino or Ilokano cuisine with some international foods.

Café Leona

It is perhaps the most well-known restaurant in Vigan. Because it is named after the Vigan native, poet Leona Florentino, who is often considered as the mother of Philippine women's literature. Aside from serving traditional Ilocano and Filipino cuisine, Café Leona also offers an eclectic fusion of Italian, Chinese, and Japanese dishes. And nothing highlights this better than their pinakbet pizza.

Lilong and Lilang Restaurant

Lush gardens may surround the hidden Lilong and Lilang, but it offers some of the best meat dishes like empanadas, warek-warek (pork innards with mayo), and bagnet. They do offer healthier choices like pinakbet and poqui-poqui (roasted eggplant).

Cafe Uno/Uno Grille

Uno Grille is the dining area surrounded by a garden, while Cafe Uno is the indoor area with cool interiors and soft lighting. Both are restaurants in Grandpa’s Inn. Do try their take on Ilocano favorites longganisa, bagnet, poqui-poqui (roasted eggplant), and dinengdeng (a pinakbet-like dish with squash and a bagoong monamon soup base).

For the adventurous palate, try their nga abuos (mountain ants) or tokak (frog). Both restaurants offer pastries and pasta, and it’s been said that their white tea goes well with the chocolate pancake, buko pandan (a dessert made with coconut meat and screwpine leaves), and sans rival (cake made with buttercream and meringue layers).

Practical Information and Tips

Excited to hop on a bus or a plane to Vigan? It’s better to be prepared up to the smallest details! Read on to know about the mode of payment, language, and souvenir shopping tips to help you have a hassle-free trip. 

Currency 

The primary payment mode in Vigan City is cash in Philippine Peso (PHP). The majority of establishments (except in small food stalls) in the City Center accept credit cards, but it's recommended to have enough cash with you all the time. There are ATMs in the City Center in case you need to withdraw some money. 

Language

Locals speak Ilokano (their native language) and Filipino. The majority of locals, especially in the City Center, can speak and understand basic to intermediate English as well so communication will not be a problem here. 

Where to Shop

Calle Crisologo is teeming with shops. You can do your souvenir shopping there. Grab some local snacks and delicacies as you explore like bagnet (deep-fried pork belly) and Vigan longganisa. Some shops also sell antiques, woven products, woodcrafts, and jewelry, to name a few.

Sample Itinerary in Vigan City

If you want to get into the nooks and crannies of Vigan City, plan your itinerary carefully and take your time visiting as many sites as possible. Here's a sample to get you started for three days and two nights. It should go without saying that you don't have to limit yourself to these locations. 

Day 1: Baluarte Zoo + Museums + Pottery + Plaza Salcedo

Day 2: Bantay Bell Tower + Weaving + Museums + Vigan Cathedral + Calle Crisologo

  • 6:00 A.M. - Breakfast
  • 8:00 A.M. - Go to Bantay Bell Tower
  • 10:00 A.M. - Try weaving at Abel Loom Weaving
  • 12:00 NN - Lunch
  • 2:00 P.M. - Museum hopping at Museo Nueva Segovia and Museo San Pablo
  • 4:00 P.M. - Snacks
  • 5:00 P.M. - Go to Vigan Cathedral
  • 6:00 P.M. - Dinner at Calle Crisologo

Day 3: Calle Crisologo + Heritage River Cruise

  • 6:00 A.M. - Breakfast
  • 8:00 A.M. - Souvenir shopping at Calle Crisologo
  • 10:00 A.M. - Try the Heritage River Cruise
  • 11:00 A.M. - Lunch
  • 1:00 P.M. - ETD

Travel to the Past in Vigan City

There may be remnants of the Spanish colonial past in this city, but Vigan cherishes those to motivate itself to be better for the future. And that's one lesson tourists can learn from exploring the city.

Vigan is always packed with visitors all year round. Make sure to plan your trip as thorough as possible (and in advance!) with help from this travel guide. Vigan City awaits those who wish to look back to move forward. 

Ready to plan your trip to Vigan, you should explore the various Vigan Ilocos tours and activities that you can add in your itinerary to fully experience the old Philippines.