The islands of Batanes are found in the northernmost part of the Philippines. It is often heard during weather forecasts because Basco holds the last (or first) weather station.

The province has 3 inhabited islands – Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat. The remaining islands are generally used as pasture land but if you fancy adventure you may rent a boat and cross the frisky Luzon Strait and explore where only a few explored. Be wary though as I heard the farther you get the more expensive it is.

Batan Island

Batan island is usually the base of most travelers. Here your plane will land in the capital Basco where most establishments are found. When I first saw Batan island from aboard a plane I was leaning my face hard on the windows in excitement. The aerial view is a good start in seeing the hilly lands of Batanes. Unfortunately, the plane’s window didn’t give me a chance to take some good shots cause it’s either scratchy or dark. So I just savored the view from my seat. By the way, that’s a right side seat so tell the agent in the check-in counter to put you on the right so you’ll see the island.

Batan island on board the plane
Batan island on board the plane

While Basco looked established already, the province’s traditional stone houses are still apparent. Alleys are small and are usually used by bikes and motorcycles with the occasional cars and trikes. Walking around town felt like walking in an old book during Sunday afternoons.

Rolling hills
Rolling hills

The small Batan island can normally be toured for 1.5 days depending on the amount of photos one takes. The landscape is just amazing that I hated myself for not lingering around long maybe under a tree in one of those hills overlooking a herd of cows while reading a good book. Oh don’t do that by the way, I heard cows has a tendency to be aggressive! Especially the black ones, no wait, those are carabaos ackk!

Lighthouse in Mahatao Batanes
Lighthouse in Mahatao Batanes

Generally you will be indulging yourselves with endless hills, lighthouses, mountains, stone houses and other fantastic island views. But on the flipside you may also do a 4-hour climb of the Batanes staple Mt. Iraya for a different vantage point. If that’s not your kind of thing well I also learned that going boat fishing is also something visitors can do. I actually thought of doing this myself, fishing in Batanes waters. Excitement! Too bad the waves are too rigid for my definition of adventure. On a fine day though this should be a feast. I saw the fishes they have in Batanes and they are really big so catching one means fantastic lunch. Now if you wanna go deeper, then diving is for you. Dive around the vast expanse of water around the island but be sure you get proper guide and advise.

Mt. Iraya in the background
Mt. Iraya in the background

Transportation

 

South Batan road side cliffs
South Batan road side cliffs

Since public transportation is sporadic, the common practice when going around Batan island is to rent a motorcycle but this option is only good if you have a license and riding along cliffs doesn’t scare you. Blow your horn! If you are unsure if you fit option #1 maybe option #2 will sound a different fun – biking. Biking will mean cheap and fun, fun if you don’t mind cycling uphill the whole afternoon. Remember, even if Batan island is relatively small, some spots are somewhat far especially on tired legs. Option #3 is what most visitors do – join group tours. This is what I did when I went the first time. Since several travelers are pooled in, I see it like a tourist passenger ride. Only draw is that you are bounded by other’s schedule but if you get to meet awesome company then this won’t be a problem. Now as for hiring a public trike, I think this could work too but I have not much info on this and how far they can go. Of course depending on your location you can always opt to walk. With the island’s scenery, walking around is always nice.

Biking is very common in Batanes
Biking is very common in Batanes

Place to stay

When I was walking around Basco I noticed that there are several lodges, inns, and homestays in the area. Places like DDD Habitat, Brandon’s lodge, Pension Ivatan, Batanes Seaside Lodge, Shanedel’s inn, Batanes Resort, and the upscale Fundacion Pacita are just some. But of course my favorite is Marfel’s lodge.

Money

Remember Batanes is not the big city so everything will be paid in cash. If possible bring all that you need. There is a Landbank atm near the plaza but if that machine runs out of cash then who knows what headache it will give you. On a good note, I and a friend was able to get ours on different occasions.

Also read: Island Hopping Greece.