Banaue is synonymous with Luzon’s most famous icon, the Unesco World Heritage–listed Ifugao rice terraces, etched out of the hillsides using primitive tools and an ingenious irrigation system over 2000 years ago. The Ifugao by no means had a monopoly on rice terraces in the Cordillera, but they were arguably the best sculptors, as the mesmerizing display overlooking Banaue suggests.
Banaue itself – a ragged collection of tin-roofed edifices along a ridge – often spoils things for those looking for a perfect first ooh-and-ahh moment. But you can’t argue with Banaue’s setting, and accommodation remains of stellar value compared with most tourist hot spots in the Philippines. Meanwhile, that perfect ooh-and-ahh is not far away, in Batad.
The Ifugao are almost as famous for carving wood as they are for carving earth into green, fuzzy, rice-bearing steps. You’ll find myriad locally made carvings and other crafts in the shops surrounding the main plaza. Two kilometres north of town you can ogle rice terraces to your heart’s content at the viewpoint; a tricycle there and back costs P200. If your heart’s still not content, there are similarly impressive specimens lurking in nearby Hapao and Kiangan, as well as around Bontoc and in Kalinga Province to the north.