I’m going to tell you a secret, about a unique, hidden place that barely anyone knows about. I actually don’t want to tell anyone about it, but during my stay I got to understand why I should.


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Philippines has 7107 islands and countless destinations, you could spend many months seeing them all, or simply live forever at one of the bounty islands. But, far off the beaten track, in the very north of the country, lies Batanes, hidden gem of the Philippines, rightfully called ’Last Frontier of the north’. It’s an island group of ten islands, three are inhabited with about 16.000 people. Most live on Batan island, Sabtang and Itbayat being the other two. It lies far from the mainland, is completely isolated and right in the destructive path of most typhoons, which usually occur between July to December. Typhoons have shaped the island, originally inhabited by the Ivatan people who made their strong houses of stones; now one of the main man-made attractions. Other tourist locations are old Spanish churches, bridges, lighthouses etc. and the famous Honesty Coffeeshop where nobody works and you write down yourself what you take and put the money in a box. But the real attraction is in between those locations where you see the landscape and magnificent views.

It’s a pure place, and as honest as you’ll ever find, safer than your own home probably, at least from thievery. There is … no crime here. The owners of my actually homestay hung the doorkey on the outside of the house, imagine that. Due to it’s remoteness and stormy weather, travel comes with its challenges. Only March to May are truly good to visit, winds are low, sun is out and temperature comfortable. Outside of those months winds pick up, storms arise and typhoons rage. There’s no boats or planes going and you might find yourself stuck at one of the islands for weeks in a row. Not very handy if you’re on a tight schedule. The only way to Batanes is to catch a (twice daily) flight from Manila to Batan island.

So most people who read even a glimpse of the travel issues and higher prices of tickets and expenses, simply skip to the next location, like I did, several times. But it was once I started searching for hidden gems, that I came across Batanes again and started reading into it. It was then that I found the secret, all the Filipinos know about it, but almost no one else. When reading about it and seeing all photos, it became one of the locations I was looking forward to most of all during my whole trip around the world. My expectation was high, which is never good, as it’s often turned into great disappointment. But man did I find a piece of heaven on earth! I could have stayed there forever. It felt like I was in the past, experiencing life as it once was, as it should be. The friendliness of the people, the simplicity of life, the beauty of nature and the honesty, it struck me right in the heart. I felt so blessed to be there and for 18 days (extended from 10 as I got stuck on Itbayat because of rough waters) I drove my motorbike endlessly on all 3 islands, looking for the right moment to shoot my time lapse scenes and photos. People started recognising me as that ‘Americano’ (every white person is an ‘Americano’ to the Filipinos) driving around for weeks on end. It hardly happens, almost all tourists come on short trips of a few days only, mostly on a tour package, going around in white vans. During my stay here I saw only 1 other backpacker couple, just to indicate how ‘off the beaten track’ this location is for travellers.

I love Batanes, it’s one of my most favourite locations, ever. I don’t want it changed or spoiled by tourism, so that’s why I have a hard time spilling the secret. But the people want/need tourism and the money that supports them. And I believe Batanes is aware of its own unique beauty and is acting responsible enough in maintaining itself. So there you go, if you love travel and going somewhere truly original, this is as great as it gets.

More info: travelimagez.com

Batan: Mt Carmen Chapel

Batan: Rolling Hills

Sabtang: Hidden Beach

Batan: Marlboro Hills

Batan: Marlboro Hills

Batan: Empty Beach

Batan: Rolling Hills

Batan: Rolling Hills

Batan: Rolling Hills

Batan: Marlboro Hills

Batan: Boulder Beach

Itbayat: View from viewpoint

Itbayat: Landscape

Itbayat: Coast

Itbayat: Landscape

Itbayat: Landscape

Itbayat: Coast

Itbayat: Landscape

Itbayat: Landscape

Itbayat: Landscape

Itbayat: Cave where first settlers arrived

Sabtang: Ivatan House

Sabtang: Ivatan House Ruins

Sabtang: Landscape

Sabtang: Cave Behind the Arch

Sabtang: Cave Behind the Arch

Sabtang: Ivatan Ruins

Sabtang: Landscape

Sabtang: Seascape

Sabtang: View on Cow Island

Batanes ‘Hidden Gem of the Philippines’