Rice is eaten everyday all around the world and have you ever wonder where and how rice is grown? Have you ever seen rice terraces before? Coming from Thailand, world’s largest rice exporter, I have seen many rice terraces in my life. However, I have never seen or hiked on rice terraces as beautiful and magnificent as the one around Banaue!
The Banaue rice terraces lays in the remote area of the Cordilleras of Luzon island and are known for being the Eighth Wonder of the world. Not only are these multi-level rice terraces incredible beautiful, they are aswell over 2,000-years old and were carved into the mountains by the hands of the Ifugao people. For detailed information please click Banaue.gov.ph.
Many belive that all the Banaue rice terraces are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list but actually only five of them are: Batad, Bangaan, Hungduan, Mayoyao and Nagacadan.This group of five rice terraces are called Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras—which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We were hiking the rice terraces in Mai 2011 and I remember that the bus ride from Sagada to the small mountain town Banaue was on a very long winding road but the scenery along the way was picture-perfect. Somewhere on the road our old bus broke down and needed to have one of the tires changed. But nevermind because the view was extraordinary!
The not so very nice looking Banaue.
Very tired, we checked into one of the nearest, cheapest and cleanest hotel in the centre of Banaue. Not long after came the local guides talking about hikes one could do around the area.
How I regret now that we didn’t choose to do a hike that lasted several days walking from village to village that are settled beautifully on the rice terraces of Ifugao!
But instead we booked two guides for two small hikes.
- It is not necessary having guides but we think it was a great way supporting the local community, to talk with the locals and learn more about the villages and the history of the rice terraces. If you want to hire a guide you can easily get in contact with them and organize a customized tour to the surrounding area.
The first hike: The Banaue Viewpoint to the town of Banaue.
The famous Banaue viewpoint is located just 4km from the centre of Banaue. We took a tricycle, motorbike with a sidecar attached, with our guide to the viewpoint from where we walked into the maze of rice terraces towards Banaue. Upon arrival at the viewpoint we were greeted by charming ladies and gentlemen wearing traditional Ifugao headwear making some poses for the photos in exchange for some coins.
Look at the levels of the paddies, stairway to heaven?!
Imagine that these paddy fields were built with the minimum of hand tools and largely by hands.The paddies are fed by unique irrigation system with water from the rainforest above the terraces.
The complex irrigation system.
The Banaue rice terraces has been around for over 2,000 years and the knowledges of water irrigation, stonework, earthwork and terrace maintenance have been handed down from generation to generation. But the new generation of Ifugaos are not interested of farming and many of them have moved out to bigger city, so left are the soil on the terraces that started to erode and some of the terraces had to be redone.
Our guide showing us how to harvest rice by hand.
A well deserved dinner when we got back to Banaue. On the menu : Grilled fish with Ifugao rice.
The second hike : The Batad rice terraces and the Tappiya waterfalls.
To get to the remote and the popular Batad village and the Batad rice terraces you can choose between riding a motorcycle, a tricycle or a jeepney. We had a tricycle and our guide was driving on mountain road deep into the valleyfor about an hour. If you came by motorcycle or a jeepney, they will normally drive you all the way up to the Saddle. But if not, you will be dropped by the junction and from there on, you will have to walk about 4km, 300 metre of elevation gain uphill to the saddle where you will have a beautiful overview of the Batad rice terraces. The Batad village is only accessible on foot and it is about 45 min steep walk down from the Saddle.
- There are guesthouses in the village of Batad. I wish now that we had stayed a night or two at Batad instead of Banaue.
If you prefer taking a full-packed jeepney.
I wish I remember why I was laughing.
We were walking on the ridge of the rice paddies that were nestled into the mountain while enjoying the scenic view surrounding us. This is the reason why I love to travel: to experience something so unique as the Banaue rice terraces!
The Batad village with less than 1,500 habitants.
We were hiking the Banaue rice terraces in Mai and we had the perfect weather and the paddies were lush green. March and June is the best time to visit if you want the paddies to be green. The harvest season is between July and August and the rice become golden brown while during the rainy season between July and January the paddies turn into brown pools of mud.
From the Batad village is about an hour walk to the 70-metre Tappiya waterfalls. Some might find hiking the rice terraces strenuous. I am not going to lie, it was quite challenging walking on steep uneven steps and sometimes on muddy and slippery path.That said, I am sure everybody can do it as you will get blown away by the landscape that makes you forgetting about the pain! Untill you wake up the next morning…
People coming to the Philippines are blinded by the stunning Philippine beaches that they are forgetting what else the country has to offer; like the beautiful Ifugao rice terraces! I am so grateful that we took our time coming to this hidden treasure that is known as the Eighth Wonder of the world. Hiking the Banaue rice terraces in the Ifugao valley was truly the highlight of our visit in the Philippines.
How about you guys, have you been hiking on beautiful rice terraces somewhere in the world?