Batanes may be the Philippines’ smallest and least populous province, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that there’s nothing to see in this picturesque destination. Find the best things to do there and its must-see tourist spots by reading this guide.
The endless view of the ocean, the sprawling hills, the always smiling locals, the freshest seafood, and the peaceful and laid back vibe continuously intrigue and inspire travelers to explore one of the top destinations in the Philippines called Batanes.
Batanes, known as the “Home of the Winds,” because of its calm and windy weather, has preserved its postcard-perfect scenery, friendly culture, and the simple way of living due to its distance from the mainland Luzon and the rest of the country.
Its refreshingly chill vibe is unique from the other famous island destinations in the country, such as Boracay and Palawan. Batanes has a wealth of unspoiled beauty, just waiting to be experienced and imprinted in your memory.
Batanes is made up of 10 small islands, but only its three biggest islands — Batan, Ibtayat, and Sabtang — are inhabited. The island chain all exhibit natural and human-made tourist spots ready to excite first-time visitors and encourage returning travelers to come back for more.
This island province is well-known for its charming, centuries-old stone houses, quiet stretches of white sandy beaches, rugged mountains, and never-ending lush green hills.
Its vast distance from the Philippine capital, Manila, used to make Batanes inaccessible to tourists. But with its growing reputation as one of the must-see destinations in the Philippines, traveling to Batanes is now made more accessible.
If you're planning to travel to this province, here are some of the best things to do in Batanes that you should not leave out of your itinerary. Use these tips to create your memorable escape to our enchanting northernmost frontier.
Batanes’ unspoiled beauty is most evident in its beautiful beaches. From powdery white sand to scattered boulders rounded by time and waves, Batanes has a variety of seascapes you can swim in, visit, and lounge at, such as Morong Beach.
Located in Sabtang Island, Morong Beach is one of the more popular beaches in the province, thanks to the large rock formation called Nakabuang Arch.
Unlike other beaches in Batanes, the waves in Morong Beach are gentler, making it safer for tourists to take a dip. Its pristine white sand is comparable to that of Boracay.
It is also far fairer than that of the other beaches in the province. You can visit this tourist spot along with others by joining a Sabtang Island day tour.
Batanes is picturesque at every turn, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a spot anywhere on the islands that are not worth capturing in photos! One great example is the famous tourist attraction in Batanes, Mt. Iraya. This active volcano offers an adventure for hikers.
This tourist spot is a significant landmark for Ivatans. According to the older Ivatans, whenever someone important in their tribe passes away, a ring of clouds appear above the mountains.
Mt. Iraya is one of the Philippines’ 22 active volcanoes, and its last eruption took place in 1454. It stands at 1,517 meters and is quite steep.
The trail is narrow and covered in trees and vines. It also gets increasingly muddy and slippery, which can pose a challenge to inexperienced hikers. But once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with great views of the island.
You can join a Mt. Iraya hiking adventure if you want to experience it to the fullest.
Start your lighthouse tour bright and early in Basco, located on the main island, Batan.
Built-in March 2003 to serve as a guide to local fishermen, the 66-ft tower Basco Lighthouse offers a 360-degree view of Basco town proper, Basco port, and the West Philippine Sea.
Basco Lighthouse is one of the three active lighthouses suggested by Florencio Abad, a former Batanes Congressman. Sabtang and Mahatao are the two other lighthouses, and all of them are considered tourist attractions in the province.
It was also the previous location of American telegraph facilities linking Batanes to the central government until it got demolished due to the bombing of the Japanese Imperial Army in the beginning of World War II.
Make sure to join some Basco Lighthouse tours during your trip in Batanes. The observation deck is ideal for viewing the whole of Batan Island from end to end, including Mount Iraya.
Sabtang Island in the south of Basco can also be seen, as well as Itbayat Island, located in the north.
Photo from the Philippine Department of Tourism
Vayang Rolling Hills will give you an unobstructed view of the majestic Mt. Iraya, as well as the province’s significant islands Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat, all at once.
A big part of the rolling hills used to be public land covered in cogon grass, which is used by the locals to make their cogon roofs.
Today, most of the land in Vayang consists of farmland. From afar, you can see goats and cows grazing in the greenery. You can also catch a glimpse of the beautiful West Philippine Sea when you’re in the rolling hills.
Take photos as you admire the scenery offered in this tourist spot, which is part of a North Batan escapade.
To get here, you can ride a motorbike, tricycle, or rent a van if you’re coming from Basco Airport or town proper.
Most North Batan tours include this tourist spot in the itinerary, so you’ll have more attractions to visit after visiting the majestic Vayang Rolling Hills.
Come and visit Valugan Boulder Beach. Countless round boulders and smaller stones fill the entire three-kilometer stretch of this beach in Batan Island.
It is said that the rocks on this beach were ejected from Mt. Iraya during an eruption several centuries ago and that the stones have been rounded due to the years of continually pounding waves from the Pacific Ocean.
Because of the rough terrain, swimming at Valugan Boulder Beach is not allowed. Taking the stones home as souvenirs is not allowed either.
It’s one of the must-see tourist spots in the province. Often a part of North Batan tours, you can visit this beach by riding a tricycle or renting a van from the Basco Airport or town proper.
Although the tourist spot has strong winds and powerful waves hitting the boulders, Valugan Boulder Beach is a beautiful tourist spot included in a sightseeing trip in North and South Batan.
Batanes has dozens of churches scattered throughout its three inhabited islands. But one church that you shouldn’t miss when you do go for a visit is Mt. Carmel Chapel, also known to locals as Tukon Church.
Local artisans built this small chapel on top of a hill, and the province’s traditional stone houses inspired its design.
The chapel is ideal for couples who want a romantic and small marriage ceremony. Inside the chapel are paintings of saints done by local artists.
Outside the chapel, you can see the crashing waves where the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea converge. You can take a short walk from the chapel to the PAGASA Radar Station, also known as Tukon Radar Station.
Florencio Abad’s family built the church. Abad is the former Budget Secretary during President Aquino’s term.
His family is one of the most prominent in Batanes, which is why they were able to build the church for them and has become one of the highlights of a Batanes experience.
Photo from the Philippine Department of Tourism
The only lighthouse on Sabtang Island greets you after a 45-minute faluwa ride from Ivana Port in Batan Island.
Its features are like the Basco and Tayid lighthouses, but the Sabtang Lighthouse stone walls are left in its natural state. The beam also offers a breathtaking view of the rolling hills and the open ocean from the top of its observation tower.
In the early 2000s, the beacon, together with Basco and Tayid lighthouses, was part of a project headed by the late Representative Butch Abad.
Just like the other two lighthouses, Sabtang Lighthouse is topped with a concrete lantern room painted red with each window having tapered storm panes.
During the construction of each tower, rubble masonry was used to make the structure sturdy enough to withstand the strong winds and the heavy rains that frequently occur in the province. This is included in one of the must-see tourist destinations in Sabtang Island.
Tayid Lighthouse is located in Mahatao, on the other side of Batan Island. Built around the same time as Basco Lighthouse, this structure faces the Pacific Ocean and is best seen from the Rakuh a Payaman.
Unlike its sister lighthouse in Basco, which has a round tower deck, the Tayid Lighthouse has a hexagonal tower deck.
Many tourists consider it an 18th-century-old edifice, but in actuality, it was built during the early 2000s. The establishment of Tayid Lighthouse, as well as the Basco and Sabtang lighthouses, was a proposal of the former Representative Butch Abad.
Built initially for guiding boats and ships traveling near Batan Island, the lighthouse now doubles as a tourist spot. The beam offers a view of the surrounding green landscapes, open ocean, and the nearby Mount Iraya.
The tower can be best viewed from the and Diura Fishing Village and the main viewing point of Marlboro Country. If you want a unique experience, you can join a tricycle tour in Batanes to see the province in a different light.
If you’re in Batan’s Ivana, make sure to visit the House of Dakay, the oldest surviving stone house in the island province. It is one of the only five houses that remain standing after a strong earthquake hit the island in the early 1900s.
Near the House of Dakay is the Old Spanish Bridge, built during colonial times. It is still being used as a pedestrian bridge by the locals today.
In 1887, Luisa Estrella commissioned the construction of the House of Dakay, but turned it over to her favorite nephew, Jose Dakay Estrella, to whom the structure was named after.
The house was eventually given to Floresida Estrella or “Lola Ida,” the only descendant. She looks after the edifice and entertains the tourists coming to visit.
She was one of the most photographed personalities in Batanes and has been featured in magazines, including Reader’s Digest, along with the house. You can visit this tourist spot along with other highlights in a fun tricycle day tour in Batanes.
The first Batanes lighthouse has been constructed here in Naidi Hills. The site offers a breathtaking view of Baluarte Bay, Basco Town, Mount Iraya, and the sloping hills of Batan Island.
On a clear day, the entire Batanes, including the islets beyond Itbayat, can be seen from the hills. Naidi is derived from the Ivatan phrase “past settlement.”
According to history, it was once the most extensive wireless communication facility in the country, connecting Batanes to Manila during the American period, up to the demise of a grenade by the Japanese Imperial Air Force in the beginning of World War II.
It’s best to visit Naidi Hills during midday so you can witness the beauty of the sunset. Visiting the lighthouse would require 15-30 minutes walk, but it’s worth it as you’ll get treated to a quaint and picturesque view of Batanes.
There is no shortage of Batanes tourist spots in Batan Island, and you can get a taste of Batanes’ history and culture as you go from one town to another. Perhaps the most photographed tourist spot in Batanes is the Rakuh a Payaman, affectionately called Marlboro Hills in Mahatao.
The hills are vast pastureland dotted with grazing cows, carabaos, and horses. It offers a perfect view of where land, sea, and sky meet in harmony.
With the green grass covering the hill, the landscape provides a spacious and open area for cows, water buffalos, and horses where they can freely graze and wander about. The government allows free use of the pastureland for locals who want to raise their cattle and carabaos in the area.
This tourist spot is accessible anytime! To get here, you can rent a tricycle or hire a van as it’s often included in a North and South Batan tour. Make sure to take snapshots so you can show to your friends and family back home!
Chawa View Deck is one of the highest areas in South Batan Island in Batanes. Situated on a mountainside between the towns of Basco and Mahatao, the view deck was built overlooking the West Philippine Sea.
The Chawa View Deck features rolling green hills, rock formations, and a panoramic view of the seascape. There is also a cave of the Virgin Mary and a few concrete chairs for the visitors located at the top of the view deck.
Another main feature of this attraction is the winding stairs leading to the rocky shore facing the sea. It consists of several flights and more than a hundred steps. At the bottom of the stairs is a “mini pool,” whose color differs from that of the ocean water and settles down inside a small area.
Are you hungry from all the sightseeing and hiking? Don’t leave Batanes without trying the local cuisine! A trip to Batanes won’t be complete without food, and the islands have plenty of mouthwatering dishes to offer visitors.
Try their local dishes in the restaurant or homestay kitchens to complete your Batanes experience! There’s one called payi, Batanes’ local lobsters. You also have to try their staple fish like mahi-mahi, dibang or flying fish, and local dishes like uvud, vunes, and luñis.
For restaurants, check out Vunong Dinette, Pension Ivatan, SDC Canteen, and Paypanapanayan Canteen! They’re highly recommended if you want to try their local delights and delicacies.
A gastronomic adventure is waiting for you in Batanes, so make sure to have a checklist of the food you want to try and the restaurants you plan to visit with your loved ones!
Featured in local films in the Philippines such as “You’re My Boss,” retirees Jose and Elena Gabilo own Honesty Coffee Shop. It was opened in 1995 to serve travelers going to and from Sabtang Island. Here, honesty is the best policy—as the store is unmanned.
The Honesty Coffee Shop opens as early as 6:00 A.M. and closes around 6:00 P.M. Don’t expect a café just because it’s called a coffee shop.
Instead, it is more of a sari-sari store where the items sold are bare necessities for travelers like instant coffee, soda, bottled water, biscuits and crackers, fried bananas, and sweet potatoes, souvenir t-shirts, and even bread and local pastry.
The prices of goods and souvenirs are written on the items. It’s a self-service store where you can take what you need, eat to your heart’s content, clean up, and leave your payment in a box.
According to the owner, retired schoolteacher Elena Gabilo, this honesty system has proven effective among residents and tourists. It just shows that honesty can be a good business and a great way to appreciate a day trip in Batanes.
On the Tukon hills, you can see the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel, an interconnected network of tunnels carved out of the mountain. It served as a shelter for the Japanese forces during World War II. The tunnel is open for tourists to traverse, but remember to bring a flashlight or headlamp if you want to go exploring.
Between 1941 to 1945, the soldiers had the Ivatan troops dig the tunnel, building five exit points, bunkers, chambers, and a reservoir. The bunker was their headquarters during the battle with the Americans.
To ensure safety, tourists should not enter the tunnel without a tour guide and a flashlight or torch. Visit this tourist attraction in a unique manner by joining a tricycle tour in North Batan.
Take a break from swimming, hiking, and getting windblown to see how the fishermen in Batanes live their daily lives at the Diura Fishing Village, which is also located in Mahatao.
Time your visit in March or April to witness the kapayvanuvanu, an age-old ritual done by the Diura fishermen to ensure a bountiful fishing season.
The ceremony begins with a shaman offering a pig while reading signs from the liver for good omen and catch. The entire cycle of fishing and harvesting for dorado continues until May.
You can get to Diura Fishing Village by tricycle with a travel time of ten minutes or by joining a day trip to Diura Fishing Village.
Outside the fishing festival, you can view the Madi Bay, Pacific Ocean, and Mount Iraya from afar. A nearby spring called Rakuh-a-idi Spring (Spring of Youth / Fountain of Youth) can also be reached with a 30-minute trek.
As a natural spring pool that overlooks the beach and the scenic Mount Iraya, it has become a place of relaxation and solace for locals and travelers.
Sabtang Island also has its version of rolling hills: the Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint. Its slopes and rocky outcrops are equally as enthralling as Vayang and Rakuh, a Payaman in Batan Island. It is known for its curvy landscape carpeted with grass.
The rolling hills that conquer the area come in a variety of low and high slopes giving different perspectives for its visitors. The highest hilltop among the slopes provides the best view of Chamantad Cove.
Before reaching the hilltop, there are plenty of huts along the highway that offer a sample of their locally-made sugarcane wine and Ivatan wild tea, called tubho.
Aside from sightseeing in Sabtang Island, you can also find locals, known as Ivatans, wandering the area to lend their traditional clothing – the Vakul and Kanayi, for picture taking purposes.
Vakul is their native headgear used for protection against the sun and rain, while Kanayi is a sleeveless jacket they usually wear when farming.
From the church, you can get to Savidug, a coastal village teeming with traditional cogon-roofed stone houses. Savidug Stone Houses are the primary type of dwelling in Batanes, particularly in a small barangay in Sabtang Island.
The Ivatans maintain these houses, the indigenous people inhabiting the island. This village, together with Chavayan, remains untouched where locals still live traditionally.
The structures of the houses in Savidug village are considered as a Sinadumparan type, one of the traditional houses in Batanes. It's one of the main highlights of a Sabtang Island experience; getting acquainted with art.
Each one of the cogon roofs has a specific day of replacement. The villagers would work together to finish the roofing, which is called Kapayatep and the re-thatching, which is called Mayvuvung.
This roof replacement process is an excellent example of Bayanihan in the village, an Ivatan tradition to help each other to achieve a common goal.
Photo from the Philippine Department of Tourism
Just a few meters from Honesty Coffee Shop and facing Ivana Port is the San Jose de Ivana Church. The church’s foundations date back to 1775, and the original church ruins, which used to house the altarpiece, the sacristy, and the baptistery, still stand at the back of the church.
Like its counterpart in Sabtang, the San Jose de Ivana Church was also declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Historical Commission. The church was meant to serve the Ivanans, Sabtangs, and Uyugans.
Today remains of the abandoned church can still be seen. It also has a crenelated structure with rare wooden beams. The monastery, part of the church building, has an original circular masonry along the stairway.
Be humbled by the power of Mother Nature as you walk through the Songsong Ruins. A tidal wave ravaged this tiny village in the 1950s; the houses were damaged beyond repair and leaving its residents with no choice but to abandon their town.
At present, a portion of the rows of houses in the village had already been surrounded by high bushes and greeneries. Flowers dot the sides of the house, almost covering its entirety. It’s one of the highly-recommended tourist spots to visit in Batanes.
A handful of the ruins had been restored and occupied by the descendants of the original owners who now maintain the beauty of the site. Other locals are also returning to some of the habitable ruins in the site.
Although some areas of the barangay had been closed to the public because of possible accidents, most of the sitio is still accessible to tourists.
Explore Batanes Today!
Batanes is a beautiful, enchanting place that is truly worth a visit—not just once, but multiple times. This northern paradise is a throwback to the times when life was more natural and untouched.
Batanes is a happy place that will rejuvenate even the most seasoned travelers and will serve as a refuge for tired city-dwellers looking to take a break from the concrete jungle.
A trip to Batanes will calm your mind and rejuvenate your soul, leaving you with a renewed appreciation for nature and the simple life.
Take that well-deserved break now. Check out Batanes tours and activities that will let you explore the wonders of the Home of the Winds!