Banaue Travel Guide
Population: 2497. Altitude: 1300 meter
The stunning rice terraces surrounding the town of Banaue are one of the highlights of the Philippines. The total area of the terraces covers over 260 square kilometer and located on average 1500 meter above sea level. Construction started 2000 years ago when Ifugao farmers carved out terraces on the mountainside with primitive tools. To marvel at this stunning accomplishment; Viewpoints northwest of Banaue provide an overview of large parts of the valley. The rice terraces are still used today for growing rice and vegetables but the growth in families has resulted in the decline of plot size. As a result fewer and fewer families make a living out farming and turn to tourism as an alternative source of income. This is threatening the survival of the terraces as they need maintenance and repairs over time.
Banaue itself lacks character and has few interesting sights, but provides the tourist infrastructure with guesthouses and restaurants. Tourists are required to a 20php environmental fee, payable at the town's information center and in most guesthouses. The small village of Batad has similar impressive terraces and can be reached on foot by trails from Banaue. Batad has a couple of guesthouses, allowing you to spend the night there and hike back the next day to Banaue.
When to visit
The terraces are spectacular during any part of the year, but roads and trails become muddy and sometimes impassable during the rainy season from July to January and clouds often obscure the view of the terraces. In the dry season most of the farming takes place and with it the appearance of the hills changes. In February and March terraces are prepared and crops are planted. Harvesting time is in the end of July and the terraces will gradually turn greener from May to July.
Internet and communications
Internet cafes are popping up in Banaue providing slow and not always reliable connections. Hourly rates are around 40-50 php. Smart and Globe telecom providers both have good coverage in Banaue and surroundings. Topping up your prepaid phone cards is easily done in one of the sari-sari stores.
Currently there are no ATM or banks in Banaue, but most hotels will change money at not always favorable exchange rates. Better stock up enough pesos to last your whole trip. The nearest bank with and ATM is PNB, located in Lagawe 30 kilometers from Banaue and accepting Mastercard / Cirrus.