Where do broken hearts go? A songline reminiscent of a place, at least for those who watched That Thing Called Tadhana (Destiny). Before the film’s existence, Sagada was already featured in a documentary for its burial practices, the movie exposure gave it an interesting twist though. Today the remote town is also known to be a go-to, for anyone who needs emotional healing, but there’s so much more to it that makes every visitor hooked.
Tucked in Cordillera mountains, Sagada attracts local and international tourists with its mystifying and laid back aura. Due to its geographical location, the town was able to preserve most of its traditions. Spanish colonizers haven’t reached it until 1882.
Indeed it is a challenge to go there. If you’re coming from Metro Manila, it will take you 10-12 hours, and so far the only way of transport is via land. There are different tour packages available going to Sagada, but in case you want to DIY here is a guide in exploring the remote town up north.
How To Get To Sagada
1. From NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) you can get a cab or book a grab to Cubao, Quezon City. Look for Coda Lines bus, an operator offering direct trips to Sagada. Do secure your ticket/s early, fortunately, you can book your one way or round trip ticket online at codalinesph.com now.
- Departure Time: 21:00
- Price: 720 PHP or 14 USD
2. From CIA (Clark International Airport) you can get a cab, book a grab or hop in the jeepney shuttle to Mabalacat Terminal, Pampanga. There you will see different buses bound to Baguio, usually, those which are coming from Manila for a stopover. Look for Victory liner or Genesis Bus, for a 4-hour ride.
Pampanga to Baguio
- Departure: Buses leave every 30 minutes
- Price: 306 PHP or 6 USD
From Baguio you can ride a cab or grab to another bus station called Slaughter House, it houses Lizardo Bus Line which leaves every 9:00 am. You can also look for GL Trans Bus Line, in Baguio Dangwa Terminal, where buses to Sagada leave from 5:30-13:00. From Baguio, it will take another 4-6 hours to Sagada.
*** Please note that upon arriving you’ll need to go to the tourism office to register. It is essential as you cannot book any tours without the receipt.
Price: 70 PHP or 2 USD
Things to do in Sagada
- Start your morning right by catching the sunrise with a sea of clouds in either Mt. Kiltepan or Marlboro Peak. Kiltepan is more crowded, so we opted for the adjacent Marlboro Peak which gives you the same amazing view less the crowd.
- From Marlboro, you can go to the Blue Soil. The ground is blue literally, because of the copper concentration. Probably one of my favorite spots because the icy blue color matches the climate, and it’s so quirky.
- Spelunking is a famous activity in Sagada. You can try braving the Sumaguing or Lumiang Cave system. Most of the tourist do both, just make sure that you’re updated with the weather, guides don’t encourage spelunking from June to September as it’s a rainy season.
- Go for a chilling natural shower, in Bomok-od falls. It is the biggest fall in the town, should you have time you can also visit the Pongas and Bokong Falls. Going to Bomok-od alone will take time, as you need to descend in steep tracks and rice terraces for almost an hour, so if you’re planning to visit the three, start your day early.
- Never skip the Echo Valley and the hanging coffins. Tucked in lush greeneries, it is where you’ll see the town’s traditional burial practices. The colorful coffins were latched in a cliffside, you’ll notice how small the coffins are. According to our guide, they are in a sitting position.
- Set a bonfire and watch the Sunset in Lake Danum, it’s more possible if you’re visiting around March to May which is Philippines’ dry season. Make sure to bring extra clothes that will shield your body from coldness.
Must-try foods and Restaurants in Sagada
- Gaia Cafe serves vegetarian food. You’ll find yourself eating in a Kubo (hut) facing rice terraces. They don’t use straw, so bring your sustainable kit.
- Lemon Pie Sagada is your go-to for dessert. Their pie is a popular pasalubong (souvenir), pair it with their soothing mountain tea.
- Yogurt House is one of the most mentioned eats in the town. Try their best seller homemade yogurt with strawberry preserves.
- Cellar Door is infamous for its craft beer and wine tasting. A great way to cope with the town’s cold climate.
Where to stay in Sagada
It’s not hard to book your accommodation, there are different lodges and homestays to choose from. You can check out the following for updated room rates and availability.
- Misty Lodge and Cafe
- Coffee Heritage House and Hostel
- Isabelo’s Inn and Café
- Shamrock Tavern
For more options, you can check out Travelbook.ph or Agoda.
Where to buy souvenirs in Sagada
- As mentioned above, you can take home lemon pie from the Lemon Pie House.
- For weaved products like bags and textiles, visit Sagada Weaving.
- For cute trinkets, you can also look at the souvenir corner of Gaia Cafe.
- Don’t miss buying the infamous Mountain Tea and Sagada Coffee in Gabay Wines.
What to remember. Sagada Philippines travel tips
- Bring a headlamp or flashlight for spelunking or hiking.
- Maintain silence in the Hanging Coffins, this place is a sacred site.
- If you’re into midnight snacking, buy your food in advance. There are limited lamp posts in Sagada, so walking at night is a bit eerie.
- There’s an ATM in the tourism center, but it would be best to pack extra cash in case it goes out-of-service.
- Get a Malaria shot for your safety.
- There are vendors selling coffee and snacks in tourist spots, eat and drink responsibly by throwing your trash properly.
Sagada is one of the cheapest travel destinations in the Philippines. The only challenge is its geographical position, which could work wonders too if you really want to disconnect and experience the Philippines differently. The country is infamous for its cobalt blue beaches, but there are hidden gems in the northern mountains waiting to be discovered.
Tourism is booming and it will continue to grow in the upcoming years. Who knows how the place will change through time, but I’m hoping for the preservation of the lush greens, pine-scented air, and traditions. The Philippines has been a melting pot for different races and influences now, and it is heartwarming to be in a place that will give you a hint of the countries pre-colonized state.