12 Hours in Sagada: Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province

Last Updated on May 21, 2022 by Tina

What can you do with just 12 hours in Sagada? Last weekend, we went on a day trip to Sagada, Mountain Province. We were there for a work-related activity but tried to squeeze in some sightseeing during our trip. If you are not familiar with the place, Sagada is a town in the Cordillera Mountains in Northern Philippines. It is famous for its limestone caves, rice terraces, hanging coffins, fresh produce, and beautiful mountain views.

According to our colleague who showed us around (he is a local of Sagada), in the earlier days before Sagada became famous to local tourists, most tourists visiting the town are European backpackers who are adventure-seekers. They go there to hike and spelunk. It became popular with local tourists when the movie That Thing Called Tadhana came out in 2014. One of the filming locations of the movie was Sagada.

I have worked in the Cordillera region from 2005 to 2013, and Sagada is just 3 hours away from Mankayan but not once was I able to visit the place. (Mankayan is a mining town where I am working at the moment and where I worked from 2005 to 2007 and 2010 to 2013). I think one of the reasons back then was I couldn’t find someone to travel with.

When I started traveling solo in 2016, Sagada was one of the places I wanted to visit, but overtourism stopped me from doing it. Sagada became so popular after the movie was shown that everyone wanted to go there. It was so hard to book accommodation. It was the reason I decided to spend my 36th birthday in Vietnam instead of Sagada.

Last Saturday I was finally able to set foot in Sagada. I thought we won’t see much because we were there for a few hours only. But I was surprised that we were able to hike to 3 places. In this post, I’ll be sharing the places we were able to visit with just 12 hours in Sagada.

Sagada Travel Requirements

As the infection rate of COVID-19 slows down in the Philippines, more tourist destinations are slowly opening to tourists. One of those is Sagada. However, tourists need to comply with Sagada travel requirements.

When we visited Sagada, we didn’t have to prepare any requirements because we were visitors of a local. (We are all fully vaccinated though.) However, if you are visiting as a tourist, you need to prepare the following Sagada travel requirements:

Online Registration

When visiting Sagada, you need to book your stay in a DOT (Department of Tourism) accredited and LGU (Local Government Unit) certified accommodation establishment. Visit https://lodging.sagada.gov.ph for a list of authorized lodging establishments.

You also need to register in the Umali Kayo registration portal. But you need to book accommodation first in order to get an access code for your registration in the Umali Kayo portal.

Vaccination Card

Fully vaccinated tourists are not required to present a negative COVID-19 test result. You only need to present your vaccination card indicating full vaccination. For those who were vaccinated in the Philippines, you can present your DOH Vaccination Certificate/Vaxcert. Minors aged eleven and below are exempted from this requirement.

For unvaccinated tourists, you must present a negative rapid antigen test result taken within 24 hours.

Registration Fee

Tourists are required to pay a registration fee of Php 100 per person at the Tourism Office. You can also pay at the Tourist Information Center.

A tourist ID is provided to each tourist. It has to be worn while on tour.

Tourists arriving after 5:00 PM may only arrange their tours with the Tourism Office the following day from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tourists may book their tours in advance through https://tours.sagada.gov.ph.

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How to Spend 12 Hours in Sagada

Now that I’m done with the travel requirements, let me share the places we visited during our quick trip to Sagada. We left Abatan in Buguias, Benguet at 5:30 in the morning. We arrived in Sagada at 7:00 AM. The first place we visited was Sumaguing Cave.

Sumaguing Cave

Sumaguing heart

One of the well-known attractions in Sagada is the Sumaguing Cave. It is the biggest cave in Sagada. It has an expansive cave network popular with spelunkers. You need a guide if you want to explore the cave. My friend who has done it said it is quite challenging and you will get wet.

Because we had limited time, we only went down the staircase to Sumaguing Cave’s mouth, took a picture, and went to our next destination.

Sumaguing Cave

Dokiw (?) Hanging Coffins

From Sumaguing Cave, we drove to the town proper to look for a place to eat breakfast. On our way, we passed by a viewpoint of some hanging coffins. I’m not sure if it is the Dokiw Hanging Coffins but based on the tourist map of Sagada (see below), it looks like it is (please message me if I am wrong so that I could edit this).

Sagada tourist map

According to our guide, for 2000 years it has been a practiced ritual in Sagada to place their deceased loved ones in wooden coffins. These are either tied or nailed to the sides of cliffs or inside caves. The most common belief behind this practice is that putting their deceased loved ones high up makes them nearer to the gods. Most coffins measure only about one meter in length because the corpse is buried in the fetal position. This has been practiced until around 2010.

Dokiw Hanging Coffins up close

Breakfast at Sagada Town Cafe

Most of the restaurants we passed by were still closed so our colleague brought us to Sagada Town Cafe. It is located on the second floor of Eduardo Gaudan Longid Centrum. My fellow geologist and I are doing intermittent fasting so we were having second thoughts about having breakfast. But it’s so hard to resist their chocolate wheat bread. We ended up eating one wheat bread, an egg, and a sausage.

Chocolate wheat bread

When we got to our next destination, we were glad that we had breakfast. We needed the energy to do the 2 km hike down to Bomod-ok Falls.

Bomod-ok Falls

Bomod-ok Falls

Bomod-ok Falls, known as “The Big Falls of Sagada” is around 200 feet high. To get there, you need to hike 2 km from the drop-off point which takes about an hour. You are required to get a guide when visiting the waterfalls. On your way to the waterfalls, you’ll pass by houses and rice fields.

Hike to Bomod-ok Falls

Going down is easy. The hike back to the drop-off point is a killer as it is a continuous ascent. The good news is that the trail is paved and there are several sheds where you can take a rest and buy snacks or cold drinks. If you’re planning to visit Bomod-ok Falls, I advise that you do it early in the morning when it is not yet hot.

Is it worth visiting? Absolutely, especially if you love hiking and you like to see beautiful views of the mountains and rice terraces.

Lunch

After our hike to Bomod-ok Falls, we went back to the town center to have lunch. Much as we would like to eat in one of the famous restaurants in Sagada, we didn’t want to wait too long for our food to be served so we decided to eat in one of the eateries located on the ground floor of the public market.

Echo Valley

After lunch, our colleague accompanied us to Echo Valley. We went inside St. Mary’s School and looked for the trail that goes to Echo Valley. According to him, it was called Echo Valley because it will echo when you shout. However, there are also hanging coffins in the area. As a sign of respect to the dead, it is recommended to keep the place quiet. It takes around a 15 to 20-minute walk to get to the hanging coffins.

Hanging Coffins at Echo Valley

Hanging coffins at Echo Valley

On our way back, we took a different route. It is the one that passes through the cemetery. This is the usual route when going to Echo Valley.

Anglican Cemetery

Blue Soil Hills

The last spot we visited in Sagada is the Kaman-utek Hills, popularly known as the Blue Soil Hills. Most tourists visiting this place hike it together with the Marlboro Hills. They say it takes around 3 to 4 hours for this hike. However, because we have limited time, we took the shorter trail and skipped Marlboro Hills.

From the drop-off point, it only takes around a 30-minute walk to Blue Soil. However, after about one-third of the hike, it started to rain. Good thing we were at the part where there are souvenir shops when the rain started, else we would have gotten drenched. We waited until the rain stopped, then continued with the hike even though we knew it would be more difficult because the trail was already slippery.

We had to walk carefully and slowly to avoid slipping. The walking stick that we got at the souvenir shop was very helpful during the hike.

I don’t know why they called it Blue Soil because when we got there it doesn’t look blue at all (for us at least). It was actually bluish green. They said the color is due to the high copper sulfate content of the soil. We took a small sample so we can have an XRD analysis of it to know what materials are present in the soil. I will update this post once we have it analyzed.

Blue Soil Hills

After taking lots of pictures, we decided to go back as it was already getting late. If the hike up was difficult because of the slippery trail, going down was even harder. I almost slipped three times. My walking stick saved me. Was it worth it though? Definitely! If I get a chance to go back to Sagada for a longer time, I don’t mind going back to Blue Soil. Maybe next time I will do it with Marlboro Hill.

Dinner at Happy House Restaurant

Before going back to Mankayan, we had early dinner at Happy House Restaurant. There’s nothing special about the restaurant. We chose it because it has a parking lot (the town proper has limited parking space). We left Sagada around 7:00 PM.

So that concludes our quick trip to Sagada. I’m glad that after 17 years, I was finally able to see the place. And I was surprised that with just 12 hours, we were able to visit four tourist spots in Sagada. It was a lot of hiking though so my legs were sore for three days.

If you have questions regarding this post, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email or DM me on my social media accounts. I’ll be posting more pictures from our trip in my IG story and will be saving them in my Instagram highlights so follow me, @tnadeperalta if you’d like to see them.

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