Banaue Rice Terraces is considered as the 8th Wonder of the World. Located in the Ifugao province, in the Cordillera region in northern Philippines, these man made wonders were hand-carved from the mountains by Ifugao tribesmen 2000 years ago. The terraces are situated at an average of 1500 meters (4800 feet) above sea level, they cover 1036 square kilometers (about 400 square miles) of mountainside. They are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rain forests above the terraces. It is believed that if you put the rice fields steps end to end, it can go half circle the globe.
Still in use today, the locals still tend to rice and vegetables farming on the terraces. Although, the terraces need constant reconstruction and care, they benefit from UNESCO maintenance funding.
Not to be confused with Rice Terraces of Cordillera, which was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995, Banaue Rice Terraces is not included in the list due a number of modern structures in the area making it score low with body. However, the Philippine government declared it as National Cultural Treasure under Ifugao Rice Terraces by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 260 in 1973.
The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras consist of five clusters namely Batad, Bangaan, Hungduan, Mayoyao Central and Nagacadan. Batad and Bangaan are under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Banaue but are not referred to as the Banaue Rice Terraces. On a good weather there are tricycles that offer day trip to Batad from Banaue. You can get more information from the Banaue Tourism Office located in the town center.
Getting to Banaue
There are several bus companies in Manila that directly travel to Banaue. Buses usually leave around 8 or 9 PM and travel time is usually 8 hours. I prefer to take the bus that leave at night and get to Banaue in the next morning feeling refresh and ready to take on adventure treks. The ride is pretty comfortable and there are some buses with toilets on board. The travel fare is around PHP450.00 to PHP500.00.
Bus companies websites:
Best time to come
During summer months of March thru May and from September thru November abundant rains can sometimes cloud views of the slopes. June to July is the planting season in Banaue. The rice fields and the valleys are at its greenest during these months. The harvest season is around September to October. January to March is not a good time for viewing and photography because the rice terraces will be barren.
What to Pack
- Wear your most comfortable trekking shoes or you can prefer to wear flipflops. It will be muddy and slippery in most part of the trails so make sure that your footwear is fit for trekking.
- Bottled water
- Photography gear
The trek was arranged by Banaue Homestay where I stayed for 3D2N. The cost of the trek is PHP800.00 including a tour guide and tricycle transport to our starting point and will pick me up at the end of the trail after the 4-hour trek. If you’re in a group, you can split the cost among you. The tour guide is always required for your safety and security purpose. At the end of my trek, I realized that the tour guide is really needed because you can get lost in the maze of rice paddies sprawled before you once you reach the valleys.
Along the trek we would come across natural falls from the mountain with the water as refreshingly cold as ice. The Agha falls was the tallest one we came across. There were some others but not as tall. We took a pitstop for a while and of course for some photos. You can refill your water bottle with spring water.
This ancient, living cultural landscape beautifully illustrates human harmony with nature and serves as an example of sustainable agriculture with traditional techniques. The valleys are still fed by ancient irrigation system that was implemented 2000 years ago.
There are some communities in some of the valley top that greets and wishes trekkers well on their journey. The children from the communities walk their way every morning to get to school. Imagine having to wake up at around 5AM and walk for 2 hours to reach private school down below in the city center. I chanced upon some kids enjoying the mud in one of the valleys. The sound of their laughter while bathing in the mud in the middle of the rice field on top of the valley feels like Christmas!
One man saw me and my tour guide trekking through a slippery trail and offered me his walking stick. He said to me, in his local dialect,
“You’ll never make it through those slippery trails without this. Use this.” and he handed me his walking stick. Talk about angels along the way!
And he was right! I don’t think I could ever finish the whole trek without his walking stick. Even with it, I fell down twice, luckily not on the rice paddy but on the muddy canal that make up the irrigation system, and slipped too many times, I lost count. The walkways that separates the rice fields can be sometimes cemented and the steps already carved out. But for most part of the valleys, the walkways are still made of clumped soil and rocks and can sometimes be only as narrow as 4 inches. The tour guide told me these were the original ones carved out by the Ifugaos thousand of years ago.
We reached the town center upon descending the last valley we had to trek. From their, we were picked up by the tricycle transport to bring me back to the inn. The town center was just nearby, about 10 minute walk to get back to the inn, but I didn’t think I could take another step. My limbs were literally shaking. I was so thankful that I finished it and emerged somewhat victorious.
I go home mission accomplished. Trek Banaue Rice Terraces, check!
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