Batanes is one of the most breathtaking, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, and (insert any cliché superlative you can think of here) places I’ve been in the entire world. Oh, you have no idea what the hell a “Batanes” is? Don’t worry – you’re not alone, as the furthermost northern island in the Philippines is a bit of a best-kept secret for travelers to and in this country.
There’s good reason, as the island, facing the China Sea with no natural barriers or buffer, is barraged by bad weather and storms a good portion of the year. In fact, standing on the beach or the coastline and facing north, all 7,500 islands (approximately) of the Philippines archipelago are at your back!
But, with typhoons that nearly wipe it off the map (like Typhoon Ferdie in 20016) and months or rain, travelers tend to get shy about visiting. Of course, no one wants to book a pricey vacation and then have it rain the entirety of their stay – or worse.
It’s also a bit difficult to get to, requiring an hour and a half flight from Manila (which is a long flight in this country) on a Bombardier turboprop aircraft, rattling through the clouds and barraged my turbulence the whole time as if you were Indian a Jones on one of his cross-the-world voyages. The plane ride culminated in a treacherous drop into their short runway nestled right behind the island’s volcano as if you were barnstorming an aircraft carrier. Furthermore, the flights are damn expensive – and that probably keeps more tourists away than all other factors combined.
But my prayers and war dances must have appeased the weather Gods, because the day I flew in was perfectly sunny with crystal blue skies. That only made the vibrant green hills, valleys, and jungle palms along the rock coastlines look more alive. Seriously, this Batanes looks like if Scotland relocated to the equator, or if Switzerland and the Pebble Beach golf course had a baby and shipped it off to the Philippines for summer camp.
I was picked up at the charming open-air airport and brought to my hotel, the Batanes Seaside Resort (it does sit right above the ocean but the beach here is dark volcanic sand and rocky – beaches are not the main attraction in Batanes). The hotel sits on the outskirts of Bosco, the island’s one and only community big enough to be called a town, holding about 8,000 of the island’s entire 18,000-person population.
So, what is there to do on Batanes? Taking advantage of the sunlight, I only took enough time to drop down my bags and change, and then headed out for an afternoon tour of rolling hillside vistas, secret caves that were used in defense of the Japanese in WWII, a lovely lighthouse, the town’s oldest cathedral, and a coffee and tea café on the grounds and gardens of one of the first private landowners and governors of the island.
And that’s just the first afternoon – as I have the whole southern portion of the sizable Batanes Island to explore, and then day tours of even more remote satellite islands!
It’s all so beautiful that it was beyond description (luckily, you can check out the photos at our @AllWorldOnline Instagram page!). But, we’ll be bringing you detailed reviews of each attraction, as well as more info and tips on traveling to Batanes – you don’t want to miss it!