The best thing about the Ifugao Rice Terraces would have to be that they’re both magically surreal and grounded in indigenous Cordillera history and culture. The mere scale of it will shake off any doubt as to why it remains in UNESCO’s protected list—after all, it’s only two millennia’s worth of pre-colonial farming bad-assery.
While the Banaue Rice Terraces (best seen from the Banaue Viewpoint) are the ones that might be the first to come to mind, there are actually other equally majestic clusters for hikers or hermits seeking quieter vacay spots.
Here are the next destinations for your to-Instagram bucket lists—but hopefully not just as an awesome selfie backdrop, but as real places with real people whose culture you can get to know as well.
Located in the municipality of Kiangan, these terraces are bisected by a river. It also has an Open Air Museum, which was put up by the local government for visitors to give an immersive experience of the local culture, as well as help support the restoration and maintenance of the terraces and the people that built it.
Mayoyao is known for a number of interesting sites; you can visit the renowned Apfo-or burial tombs, chase clear pools and waterfalls (Tenogtog, O’Phaw Mahencha, Muntuy-tuy-ub and Hecheng) or hike up Mt. Nagcha-jan, where the epic World War II battle between General Yamashita and Filipino and US troops took place.
If you’re in Banaue with an hour or two to kill before taking a bus back to Manila or heading further up north, you can ask the tricycle drivers to take you to Banga-an for around 500 to 1000 pesos. The view of the village nestled near the foot of it can be enjoyed from the highway and is enough to make the trip worth it.
This beauty in Hungduan closely resembles the patterns on a spiderweb. Its terraces are also known for hiding a gem called the Bogyah Hot Springs, where you can soak those muscles in after a moderately easy 30-minute to an hour-long hike.
Batad is relatively one of the more popular in this list because of its grand amphitheater-like terraces. There are also a number of homestay-style places to choose from like Ramon’s Native Homestay or Hillside Inn, which lets you enjoy a cup of strong Cordilleran coffee and a hot meal with native rice while gazing at the terraces from the balcony. If you have the legs and lungs for it, you can also hike to the beautiful Tappiya falls. The best time to go would be April to May or October to November.
Tours to these terraces may be arranged in Banaue, where a flock of tour guides will be eager to assist you once you reach the town proper. If you want to help out in conserving and maintaining these national cultural treasures which are also threatened by climate change and their youth’s declining interest in farming, show your interest by trying to make the challenging but tiring trip, talking to locals and being a responsible tourist—it’s worth it.