Update: May 19 2017
Starting June 1, traveling to Banaue will be quicker and easier because of a chartered flight(Wakay Tours) from Clark International Airport in Pampanga to Bagabag airport in Nueva Vizcaya(30 mins flight). From Bagabag airport to Banaue, it only takes 2 hours by car.
With Clark being approximately 2 hours from Manila, the Manila -Banaue travel time will be shortened from 12 to 5 hours.
I have to say that Batad,Philippines is definitely high on my list of most rewarding places to visit. The rice terraces, built over 2 thousands years ago, stands as testimony to man’s ingenuity in converting barren land into fertile ground. The effort to reach this remote place is part of the reason why the visit is rewarding: it is half a day’s trip from Manila, you have to hike at least 45 minutes to reach it– Saddle point is the furtherest point that vehicles can go towards Batad. Beyond it, you’d be really lucky to have a network on your mobile phone, but who needs a network when you can get away from it all and go back to the basics. It is such a rewarding experience to stay overnight and wakeup to the sound of Roosters in the absence of cars and jeepneys so prevalent in Manila. Batad is of course not the only village with rice terraces, but it’s the one with the most consistent stone-wall structure; the amphitheatre-like arrangement of its terraces is quite simply stunning.
Here is a link to a website which can help you plan your trip to Batad (Our Awesome Planet). You’ll have info on the different options to reach Saddle point from Banaue. Another option is by joining organised tour from Manila like those done by trailadventours(Filipino trek company) and international tour companies like Intrepid and Gap(it doesn’t come cheap for these two as they only offer 2 weeks travel to the Philippines …on Western prices of course).
Note that Ohayami trans(+639175060817) is now the only bus company that services the Manila-Banaue route. Do reserve your ticket a day in advance as there are only 2 daily buses that ply this route. Both leave Manila on the Corner of J. Fajardo and A.H. Lacson in Sampaloc, at 9 and 10PM respectively.
Bring a sweat shirt and a blanket as the bus is a moving freezer. Don’t pack too much stuff on your bag, you will have to hike in and out of Batad.
Afraid of heights?
Going to Batad from the Saddle point is not an issue if you are afraid of heights. However treks to other villages from Batad could be challenging: the trek from Batad to Cambulo for one has a few passages where you have to pass by rice terrace ridges where you have rice field on one side and a cliff on the other.
It is good that most of the ridges are at least half a meter wide. I am told this is not the case for other hikes. For this reason, do get a guide when deciding to hike to other villages from Batad. Ask the guide how he handles situations where the client has fear of heights. He could for example propose that you hold on to his rucksack as you walk through narrow ridges. The guide can also provide you with a walking stick: this sure helped me for my balance.
It costs around 1,300 PHP to hire the service of a guide for a day(for 5 people I believe), a small cost for your safety. It is better to hire a guide in Batad than in Banaue, it is good to support those who live in the remote areas, and of course the local guides would know their area better.
Normally you don’t need prior reservation for lodging in Batad, I am trying to search the internet for contact info… to no avail. We didn’t reserve anything and just organised on our arrival at Batad. The Lonely Planet suggests Simon’s place for the best viewpoint. We stayed at a native cottage(no nails) at Ramon’s homestay. Ramon is very friendly, I am told he is a respected individual in the community.
The native hut, had six beds, you could rent the hut for 1200 PHP or share the cost with other people who are willing to share accommodation with you.
Enjoy Batad!… And as they say… it is more fun in the Philippines!