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  • Sagada Travel Guide - Mountain Jewel in the Philippines
  • Sagada Travel Guide - Mountain Jewel in the Philippines

Sagada Travel Guide - Mountain Jewel in the Philippines

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Sagada is a town located on the island of Luzon. Nestled between mountains, this mountain village attracts tourists thanks to its awe-inspiring landscapes and the famous hanging coffins. But apart from these, there are actually a lot of other attractions in Sagada, which we will show you in this article, so keep on reading our Sagada travel guide.

It is important to know that this area of the Philippines is home to the Igorot, an indigenous people who resisted the Spanish colonization. The Igorot are formed by six different tribes and each one preserves its language, traditions, and culture. Tourists should keep in mind that these people have been adapting to new times and should behave in a respectful manner during their visit.

Activities in Sagada

As it is a mountainous enclave, there are many hikes, but not all visits are allowed on their own. The village is really small and you will get to know it with a walk of about 30 minutes. The main activities include the following:

Hanging Coffins

It is the star visit in Sagada, the hanging coffins highlight Igorot culture. Currently, the practice has been banned by the local government due to health reasons. The Igorot are not Christians and have their own funeral rituals.

In the Igorot culture, each person in life prepares his coffin, blanket, and elements that will accompany him. He also decides which place he likes for his eternal rest and communicates it to the family. Once the person dies, they will rest 24 hours on a chair in the family home. After this first ritual, they are wrapped in a blanket and tied in the fetal position. In some cases to achieve this, some bones must be broken. This is the reason why some coffins seem to be of children but, in reality, there are adults inside them.

The relatives carry the body inside the coffin to the chosen place, always in rocky areas and never underground. It is said that hanging coffins seek to prevent animals from eating the bodies and the fetal position helps to leave our world in the same position we arrived. The coffins are placed on irons that have been nailed to the rock to support it.

The chairs that can be seen hanging are where the person is rested after death during the 24-hour ritual. The most famous wall was the first one we visited, where the oldest coffin dates from 1960 and the newest one from 2010.

In the old days, the coffin would decompose over the years until the moment came when it would fall down, everything would return to the earth.

Throughout the valley, there are numerous caves and rocky walls with coffins but the accesses are dangerous. It is very surprising to imagine how they were taken there.

It is recommended to hire a guide to take you to several points where you can see more coffins deposited around the valley.

Sumaguing Cave
Marlboro Sunrise
Adventure trail
Picking and eating oranges at Rock Inn

Permits and tourist fees

All visitors must register at the tourist office and pay 50 pesos. At the time of payment, a receipt is given, which should be kept and carried with you on your visits as you will probably be asked to do so at the entrance.

Additionally, depending on the visit you want to make, extra fees may be charged. At the tourist office, they don't indicate that the guide is obligatory for the visits but when we arrived at the beginning of the road to the hanging coffins we found a control booth where they told us that it was obligatory so we ended up paying 300 pesos for a very nice guide. It turned out to be a 15-minute walk, very easy, and without any difficulty. The price of the guides is fixed and varies according to the number of people in the group.

The three-star activities in Sagada require a guide: hanging coffins and caves, but if you want to walk around the mountain on your own we were told that you can do it on your own.

Responsible tourism in Sagada

Sagada is a town that receives more and more tourists, especially local tourists. Many Filipinos take advantage of the weekends and leave from Manila to get to know other parts of the country. We were surprised to see how these visitors spend real amounts of money. Put simply, Sagada has had to face some problems that are linked to the increase in tourism and have created a decalogue of good practices that you can read in hotels, restaurants, and in the tourist information office.

1 - Although it seems like common sense, it must be said. Culture and sacred places must be respected. Especially where the local people rest forever. Respect the masses and do not take videos or photos during the masses.

2 - Respect the local people, the Igorot are normal people who have adapted to the new times. Don't expect to see them on the street in their typical clothes since nowadays they only wear them on special occasions. Don't take pictures without asking in advance.

3 - Reduce water consumption. In Sagada, they don't always have the necessary water and they suffer from cuts in the dry season so keep this in mind and don't waste water.

4 - Try to reduce your garbage, Sagada is an isolated area and the increase in the garbage is inevitable with the increase in tourism. Of course, don't throw anything away in the mountains and always do it in a trash can.

5 - Hire official guides and never children. The typical visits of the area require a guide so you can always hire one at the information office to be a really accredited guide.

How to get to Sagada

Direct Bus to Sagada

Getting there is easy, it all depends on where you are starting from. If you are from Manila you can take a bus that will take you directly to Sagada. There is only one bus company that does the direct route, it is called Coda Lines. There is also the option of taking several local buses, the first route would be Manila-Baguio but we discarded this option because of the time we were wasting changing buses and because we were not clear about whether we could connect buses on the same day.

The ticket with Coda Lines can be bought the same day of the departure at the same bus station but this will depend on whether you want to take a chance or not. There are 3 daily departures and two bus categories, the VIP bus costs 980 pesos per person if bought at the ticket office:

20:00 pm - Economy bus without bathroom
21:00 pm - VIP bus with bathroom
22:00 pm - VIP bus with bathroom

All depart from the same station in the area of Quezon, the address is: HM Transport, EDSA with Monte de Piedad, Inmaculada Concepción, Quezon City, 1111 Manila.

The main difference between semi-deluxe buses and the VIP or Super Deluxe ones is that the latter has a bathroom. Note, though, that they don't give out blankets or drinks, so be prepared because the air conditioning is deadly during the whole trip.

Another recommendation is that you try to sit on the right side of the bus as you can see the sunrise and enjoy the sea of clouds on the last stretch of Bontoc-Sagada. Another issue is that the bus only made one stop around 1:00 am where you could eat, our recommendation is that you take some prepared food with you and don't depend on this one-stop.

Once you arrive in Sagada the bus leaves you in the center of town and next to the tourist office. It is an easy point to move around and find accommodation or places to have breakfast.

Getting to Sagada from Banaue or Bontoc

If you happen to be in Banaue and want to continue discovering Northern Luzon, you can take advantage of the same bus route that comes from Manila, with the company Coda Lines.

There are three buses and the schedules are as follows, although the best thing is that in Banaue you secure the departures with the company. If you are in Bontoc this same bus will pass by there, since it is the previous town to finish the route in Sagada. From Banaue the departures are:

4:00 am - Economic bus without bathroom
5:00 am - VIP bus with bathroom
7:00 am - VIP bus with bathroom

Another option is to take a jeepney from Banaue to Bontoc and another from Bontoc to Sagada. Jeepney between Sagada and Bontoc are frequent every day of the week from 6:30 am to 4 pm.

If you are traveling with little time the best option is the Coda buses since they ensure the departure time and take you directly to Sagada.

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