The Rice Terraces of Banaue are a stunning reminder of the ingenuity of the ancient indigenous tribes of the Cordillera Mountains in the Philippines. Here’s how to see the best of them.
The Banaue Rice Terraces have a long and rich tradition in the Cordillera Mountain region of the Philippines. Located in Ifugao, a landlocked province in the centre of the main island, rice has played an important role in the daily lives of the Ifugao people for over a millennium.
Ingeniously solving the issue of growing rice in the mountains, early Ifugao ancestors sought a solution that would maintain harmony between mankind and the environment. Painstakingly constructed by piling up mud by hand, the result is a breath-taking collection of rice terraces which are locally referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Until recently, many of the Ifugao terraces were abandoned due to tough competition from commercial rice grown in the lowlands. However, thanks to an increase in the price of rice, many of the terraces around Banaue are now actively worked with around 90% of them occupied.
Thanks to this rich cultural tradition and spectacular beauty, many of the Banaue Rice Terraces have received UNESCO World Heritage Status.
If you base yourself in the town of Banaue, many of these magnificent rice terraces can be easily visited on day trips. Here are the most beautiful.
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01 – BANAUE MAIN VIEWPOINT
The closest terraces to the town of Banaue are best seen at the Banaue Main Viewpoint. It overlooks a scenic section of the terraces with a narrow ridge of steps rising from the centre of a wide valley. The location was used for the Red Bull Wakeskating video and it’s easy to see why.
The steep narrow staircase points directly towards sunrise, making it a perfect location to capture some beautiful dawn shots.
Souvenirs and traditional Ifugao wood carvings are sold at the viewpoint and you can get a photo with the resident Ifugao elders for a small fee.
The best way to get to the main viewpoint is to hire a tricycle from Banaue. There are 4 different viewpoints which your driver will take you to on the way.
02 – GUIHOB RICE TERRACES
The Guihob Rice Terraces are regularly farmed and used to harvest the seed that is transplanted across the terraces for next year’s crop. As a result, the terraces are often a patchwork of bright green baby rice plants and glossy reflective pools full of water.
Women are often working the fields; precisely distributing the seedlings, harvesting the crops, and stomping the old stalks down into fertilisers. Once harvested, the men of the tribe carry the rice to market and then plough the fields for next year.
Although it doesn’t have the scale of many of the rice terraces in the Philippines, Guihob is scenic throughout the year with the various stages of the growing process offering a good chance to see the local tribes at work.
Guihob is a short drive from Banaue; ask for transportation from the Tourist Office in town.
03 – BAYYO RICE TERRACES, BANTOC
The Bayyo Rice Terraces are a neat staircase of fields cascading away from a small village tucked into a scenic valley surrounded by mountains. As the village is nestled to the side of the terraces, there’s an uninterrupted view of the beautiful green steps which are used to grow rice and vegetables.
The Bayyo Rice Terraces are located on the main road between Banaue and Bontoc. The best way to get there is to take a taxi from Banaue to Bontoc-Banaue PUJ Parking Area which is marked on the map below. There’s a lookout deck at the viewpoint and often people selling snacks.
There are several other locations on this section of the Banaue/Bontoc road with stunning rice terraces that are not marked with official viewpoints. The most beautiful section is marked on the map below.
04 – BANGAAN RICE TERRACES
The Bangaan Rice Terraces are some of the most beautiful in the Cordillera region. Rows of immaculate terraces radiate from the central village which still contains some of the traditional Ifugao houses called bale. With mist-shrouded hills all around and huge palm trees framing the view from the road it’s one of the most breath-taking scenes in the Philippines.
The Bangaan Terraces are one of five listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in recognition of the sacred traditions handed down from one generation to the next while maintaining the integrity of the environment.
The best way to get to Bangaan is on an organised tour to Batad which will stop at Bangaan on the way. Tours can be organised from the tourist office in Banaue.
05 – BATAD RICE TERRACES
Tucked away from civilization and only accessible on foot, the village of Batad has the largest and most dramatic rice terrace in the Cordillera. As the second of the terrace groups inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Batad is an important place for the pristine nature of the environment and its rich cultural heritage.
Seen from the viewing deck, Batad Terraces are a massive amphitheatre tracing the contours of the surrounding mountains. Built from stone walls rather than the more traditional mud enclosures, the terraces at Batad have retained their original shape more faithfully than other terraces in the region.
The roads leading to Batad from Banaue are tiny and difficult to navigate by anyone not familiar with the terrain. Therefore, the best way to see them is on an organise tour from Banaue. From the car park, it’s a 20-minute steep descent down to the viewing platform with several other immaculate terraces to see on the way.
06 – NAGACADAN RICE TERRACES
Nagacadan Rice Terraces are the third to receive UNESCO World Heritage Listing. Carved out of a scenic valley, two amphitheatres of terraces have been formed on either side of a picturesque river. As a working rice farm, Nagacadan is a testament to the Filipinos’ ability to live in harmony with nature.
There’s a viewing point high above the terraces which is beautiful in the late afternoon when soft light is bathing the valley in a warm glow.
One of the best things about Nagacadan, however, is that you can actually walk down the steps and through the rice fields where local women may be carting their harvest into town along the riverbank.
The mountain roads to Nagacadan are tight, twisty and hilly. It takes about 2 hours to drive from Banaue. A taxi or group tour can be organised from the Tourist Information office in town.
MAP / PHILIPPINES RICE TERRACES
Banaue is a small village in the Cordillera Mountains in the Philippines. It’s the best base to see the stunning rice terraces of the region. All the best viewpoints are marked on the map below.
HOW TO GET TO BANAUE
Banaue is a small town located in the Cordillera Mountains, a remote region in the centre of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. It’s the best base to see these rice terraces from. Another option is the nearby town of Sagada – read our guide to Sagada here.
The only way to get to Banaue is via a fairly lengthy bus ride.
BUS FROM MANILLA
From Manilla, it takes around 9 hours to get to Banaue by bus. Buses depart from Coda Lines bus terminal Monte de Piedad between 9pm and 10pm arriving at Banaue between 5am and 6am. Book tickets in advance from bookaway.com to ensure you get a seat.
BUS VIA BAGUIO
Instead of going direct, another option is to travel via Baguio. Victory Liner runs a bus service from Manila to Baguio. The trip takes around 6 hours and 30 minutes, and departures run between 10am through to 3pm, arriving at Baguio between 4:30pm and 9:30pm. Once in Baguio, take a taxi to Ohayami Bus transit to get the bus to Banaue.
WHEN TO SEE THE RICE TERRACES OF BANAUE
The best time to see the rice terraces at their greenest is in April and May, then between October and November. Harvest time is July and August when the terraces will be glowing golden with ripe grain.
November and December are known as mirror time because many of the terraces are covered in a layer of water creating great reflections. Planting generally takes place from the middle of January until the middle of February when the terraces will not be looking as pristine.
TIPS FOR VISITING BANAUE
1 – To enter Banaue you need to pay a PHP50 (US$1) environmental fee at the checkpoints at the entrance to the village.
2 – There’s limited Wifi in Banaue, so if you want to stay online it’s a good idea to get a local sim card or Wifi device. Both can be purchased at the airport in Manilla when you arrive.
3 – As part of the current Covid requirements, travel insurance specifically covering Covid medical care up to $35,000 is required to enter the Philippines.
4 – Private guides, bus trips and taxis can all be organised via the Banaue Tourism Office which is open from 8am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday.
5 – Cash is required in many places in Banaue so make sure you carry some at all times.
6 – Filtered water is readily available for free in Banaue so bring a water bottle with you.
This guide was produced in partnership with the Philippines Department of Tourism.
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