Getty Images/Flickr RF

North Luzon

A region that invites intrepid exploration, North Luzon encapsulates a nation in miniature. Surfers race waves onto sunny beaches, where whites sands are lapped by teal waters. Machete-carrying mountain tribespeople are quick to smile and quicker to share their rice wine. An impenetrable jungle hides endemic critters. In Spanish colonial cities, sunlight breaks through seashell windows. Far-flung islands with pristine landscapes greet few visitors.

For many travelers, the lure is the emerald rice terraces of the Cordillera, a mountain range that hides hanging coffins and mummies. Trekking is a prime activity, but caving, mountain biking and rafting are other adrenalin-fuelled activities that shape the North Luzon experience. Culturally, this is the Philippines at its most diverse; the peoples of the mountains, Zambales, Ilocos and Batanes, are notable for a melange of language and ritual, and share a genuine and consistent friendliness to visitors.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout North Luzon.