Top things to do in the Philippines
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Laoag is the capital city of Ilocos Norte, which boasts of a charming blend of small-town traditional culture and a dynamic, modern lifestyle. It also features a mix of a rich Spanish influence, marked by beautifully preserved ancestral houses, colonial architecture buildings, and century-old churches, and an Ilocano heritage that is mostly evident in its local customs and delectable cuisine.
The word laoag means “light” in the native language spoken in the region, earning the town its titles of being the “The Sunshine City” and “City of Lights” in the country. The city also enjoys a tropical savanna climate with mostly sunny days and warm temperatures all year round.
Both the official languages of the country, namely Filipino and English, are widely understood and spoken here, so communication, especially for international travelers won’t be a problem. However, the town’s local language is Ilocano, and it will be useful to learn some basic phrases and words of the language to capture the hearts of the locals.
Aside from incredible sights and historical landmarks, Laoag is also jam packed with attractions and activities that will satisfy every kind of traveler. From breathtaking scenery complemented with a laid-back ambience, to nearby seascapes and surf towns, down to adventure excursions on its rugged and mountainous terrains, The Sunshine City is truly nothing short of a brilliant destination that puts the Ilocandia region in the spotlight.
As with the rest of the Philippines, Laoag City and the rest of the Ilocos region experiences both dry and wet seasons. However, this northern part of the country gets notoriously hot during the summer months, so it is best to carefully plan when you choose to visit.
Cheapest time to visit Laoag
Low season in the Philippines, in general, is usually during the rainy months. So visiting Laoag during the months of July to October may mean lower flight fares and cheaper hotel prices.
Weather in Laoag
The summer months of March, April, May, and extending towards June have the hottest temperatures in Laoag, sometimes peaking to 35 degrees Celsius. The upside is that these months see very minimal rainfall, which is good news for those wishing to spend a lot of time walking and exploring the city’s sights.
Wet season starts around July until October.
Peak season in Laoag
December to April, the driest months in the region, is the peak season in Laoag. But if you don’t want to be dripping in sweat while exploring the city and its neighboring towns, the cooler months of November to February are a great time to visit.
Main festival/events in Laoag
Travel to Laoag City during the first week of February to experience the Pamulinawen Festival, celebrated in honor of the city’s patron saint, St. William the Hermit. Delight in a week-long festivity that includes civic-military parades, parade of floats, and a colorful Street Dancing Competition.
The city of Laoag gets up to 5 typhoons every year, occurring mostly during the months of July until October. Heavy rains may put a damper on your exciting travel plans and could sometimes mean cancelled flights and tours, so it is always best to check weather updates prior to proceeding with your trip during these times.
Laoag serves as a wonderful gateway to the Ilocos region and other northern parts of the country. It is also easily accessible via air and land travel, with many jumpoff points around Luzon.
Daily flights coming from Manila land at the Laoag International Airport. From here, visitors can ride tricycles or jeepneys to reach the city proper. You may also arrange private car transfers with your chosen accommodation.
A cheaper option to get to Laoag from Manila is to travel by bus. It will be a long ride but you will be passing through scenic landscapes and other provinces such as Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Union, and Ilocos Sur.
Those coming from Clark International Airport may ride a shuttle or jeepney bound for Dau Integrated Bus Terminal, and catch a bus that is bound for Laoag from there.
Those who are already in the north, particularly in the cities of Baguio and Tuguegarao, may also take direct bus trips to Laoag.
Laoag City is generally a safe place to travel to and stay in. While already relatively modernized, the locals are still accustomed to their simple ways of living and small-town culture. The people are welcoming and warm, which pretty much reflects their title of being the “Sunshine City” in the country.
As a general rule when traveling, always be mindful of your actions as a visitor. Respect the town’s spaces and attractions, and show gratitude and a friendly attitude to the locals in the area.
When exploring the area, especially at night, always keep your valuables close with you.
The most commonly used modes of transport when getting around Laoag are tricycles, jeepneys, and mini-vans. Jeepneys have a fixed route, while tricycles can take you to inner streets and destination points that are close to each other.
Most of the popular tourist sites and landmarks around Laoag City like Sinking Bell Tower, Museo Ilocos, and St. Williams Cathedral are near each other and can be visited by foot.
If you wish to visit other attractions in the neighboring towns of Paoay and Batac, riding the bus or hiring a tricycle are recommended.
Laoag City offers an incredible array of delectable dishes, most of which are authentic Ilocano fare. When visiting Laoag, make sure to sample their dishes such as bagnet (boiled pork belly, deep fried to crispy perfection), empanada (pastry stuffed with meat and eggs), and pinakbet (stewed vegetables with pork and shrimp paste).
Make your way to Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant and get a taste of their famous dinuguan, a mix of internal organs and meat stewed in pig blood, vinegar, and garlic. La Preciosa is famed for their Pinakbet Pizza, a twist on the Italian favorite with unique toppings such as tomatoes, eggplant, long beans, and okra. Cuisine de Iloco is also a local favorite, and their Bagnet Sinigang is a must-try.
There are also limitless options to go for after-meal drinks or cocktails when in Laoag, some of the go-to spots are District One Bar, Uncle’s Cocktail Lounge, and Cockhouse Bar.
The Philippines in general does not have a customary tipping culture than that of other countries. Some establishments already place a service charge as part of the total bill. However, service crew and staff will be very appreciative of tips, in any amount.
Laoag City has become one of the country’s emerging travel destinations, and the number of hotels, guesthouses, and inns have seen an increase over the years. Accommodations range from luxury, mid-range, to budget-friendly, so whatever your preference and budget is, you will have many options of where to stay when in Laoag. Most of the accommodations are concentrated within the downtown area of Laoag City and in the municipality of San Nicolas.
Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel is the city’s premier hotel, complete with standard amenities and recreational facilities such as its own shopping arcade, swimming pool, and golf course. Java Hotel is also one of Laoag’s luxury accommodations, offering guests facilities such as a jungle gym, tennis court, swimming pool, and a wall climbing facility.
People’s Inn provides basic facilities but its close proximity to tourist sites such as the Sinking Bell Tower and Museo Ilocos make it a smart choice for travelers. For those who wish to have a more relaxing stay and away from the bustling city center, Farm Side Hotel in San Nicolas is an ideal choice.