The amphitheater-like rice terraces of Batad are without a doubt one of the most breathtaking views I have witnessed. The 2,000-year-old rice terraces are also some of the most remote in the world, located in a tiny village only accessible on foot. When people say ‘getting there is half the adventure’, well they were probably talking about the journey to Batad. Traveling to this UNESCO World Heritage site is not for the faint hearted, so it’s best you know a few things before planning your trip.
1. How to Get to Batad Rice Terraces
From Manila to Banaue
The only way to travel to Batad by air is if you have your own helicopter. So if that’s not you, well you’ll have to slum it with the rest of us on a 9hr overnight bus from Manila to Banaue. Ohayami Trans bus operates nightly departures at 10pm (and 9pm during peak season). With only one or two buses a night, it’s recommended you reserve your ticket in advance as they do sell out. You’ll arrive bright and early the next morning in Banaue where you can choose to base yourself or continue the journey to Batad. I personally jumped off the bus and headed straight to find a room in Banaue to take a nap.
From Banaue to Batad
To get to Batad from Banaue you have the option to either take a tricycle or a jeepney. The tricycle (those motorbikes with a sidecar attached) can take you as far as Batad Junction, while a jeepney can take you the additional 4km down the steep hill to Batad Saddle, which is the closest point a vehicle can get to Batad. From then on it’s up to you, with the village a steep 45-minute hike down. As there’s no reception in Batad, you’ll want to organise a time for your transport to pick you up for the return journey home.
What is a jeepney you ask? They’re old military vehicles left over by the U.S army after World War II. The Filipinos turned them into public buses and gave them a psychedelic make over, painting them an array of bright colours. It will easily be the most stylish ride you’ll take while in the Philippines.
2. Hire a Guide For a Trek
Not surprisingly, the only way to explore Batad and its rice terraces is on foot, so it’s best you come prepared for a lot of trekking. I recommend hiring a guide as you’ll not only be supporting the local community, but they’ll also make sure you see the best view points and don’t get lost in the maze like terraces.
3. Bring Good Shoes and Your Fitness
Bring sneakers with a good grip (and your fitness) because you’ll be spending the day climbing up steep, uneven stairs and walking along narrow terraces with a 2-metre drop to a muddy rice paddy below. Your endurance will be tested, but the views will be well worth the exhaustion and heart palpitations. Maybe don’t bring your favourite shoes though, because you may slip into a rice paddy and have to throw your mud soaked runners out like myself. Luckily I also had a pair of Converse with me, no surprise I slipped in those too. If you don’t have good balance then bring some walking poles or just a big long stick to avoid slipping off the narrow walking trail.
4. Bring Cash
Make sure you bring enough cash, as there are no ATMs or banks and credit cards are not accepted. Prices for food and water will also be slightly higher due to the difficulty of transporting them to the village.
5. No Instagram or Snapchat, Say Whaat?!
Time to switch off and disconnect from the modern world as there is no phone or Internet reception in Batad.
6. No 5 Star Accommodation
In terms of accommodation in the rice terraces of Batad, there is only a handful of guesthouses and homestays available, most of which will also organise meals for you. If you want something a little less basic, then stay in Banaue and take a day trip to Batad. Most importantly, if you’re spending the night in Batad remember to pack light (and I mean super light) because you’ll be carrying your luggage to and from the village, and for the love of god, don’t bring a suitcase!
7. Don’t Waste Your Time in Banaue
While Banaue also has its fair share of rice terraces, they pale in comparison to Batad. If you’ve got some time to kill then sure, have a hike around Banaue but don’t worry if you skip it entirely.
8. The Rice Terraces Change Depending on the Season
The rice terraces sadly don’t stay this vibrant shade of green throughout the year. If you want to see the rice terraces at their greenest, it’s best you visit sometime between March and June. As harvest season approaches in July and August the terraces become a golden brown, before turning into brown pools of mud after harvest. Bare in mind the rainy season begins in July and rain can be expected until January. The area is also prone to landslides so it can be best to avoid traveling during those months. I visited in early April when the terraces where a glorious shade of vibrant green.
So while it may not be the quickest and easiest journey to reach the rice terraces of Batad, it is sure to be one of the most unique highlights of anyone’s time in the Philippines.
Which rice terraces have you visited or dream of visiting?