The Ilocos Region occupying the northwestern section of Luzon. It is bordered by the Cordillera Administrative Region to the east, the Cagayan Valley to the northeast and southeast, and the Central Luzon to the south. To the west lies the South China Sea. The region comprises four provinces: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan. A place where nature and history collide, Ilocos is truly a great place to visit. From the historical streets of Vigan to the great formations of sand dunes in Paoay, Ilocos is near to perfection when it comes to rest and recreation.
The best tourist spots in Illocos:
Located on the western coast of the large island of Luzon, facing the South China Sea, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in that it is one of the few towns left in the Philippines whose old structures have mostly remained intact, and it is well known for its sett pavements and a unique architecture of the Philippine colonial era which fuses Native Philippine and Oriental building designs and construction, with colonial Spanish architecture that is still abundant in the area, mainly the Bahay na Bato houses and an Earthquake Baroque church. The entire city of Vigan was later inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage City after being declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC).
Vigan is an island, which used to be detached from the mainland by three rivers – the great Abra River, the Mestizo River and the Govantes River. It is unique among the Philippine towns because it is the country’s most extensive and only surviving historic city that dates back to the 16th century Spanish colonial period.
Vigan was an important coastal trading post in pre-colonial times. Long before the Spanish galleons, Chinese junks sailing from the South China Sea came to Isla de Bigan through the Mestizo River that surrounded the island. On board were sea-faring merchants that came to barter exotic goods from Asian kingdoms in exchange for gold, beeswax and other mountain products brought down by natives from the Cordilleras. Immigrants, mostly Chinese, settled in Vigan, intermarried with the natives and started the multi-cultural bloodline of the Bigueños. Source: Vigan City
The main tourist spots are: Calle Crisologo, Dancing Fountain, Plaza Salcedo and Bantay Bell Tower. You can enjoy in delicious food and some drinks in city center. There is so many cozy restaurants and bars.
2. La Paz Sand Dunes
“Desert in the Philippines, no way!!” – it was my first reaction when I heard about La Paz Sand Dunes.
The La Paz Sand Dunes or Bantay Bimmaboy consists of an area of approximately 85 square kilometers (52 square miles) of protected sandy coastal desert and beach close to Laoag City, the capital of the province of Ilocos Norte. The area is known locally by the name Bantay Bimmaboy, a name which refers to the common perception that the dunes resemble pigs (“baboy” in Filipino) in shape. The area is also known as the Desert of the North and is a popular location for shooting films. The height of the dunes ranges from 10 to 30 meters. The dunes themselves are scenic but a panoramic view of the South China Sea can also be seen from there.
With its dramatic landscape, the La Paz Sand Dunes is a popular site for shooting local and foreign films. It was used as a location for the Philippine movies Himala and Panday and for segments of the Hollywood films Mad Max and Born on the Fourth of July. A few people inhabit the area, as can be seen from the nipa huts that dot the dunes.
As the La Paz Sand Dunes begin just outside Laoag, they are easily accessible from the city. The sand dunes are just 15 minutes away by either motorized tricycle or public jeepney. It is also possible to walk to the La Paz Sand Dunes from Laoag, although it may take a trek of more than an hour in order to traverse the entire stretch of the beach. A rugged 4-wheel-drive vehicle may be used to drive over the sand.
3. Paoay Church
Even if you are not religious, One of the places you must visit if you are on a tour at Ilocos Norte’s famous destinations should be the Paoay Church (St. Augustine Church). Completed in 1710, the church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building. It is declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective group of Baroque Churches of the Philippines in 1993. Paoay church is the Philippines’ primary example of a Spanish colonial earthquake baroque architecture dubbed by Alicia Coseteng, an interpretation of the European Baroque adapted to the seismic condition of the country through the use of enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building. The adaptive reuse of baroque style against earthquake is developed since many destructive earthquakes destroyed earlier churches in the country. Javanese architecture reminiscent of Borobudur of Java can also be seen on the church walls and facade.
4. Bangui Windmills
Arguably one of the most iconic places in Ilocos Norte, the Bangui Wind Farm has been synonymous with the region since it was commissioned in 2005.
Initially this was for 19 very large turbines spaced 236 meters apart and currently this is expanding to 49. Current electrical power production is around 25 megawatts and contributes nearly 40% of the provinces electrical power. The towers are an impressive 60 meters high and are located just 10 meters from the sea edge.
It is the northernmost settlement on Luzon Island and a popular tourist destination because of its resorts and beaches. If you are motorcycle lover, you will really enjoy. For me, Illocos road is one of most breathtaking in the Philippines. Do not forget to visit Kapurpurawan rock formation, Saud Beach and Patapat Viaduct in beautiful Pagudpud.