Bustling Bontoc is one of the most important market towns and transport hubs in the Cordillera, and you'll find yourself spending a day or two here if you're looking to get out to the rice terraces of Maligcong and Mainit or stay in the former headhunter villages of Kalinga, as it's an excellent place to arrange a guide.
Hemmed in on all sides by dramatic rice terraces, Banaue is directly accessible from Manila and, as such, can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by visitors. It's hard to blame them: the local mud-walled rice terraces have a pleasing, organic quality that differentiates them from the stone-walled terraces in most of the Cordillera.
Five Ifugao rice terraces are included on the Unesco Word Heritage list: Batad, Bangaan, Mayoyao, Hungduan and the Nagacadan terraces near Kiangan. Of those, Batad’s are the most famous, but Mayoyao gives Batad a run for its money. Mayoyao is accessible from Banaue (three hours) or Santiago (five hours) in Isabela Province.
The best starting point for treks in Kalinga is Tinglayen, 2½ hours north of Bontoc on the Chico River. Victor Baculi, the barangay captain of Luplupa (just across the hanging bridge from Tinglayen), can set you up with guides; look for him at the Luplupa Riverside Inn, which is run by his son.
In barangay Pula in the town of Asipulo, a 48-hectare organic coffee forest has been turned into the Julia Campbell Agroforest Memorial Park (http://juliacampbellpark.wordpress.com). Julia Campbell was a US Peace Corps volunteer whose murder at the hands of a local man on the main trail to Batad in April 2007 shocked the country.
Mt Pulag National Park
Mt Pulag (2922m), sacred to the Ibaloi and Kalanguya, is the highest peak in Luzon and anchors the Cordillera’s largest national park. The Protected Areas Office in Ambangeg, 1½ hours south of Kabayan, doubles as the park’s visitor centre. There’s a hefty P950 entrance fee for nonresidents, payable here or at other points of entry.