To anyone who has a “wanderlust gene,“ the idea of road trips is like a dose of adrenalin injected into their veins that makes them want to hit the road as soon as possible. The good news is that the Philippines has many road trip destinations that are really worth taking, for local and international tourists alike.
If you are coming from Manila, a few hours of travel to Northern Luzon will give you many sights or tourist attractions and food trip venues, not to mention the amazing views along the way. Here are some places in Northern Luzon that you can include in your itinerary.
Clark was a former American air base in Angeles, Pampanga that was turned into the Clark Freeport Zone after the Mt. Pinatubo eruptions. It is now called Clark Special Economic Zone and houses a number of hotels, restaurants, duty-free shops, casinos, and the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.
Fontana Water Park
One of the main swimming pools of Fontana Water Park (Photo by Writer)
After a two-hour road travel, it is best to relax and unwind in Clark by taking a dip at the Fontana Water Park. The resort has a recreational water theme park, hot spring and lagoon pools, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Clark Nature Park
Enjoy the experience of zipline activity at Clark Nature Park
Another destination is the Clark Nature Park where you can do fun activities such as horseback riding, go karting, wall climbing, and zipline adventure. And of course, you should not miss a food side trip at nearby Angeles City, which is the Culinary Capital of the country. There are a lot of restaurants offering local and international cuisine that will surely satisfy your palates.
Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Just like Clark, Subic was a former US naval base turned into a free port zone. It can now be conveniently reached from Manila via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) on a three-hour drive passing by a serene view of mountains and farmlands.
Live dolphin show at Ocean Adventure
Now, your travel to Subic would not be complete without going to Ocean Adventure and Zoobic Safari. At Ocean Adventure, you get to see dolphins, sea lions, and other marine creatures in various animal shows and aquariums.
The wild and exotic animal found in Zoobic Safari; the tiger encounter during the Tiger Safari Jeep Ride is the trip’s highlight (Photo by Writer)
If you are the more adventurous type, Zoobic Safari is definitely for you. There you get to see exotic, wild, and semi-domesticated animals. The highlight of your trip is an exhilarating Safari jeep ride while being chased by tigers.
San Juan, La Union
Surfing activity in Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union (Photo by Writer)
A surfing haven and considered as the surfing capital of the North is San Juan, La Union. It is the closest surf spot in Manila at four to five hours of travel via NLEX, SCTEX, and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX). In Barangay Urbiztondo, an array of accommodations, restaurants, and surfing tutorials and surfboard rentals can be found along the beach. Accommodations vary from high-end villas to lodges and backpacker hostels. Surfing lessons costs P300 to P400. The best time to surf is from July to October.
Baler is located northeast of Manila in a five- to six-hour land travel via a mix of rough, narrow, and zigzag roads in a mountainous terrain. But the view of nature is a spectacle to watch while on the road–although when you say Baler, the first thing that comes to mind is surfing.
Surfing enthusiasts at the Sabang Beach in Baler (Photo by Writer)
Baler’s Sabang Beach is known to surfing enthusiasts as a place to go and ride the waves. It is a two-kilometer beach stretch facing east, towards the Pacific Ocean. September to February is Baler's surfing season. But aside from surfing, you can also go on a trek passing by a rocky river and a mossy trail going to a picturesque Ditumabo Mother Falls.
Museo de Baler
The Museum de Baler features historical artifacts during the Seige of Baler and some memorabilia of former President Manuel L. Quezon. (Photo by Writer)
Baler also has its historical and heritage places like the Museo de Baler and Church of Baler, as well as other sight-seeing destinations like the Ermita Hill and the Rock Formations in Diguisit Beach.
Baguio is a six- to seven-hour drive away from Manila. On the way you will traverse the zigzag road of Kennon, Naguillan, or Marcos Highway while enjoying the view of pine tree-covered mountains and feeling the cool, crisp air. Tons of tourists flock the city during summer to beat the heat; that is why it is called the Summer Capital of the Philippines.
Bencab Museum in Asin Road, Baguio
Baguio has numerous tourist spots, but one destination that has recently become famous is the Ben Cab Museum, which houses the art collection and works of National Artist Ben Cabrera. There are also lots of dining places that you shouldn’t miss when in Baguio, such as the Hill Station, Cafe By the Ruins, and Forest House, among others. Also, you shouldn’t leave the city without experiencing the night market and shopping for quality, second-hand items at Baguio's Ukay-Ukay stores along Session Road.
Vigan, Ilocos Sur
After an almost-eight-hour trip from Manila, you'll reach Vigan, Ilocos Sur, for a heritage city tour. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vigan boasts of its preserved historical houses with unique architecture and design.
Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur (Photo by Writer)
Walking along the cobblestone streets and past the horse-drawn carriages of Calle Crisologo is like traveling back in time during the Spanish era. Along Calle Crisologo are shops for souvenirs and authentic Vigan treats like the chichacorn, longganisa, bagnet, and kalamay. Ending the Vigan tour with a taste of the sumptuous empanada from the local stores in Plaza Salcedo adds a happy finale to your experience.
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Farthest to the North is Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, which is a 14-hour drive from Manila. While on the road, you can make a stopover to go sightseeing and have photo ops at the Bangui Windmills, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, and Cape Bojeador in Burgos, Ilocos Norte.
Bangui Windmills is one of the tourist spots to see before you reach Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (Photo by Writer)
Zigzag roads going to Pagudpud give you a view of the crystal-blue waters of the West Philippine Sea. A swim at the white-sand beaches of Saud Beach and Blue Lagoon, which has more scenic view, is the perfect way to cap off your experience up north.
The amazing shoreline with the view of an island at a secluded area in Blue Lagoon (Photo by Writer)
There you have it! But some final things to remember: When traveling in a private vehicle, know your route beforehand so you don’t waste time finding your location while on the road. While taking public transportation is always an option, it is best to check on bus schedules and fares ahead of time. Plan your budget wisely, as some of these places are actually very budget-friendly if you know how and where to spend. Finally, put safety first whether you are traveling with a group or going solo.
So what are you waiting for? Go pack your bags, plan your itinerary, and satisfy your wanderlust in a fun and exciting road trip to the North.