If there is one place in the Philippines where you can experience a calm, serene, and idyllic vacation, it should be Batanes. Covering an area of 219.01 square kilometers, Batanes is the northernmost and the smallest province in the archipelago. Batanes may be small in size but it is big in natural resources. A patchwork of green fields, reeds, and stone houses brings tourists in this cozy paradise to another dimension.
Batanes, which is surrounded by bodies of water, can be reached through a one-hour-and-forty-five-minute plane ride from Manila. Fresh winds and cool breeze welcome visitors in the province, which is often described as a premier tourist destination in most Philippine travel guides. What separates Batanes from other island paradises in the archipelago is that it satisfies the most demanding travelers even without giant shopping malls, posh resorts, luxury hotels, sublime events, and hip bars.
Home to the great Ivatans, Batanes is composed of ten islands and is subdivided into six municipalities. Its tourism industry is buoyed by natural features such as a subtropical climate, magnificent landscapes and seascapes, and rich cultural heritage. Here is a sampling of what to do and see in Batanes.
House of Dakay
The stone houses of Batanes are surely a visual treat for tourists. The most photographed and frequently visited of them is the House of Dakay, which was built in the 18th century. Located in San Jose de Ivana, this fabled house survived a strong earthquake that leveled the entire town. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Building. House of Dakay is currently occupied by an 82-year-old woman who is fondly called Lola Ida.
Mt. Iraya is an active volcano situated on Batan Island. At 1,900 feet above sea level, the mountain houses a spring water where the town gets its drinking water. Expert climbers said Mt. Iraya is perfect for hikers and wannabe mountain adventurers. It is home to the Batanes pit viper, an arboreal snake that it endemic to the province, and to dozens of exotic fauna and flora.
Ruins of Song-Song
Another must-see attraction in Batanes in the Ruins of Song-Song. These are the remains of a village in the town of Uyugan after a tidal wave out an entire community in 1954. The group of destroyed lime and stone houses is located just several meters from the Song-Song beach, which is comparable to other great beaches in Luzon and those in Visayas and Mindanao.
A common travel tip to Batanes visitors is not to forget a trip to Sabtang Island. It has unspoiled white-sand beaches, steep mountains, and deep canyons, making it one of the 12 Best Destinations in the Philippines as recommended by the Department in Tourism in 1994. This beautiful island southwest of Batan can be reached by a 30-minute boat ride from Radiwan Port in Ivana.
Built in 1783, the Church of Sto. Domingo de Basco is the oldest and the most important church in Batanes. The church, locally known as Basco Cathedral, is designed to withstand strong typhoons and earthquakes. It is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, the municipality's patroness.
Other notable travel destinations in Batanes are Di-atay Beach in Mahatao, Chewa Cave, the Sumhao Wind Turbines, and San Jose Church. Aside from sightseeing, tourist can also do trekking in the Marlboro and Naidi Hills and surfing at Madiwedved in Mahatao.
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Allan Leandro Merin has been writing for a living since 2008. After leaving a career at a daily electronic newspaper, he joined a web development outsourcing company and linked up with Local Philippines, the most comprehensive online directory of Philippine destinations, events, and attractions.