If a Pink Floyd song could be translated into a place, it would probably look like the Philippines – a place straight out of a surreal dream. An archipelago of over 7,000 islands and pristine beaches, it’s easy to get blown away by what this country offers. When one thinks of the Philippines, the gorgeous beaches and remote islands are what strikes the mind first.
However, as cliche as it may sound, there’s a lot more to this beautiful country beyond the iconic turquoise blue water and white sandy beaches. One such place is the Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao province. Imagine an expanse of rice cultivation terraces so vast that it has now been declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the government of the Philippines!
A terrace typically refers to a kind of agricultural landscape where the slope of a mountain is carved into gradual steps, almost recreating the image of a staircase. This technique is mostly used in mountainous regions to cultivate crops like rice that need standing water to grow, which would otherwise be impossible on the sloping terrain.
The Cordilleras mountains in Luzon island of the Philippines is home to such expansive terraces, most popular out of which are the Banaue and Batad rice terraces. Covering a massive length of almost 4,000 miles, it is said that if each step of the terrace was put together one after another, it would be long enough to encircle half of the Earth.
If you are planning a trip to the Philippines and this has piqued your curiosity, here’s a complete guide to visiting the Banaue Rice Terraces, a perfect destination for those wanting to steer clear of crowded beaches and busy towns.
Planning your visit
There are two ways to reach Banaue. You can either take an overnight bus to Banaue from Manila and cover the distance in 8-10 hours. Alternatively, you can also catch a bus to Banaue from Baguio. This journey also takes 9.5 hours. Choose your route depending on where you are based at the start of your journey.
Visiting the rice terraces incurs a very small fee – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site after all! Once you reach Banaue, head to the local tourism office where you can register yourself and pay an environmental fee of 20 Php (0.4 USD) in order to visit the rice terraces. If you are also heading to Batad village and rice terraces, another round of environmental fees of Php 50 (1 USD) needs to be paid after you enter the village.
Do keep in mind that Banaue is a fairly remote location, hidden away in a gorgeous landscape, which means that not everything you’d expect to find in a city will be available here. That’s the beauty of it, but this also demands that you are prepared for the visit. Here are a few quick tips to get you going:
- You may or may not be able to find any ATM in the village. Even if you spot one, it may not be operational all the time. So it’s best to carry enough local currency in cash to help you pay the fees mentioned above and for other necessities like food, water, local transport etc.
- If you want to hike in the area, it is advisable to take the help of a local guide, since hiking tracks may not be clearly marked out for visitors, making it easy to lose your way.
Why visit the Banaue Rice Terraces
You must be wondering what’s with this rice terrace that we can’t stop talking about it? Honestly, it’s worth the hype! The Banaue Rice Terraces are not only a part of the indigenous cultural heritage, but it’s the sheer dedication to keep the tradition going and preserving the legacy is something that is commendable.
Unofficially but popularly known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, and rightly so, the Banaue Rice terraces are considered to be more than 2000 years old, carved into the Ifugao mountain range of the Philippines by the indigenous people. Stand anywhere here and look around, you’ll notice the perfectly manicured steps of this rice terrace and its striking symmetry. However, the Banaue rice terraces are not devoid of existential threats like most other natural assets.
Frequent droughts, rodent infestation and decreasing interest of the locals to maintain the rice terraces, create hurdles in the preservation of this world heritage site. All the more reason why you should plan a trip to this part of the Philippines soon!
The best time to visit Banaue
If you are traveling to Banaue in April-May or October-November, get ready to feast your eyes on the lush greenery of the rice fields. The rice terraces during these months are at their greenest and it’s a pleasure to look at these manicured terrace steps all around you. In case you’re traveling in June or the first week of July as harvesting season approaches, the warm golden hues of the mature rice crop will greet you with a magical scenery.
Regardless of when you choose to visit, it is not advisable to travel to Banaue during July and August, as these are the months that get the most rainfall. During this time, there is a constant risk of landslides, so it’s better to strike these months off the travel calendar while planning a trip to Banaue.
If you ask us, a visit to the Banaue rice terraces is definitely one of the most unique experiences you can have in the Philippines. With an exciting terrain, sweeping views of the terraces and lots of opportunities to satisfy your appetite for adventure, this is one destination you must add to your Philippines itinerary.