With its unique natural and cultural heritage destinations, Ilocos Norte in the extreme northern Philippines is one damn fine destination for the gutsy traveler on a bike.
Ready to hop on your bike? Let’s meet at the newly landscaped Aurora Park in Laoag (my hometown), a flourishing city where the calesa is still a means of getting around. Before getting ourselves all covered in sweat, let’s visit the old Spanish Tabacalera, now the Museo Ilocos Norte — a showcase of the Ilocano culture, with dioramas (depicting old local customs and traditions), artifacts from the past and a replica of an old Ilocano abode.
Let’s pedal to the western end of Laoag and marvel at the sand dunes of La Paz. If we’re lucky enough to chance upon sandboarders, we can have a little “sand”wich for another awesome kind of thrill. Or you might want to temporarily swap your hardtails for LEAD Movement’s beach cruisers?
Cruising along Barangay La Paz.
a recent visitor at the La Paz sand dunes.
Next, south, east or north, it’s your call.
To the southeast is old town Paoay, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Paoay Church, also known as St. Augustine Church, a most-photographed church with striking Earthquake-Baroque and Oriental design dating back to 1704. Coffee brews at the Herencia Café right across the church. What about a slice of the original pinakbet pizza?
Let’s go a little north to the 381.5-hectare Paoay Lake National Park, a northerly lake for migratory birds. A place of peace and tranquility, the protected area is suitable for eco-friendly boating, kayaking and paddle boarding, afterwhich we revisit a part of history at the adjacent Malacañang of the North, the former Ilocos Norte residence of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
If you dare venture into the eastern towns, spread on the rolling terrain of Ilocos Norte, a charming countryside view with numerous points of interest such as a farmer’s daily grind makes the travel more engaging. Community immersion is another possibility.
Unleash your wild side and get your adrenalin all pumped up — hook up with extreme mountain biking groups, like the Batibols Bikers, and go off the beaten track in Lagui and Bugnay, San Nicolas.
Up north are gorgeous must-sees. Beyond biking, a food trip will surely rejuvenate the bike explorer. Up on the list — freshly baked biscochos at the roadside Pasuquin Bakery!
The imposing Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is a fine vantage point overlooking the South China Sea. Also in Burgos are excellent bike/hike trails leading to nature areas like Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Kaangrian Waterfall and Tanap-Avis Watershed Forest Reserve. Spelunking and rock climbing can be arranged with the Burgos tourism office.The neighboring town of Bangui is location to the first windmill farm in Southeast Asia. A coffee shop named KangKang by the windmills serves good coffee and refreshments.
Further in the north is Pagudpud, where a strip of tropical resorts line the white-sand Saud Beach Cove. Ask around for diving equipment, surfboard, paddle board and skimboard rentals. The north coast gets surfers all stoked with Mairaira Point’s good waves. Closeby, breathtaking Blue Lagoon is a chill-out haven.If you get starved in Pagudpud, there are good eating places. Discover bagnet or kilawen with a German twist at Bergblick Deutsches Restaurant, organic greens at Kapuluan Vista Resort or savor freshly-caught seafood at Manang Yolly’s Mekeni’s Palutuan by the Blue Lagoon. Cruising the Patapat Viaduct offers a remarkable sea and mountain scape.
From Pansian, Pagudpud, a 45-minute uphill cycling to the town of Adams, within the northeastern end of the Cordillera Mountain Range, is a prerequisite for the daring visitor in Ilocos. Stunning high biodiversity primary forests are ideal for hardcore trekking and biking. The rustic town has four DOT-accredited homestays. Natural and cultural attractions include ancient hanging bridges, the pellucid Bulu River, numerous waterfalls, a flourishing wine-making industry, exotic food and a fascinating amalgam of indigenous cultures.
Cryptic Ilocos Norte demystified! Hope to see you unravel more… happy biking!
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