Sagada is a small and laidback municipality in the Mountain Province famed for its hanging coffins, limestone caves, and lush greenery. It is also home to the one of the ethno-linguistic groups of the Igorot peoples that inhibit the Cordillera Administrative Region. Due to its remote and mountainous location, Sagada was hardly reached and influenced by the Spanish colonizers during the conquest era, marking the town’s intact traditional lifestyle with very little Spanish influence.
With sweeping natural landscapes dotted by refreshing waterfalls, wondrous cave systems, and rice fields, and chilly weather all year-round, Sagada has become a favorite destination for those who wish to escape the large cities’ hustle and bustle and extreme humidity. Visitors also flock to Sagada for its mysterious hanging coffins perched at the edge of limestone cliffs, forming part of the villagers’ traditional burial tradition — believing the deceased will have an easier path to the greater beyond this way.
Life in Sagada is very tranquil, simple, and less developed, with agriculture as the main economic driver and activity for most locals. Although its unique attractions have seen thousands of visitors flocking to the town each year. To preserve its culture and the natural beauty around, Sagada’s local government and tourism office have put in place visiting regulations. But careful planning to this destination will reward visitors with unparalleled sights, which, among many already mentioned, also include magnificent cliffs shrouded in a sea of clouds.
As Sagada is situated in the highlands of the Mountain Province, temperatures are cooler than the rest of the Philippines, and is chilly during both the dry and wet seasons. There are different factors to consider when planning a trip to Sagada.
Cheapest time to visit Sagada
Sagada’s low season falls somewhere between the months of May until October. From May to July, Sagada sees its warmest temperatures during these months, although typhoons may already start coming in the country by June. Crowds are moderate during these months.
Weather in Sagada
As with the rest of the Philippines, Sagada enjoys both dry (from November to April) and wet (from May until October) seasons. Again, because of its mountainous location, it has mild weather with average temperature at 18°C (64°F) all year round.
Peak season in Sagada
The best time to visit and explore Sagada is when the weather is cool and dry, from the months of November until February. Do note that the holiday season during December sees a large number of tourists flocking to the area.
Main festival/events in Sagada
Most notable festivals in Sagada are also held during the wet months, of which the harvest season from October to January fall into. Begnas Festival is a sacred thanksgiving tradition that celebrates the rice harvests.
From January 30 to February 2, the Panag-etag Festival is celebrated by the locals as a way to preserve their long-standing culture, as well as encourage visitors to partake in their traditional ceremonies and rituals.
Between Christmas and New Year, Sagada also celebrates the Bonfire Festival which sees a large number of tourists so you may need to plan ahead if you choose to witness this.
When to avoid visiting Sagada
Since a lot of the attractions and sights in Sagada involved trekking along mountain trails and exploring cave systems, it is best to avoid visiting the town during the months of July to August, peak typhoon season in the country. Possible landslides and rising waters inside the caves will be unsafe for both locals and tourists during this time.
Holy Week, which falls between March and April, is also a very busy time in Sagada as most locals take advantage of the long vacation, as well as escape the intense summer heat and humidity in bigger cities.
Despite its mountainous location, Sagada has now become easily and conveniently accessible for tourists to visit as many tourist operators and bus lines have put in place trips to get to the town.
Visitors will need to endure a long land travel, though. There is no airport close by Sagada town.
From Manila (via Baguio, Banaue, or non-stop to Sagada)
Coming from Manila, there are three ways to reach Sagada. First option is to board a bus going to Baguio City, with Victory Liner and other bus lines having multiple trips daily from terminals at Pasay, Cubao, and Caloocan and range from basic to deluxe types. Upon arrival in Baguio, make your way to Dangwa Station to ride the GL Trans Bus to Sagada, with trips from 6:00 AM until 1:00 PM.
Alternatively, you may ride the Dangwa Tranco bus bound for Banaue at its Sampaloc terminal. When you reach Banaue, there are jeepneys going to Sagada.
The most convenient route is to take a non-stop bus from Quezon City, Manila direct to Sagada via Coda Lines. However, there are only three trips departing daily, at 8:00 PM, 9:00 PM, and 10:00 PM.
If you are coming from the North, particularly in Vigan, you will need to transfer three times. Starting from Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, take a passenger van bound for Cervantes at the Bitalag UV Express terminal. Once in Cervantes, ride a van or jeepney going to Bontoc and inform the driver to drop you off at Sagada Junction. There are jeepneys and buses bound for Sagada from the junction.
Being a small and sleepy municipality, Sagada is generally very safe to travel to and explore around. The locals still live a humble and simple lifestyle, with traditional customs still practiced. Given this, visitors are expected to remain respectful of the people’s culture and traditions, be mindful of their behavior, and always keep the attractions they visit to clean and free of any trash or belongings.
Public transportation around Sagada is limited and hard to come by. Thankfully, some of the attractions such as Calvary Hill, Echo Valley, and Cemetery can be explored by foot. The town center is also relatively small, with the accommodations, restaurants, and souvenir shops just walking distance from each other.
To visit tourist spots outside of the town center, such as Bomod-ok Falls and Kiltepan Viewdeck, your best options is to join organized tours (which are well-regulated by the tourist operators) or arrange to rent your own van or jeepney to get to these attractions.
Despite its small area and remote location, Sagada has become home to many well-loved restaurants and cafes that are now part of every visitor’s must-go list.
One cannot simply go to Sagada and get a hot cup of coffee, using beans grown in the rich soils of the area and surrounding highlands. Bana’s Cafe serves local but internationally-awarded coffee, as well as civet coffee. Misty Lodge & Cafe and Coffee Heritage House also serve some of the best coffee in Sagada, along with sumptuous breakfasts and signature desserts.
Speaking of desserts, Sagada Lemon Pie House is every foodie’s haven when in Sagada. Enjoy a slice of their famous lemon pie in its cozy and rustic interiors. Yoghurt House is also a Sagada staple, often voted as the top dining destination in the entire town. Of course, their yoghurt is a must-try, alongside other meals they offer. GAIA Cafe & Crafts offers a relaxing atmosphere that is one with nature, as you enjoy their delectable meals while soaking in sweeping sights of lush forests.
In terms of local delicacy, Sagada is famous for its etag, pork cured in salt and then either smoked or dried under the sun.
Sagada has a curfew between 10:00 PM until 4:00 AM, so a busy nightlife is not to be expected here. However, make your way to Sagada Pines for a few drinks and a relaxing time at night.
Sagada is a relatively small town, and most establishments within the town center are close to each other. Stay in this area of Downtown Sagada if you wish to have easy access from your hotel or accommodation to several restaurants and souvenir shops, namely Masferre Restaurant, Yoghurt House, Salt and Pepper Restaurant, Sagada Brew, and Lemon Pie House. Most lodges and inns are also concentrated in this area.
Attractions in Sagada are clustered in different areas. Echo Valley is where you will find the famous hanging coffins and other walking trails. Kiltepan Peak and Marlboro Hills are located near each other, while spelunking adventures in Lumiang and Sumaguing Caves are also located in another area.