Travel back in time as you explore the historic wonders of Vigan, the capital city of Ilocos Sur, considered one of the best-preserved Spanish colonial towns in Asia. Since the 16th century, it has maintained its authentic grid street plan, with cobblestone streets lined with ancestral houses and colonial buildings that showcase illustrious Spanish architecture and design influences from old Europe and China — earning its accolades of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders Cities.
Located in the northern part of the Philippines, Vigan was a significant trade stop — one that was part of the Silk Route — and later on, became the political, economic, and religious center of North Luzon. Despite its growing modernization, Vigan City’s old-world charm remains: stone houses with red tile roofs and capiz shell windows dot the entire townscape, fronted by stalls selling handicrafts such as the region’s traditional woven fabric and hand-made pottery, while horse-drawn carriages called kalesas fill the air with their clattering sound. At night, the dynamic street action suddenly transforms into a romantic tranquility with overhead lamps lighting the structures and pavements.
More than the awe-inspiring colonial sights and landmarks, Vigan’s food fare that highlights the unique and delectable Ilocano cuisine will delight every visitor’s palate.
Ilocano is the region's native local language. But as with most parts of the country, Vigan locals can widely understand and speak Filipino and English, so chances of communication barrier is not a problem when in town.
Exploring Vigan’s many attractions, especially its cobblestone streets, is best done by foot. So it is highly recommended to visit the town when it is sunny and dry. Here are other information about Vigan’s weather and local situations that will help you decide when to go:
Like the rest of the Philippines, the cheapest time to be traveling to destinations such as Vigan is during the low season from June to October. Chances of rain will be high, but during these months, flight tickets and hotel prices are considerably lower than the rest of the year.
Weather in Vigan
Vigan City enjoys two kinds of seasons, dry and wet. The former is from the months of November to May, while the latter is from June to October. It can get intensely hot in this part of the country especially during the summer months of March, April, and May, with temperatures peaking at over 30 degrees Celsius. Consider visiting Vigan from December to February, when temperatures are cooler but still sunny and dry.
Peak season in Vigan
The Philippines, in general, sees peak travel season during the summer months from March to May, as there is little-to-no chance of rains interrupting visitor’s travel plans. Holiday season from September to December also sees packs of tourist crowds.
Main festival/events in Vigan
If you wish to immerse yourself not only with Vigan’s magnificent sights but also its local culture, consider visiting during the months of January or May, when the town celebrates its biggest festivities. The festival to celebrate longganisa, a local sausage which is one of the town’s most iconic delicacies, is held every 22nd of January. Just days after this event is the Vigan Town Fiesta, celebrated in honor of St. Paul the Apostle. Be delighted with a week-long revelry featuring carnivals and street performances.
The first week of May sees the celebration of the Viva Vigan Festival of Arts. As its name implies, it is a showcase of the city’s rich cultural heritage and craftsmanship.
When to avoid visiting Vigan
For a destination like Vigan where outdoor sights and activities are its main draw, visiting during the wet months from June to October is not advisable. The region also experiences typhoons during this time, which increases the chance of flight and tour cancellations.
There are two common ways to reach Vigan City, by air or land travel, and your choice largely depends on the time and budget you have. Jumpoff points to reach the destination include Manila and other parts of North Luzon.
From Manila, you can ride a bus bound for Vigan. There are many bus companies going this route, and you have a choice to ride on a premium one (which has Wi-Fi connection, TV, and toilet inside) or just the regular lines. While the former is priced higher, buses still remain to be the cheapest way to reach Vigan. You can also ride buses that go to Laoag City, as they pass by and stop at Vigan.
Travel time is approximately 8 to 10 hours, depending on traffic. It is recommended to take the overnight bus so you can just sleep through the ride and save up on accommodation for one night.
If you are going to Vigan via a private car or hired van, take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) route to reach the destination.
Those coming from other parts of Luzon have these options:
From Clark International Airport in Pampanga – Take the shuttle service or a taxi to Dau Bus Terminal, and ride a bus bound for Vigan.
From Baguio – Take buses to Laoag and get off in Vigan.
From Abra/Tuguegarao – Several bus lines have trips that stop in Vigan.
If time and comfort are top considerations, you can choose to reach Vigan at a much faster time by air. There are no direct flights landing at Vigan, though. From Manila, take a flight to Laoag City and then ride a bus going to Vigan. Prices are also much higher compared to buses.
Vigan City is generally a safe place to travel and be in, owing to its small-town culture and laid-back atmosphere. Locals are welcoming, warm, and respectful. But as a general rule when traveling, always be mindful of your actions and surroundings, respect the local customs, and always make sure to keep the attractions clean when you visit.
When exploring around, especially during night time, best to do with company and always keep your valuables close to you.
The main tourist attractions in Vigan City are close to each other, and best explored by foot. This way, you will go at your own pace and be able to stop at corners or structures when you want to. To get to areas that are not within walking distance, there are several transportation options to get around Vigan.
Visitors can still find horse-drawn carriages, or kalesas, around Vigan, especially along Calle Crisologo where cars are not allowed to pass through. These were the only modes of transportation during the Spanish colonial period, so it is great to experience what it was like to go around during those times in Vigan by riding one.
To get to attractions and spots that cannot be explored by foot, you can ride a tricycle, or the Philippines’ version of an auto-rickshaw. You can ride with other passengers for a cheaper fare, or hire a private one especially if you plan to use it when exploring the many sights of Vigan throughout the day.
The Ilocos region is famed for its unique and delectable cuisine, incomparable to food you can find in the rest of the Philippines. Ilocanos are actually deemed as culinary masters in the country, and their dishes have been embraced throughout the country already. The most popular dishes in Vigan are longganisa, local sausage with a distinct garlicky and spicy flavor, and empanada, pastry stuffed with grated green papaya, shredded carrots, longganisa, and eggs. You can’t miss out on sampling these Vigan signatures when in town. When eating at the town’s restaurants and cafes, tipping is not mandatory but highly appreciated by service staff.
Nightlife in Vigan is more on the mellow side, as most establishments would close down around 8 PM and call it a day. But it’s not to say that visitors won’t find any fun activity to do in Vigan when the sun goes down. The town’s plazas are a great way to mingle with the locals. Plaza Salcedo features a beautiful fountain, while Plaza Burgos is lined with carts selling street food. Drinking in public has been prohibited around the Philippines, so it is best to do this in Vigan’s several KTV bars and pubs. Al fresco restaurants along Calle Crisologo, which is lit by antique style lamps, are favored by those who wish to end the night on a romantic note.
As Vigan has become a must-go tourist destination in the Philippines, many hotels, inns, and accommodations have opened to welcome both local and international travelers. The best area to stay in is in Poblacion, or the City Center, and around Calle Crisologo, where most of the attractions are located and local action happens.
Most of the hotels in the City Center and Calle Crisologo areas are in the mid- to luxury-range since you will be staying in a prime location. These accommodations tend to book out fast so make sure to make your arrangements ahead of time.
If you wish to spend less on your accommodation, choose to stay in the neighborhoods and barangays that are outside the City Center. However, since these hotels or inns are not within walking distance from the top tourist attractions in the town proper of Vigan, be ready to pay extra for your commute or transportation.