How to Get There (from Manila)
There are two main routes going to Sagada from Manila:
- Manila - Baguio - Sagada
- Manila - Banaue - (Bontoc) - Sagada
Manila - Banaue - (Bontoc) - Sagada
- Banaue has a small town proper, and the jeep/ bus terminals are usually found at the side of the national highway. While it may be daunting at first to choose which mode of transportation to use, you can always ask around just as long as you are able to do you research beforehand.
- You may opt for a cut-ride to Bontoc, then from Bontoc to Sagada. There are jeepneys that go this route.
- Since travel to and from Sagada isn't that as hectic, travel schedules are spaced one hour apart, at the minimum. So make sure to schedule your time accordingly.
- Related to the point above, most modes of transportation require a minimum number of passengers (i.e. 4 to 6 pax). If your travelling during an off-peak season, expect that there will be a scarcity of tourists, ergo you might need to pay more for the transport.
Sagada - Baguio - Manila
The town proper in Sagada also serves as a central jeepney/ bus terminal for public vehicles passing through Sagada. In here you should also find the local bus (i.e. GL-Lizardo) that picks up passengers en route to Baguio. The earliest trip is at 7AM and the last trip is 1PM. To date (buses come by the hour), a ticket to Baguio costs around 200++ PHP.
Sagada - Baguio - Manila
Where to Stay (and Eat)
- Sagada is a mountainous region and requires a LOT of walking (if you did not bring your own vehicle), so consider checking in at a place near the town proper as most activities happen there.
- Most inns do not offer A/C rooms, but this should be okay since Sagada has a relatively cool atmosphere.
- Be mindful of the amenities the inns offer. There are inns that do not offer hot/cold water in the showers, which might be uncomfortable considering the climate in Sagada.
- As Sagada isn't the most accessible place to go around, also check with the inn if there are additional services that they offer and if there are extra charges for that (for The Rock Inn & Cafe they charge 200 PHP one way).
What to Do (Weekend Itinerary)
The first thing one should do arriving in Sagada is to register at the Tourist Information Center. Everyone should pay an environmental fee of 35 PHP (as I recall), which I think is fair since most of the activities in Sagada involve interaction with nature.
Most of the activities can be done in half a day, but they can also be exhausting since they involve trekking while you are breathing the thin mountain air. Ideally it would be nice to pace the activities in the morning and spend your afternoon resting or food-tripping, but if you only have a weekend off (meaning travel from Manila is on Friday night and arrival to Sagada is on Saturday morning, so considering your check-in and rest from travel, your only free day is on Sunday), I suggest that you take the Echo Trail in the morning and the Caving in the afternoon.
Other points to consider:
- DO NOT GO TREKKING UNSUPERVISED. Tourism is one of the major livelihoods of the locals, so do not rob them of the opportunity to earn something for the day.
- Consider the weather when planning your activity. This is kind of a no-brainer, actually. Dry season is a good season for trekking and caving, since there will be no muddy obstacles to go through. Rainy season can still be okay for caving, as long as the water levels don't go too high.
- Wear appropriate clothes and shoes. The proper attire will mean the world, especially if you have to go through slippery slopes and cold temperature.
- Stay properly hydrated and energized. You WILL tire sooner than you expect, because of the thin mountain air. So pack your provisions appropriately.
Echo Valley Trail
This tour involves trekking down the Echo Valley, where you will find the hanging coffins, the entrance to an underground river, lots and lots of small creeks, coffee plants, and greenery, and ends at the Bokong waterfall. Guide fee is 600 PHP for a group of up to 10 pax.
Caving (Beginner's Level)
There are three levels of caving/spelunking in Sagada.
The first level takes you to the Sumaguing Cave, where trekkers descend into depths of up to 163 meters. The first phase of the trek involves navigating through limestone rocks that are slippery with bat droppings. The second phase of the trek involves walking barefoot on smoother rocks, where the soles of your feet provide surprisingly efficient traction, especially if the rocks are wet with fresh cave water. Expect a lot of climbing, tunneling and rappelling in this level.
The second level is the cave connection, where you enter from the Lumiang "Burial" Cave and exit from the Sumaguing Cave. I haven't tried this one, but the trek here is supposedly steeper and more dangerous, and would take an approximate six hours to finish.
The third level is the Crystal Cave, supposedly the most difficult cave to explore. Our guide told us that the Crystal Cave trekking involves a lot of crawling through tunnels and tight spaces, where only one person can fit through at a time. Rock formations are more exotic in the Crystal Cave, and the sight to behold is supposedly worth the effort.
We only availed Level 1. Guide fee is 500 for up to 4 pax.