Sagada doesn’t attract as much excitement from tourists who are keen to get out of Manila and onto other islands like Cebu and Palawan. However, Luzon, where Sagada is located, is the largest and most populous island in the Philippines and so it offers the most robust set of attractions of all the islands. The town of Sagada is near Banaue, but a full 12 hours outside of Manila, so it is not the place to come if you are just looking for somewhere to go for a quick stop. One of the great charms of Luzon, and also Sagada, is that this mountainous region cools things off nicely, so if you want a break from the heat that you’ll find elsewhere in the Philippines, then this is an ideal choice.
The primary draw in Sagada, aside from the culture, is the caving. The most popular cave is Sumaging, a large cave requiring a guide that has many chambers and fantastic geology. The other cave is Lumiang Burial, which describes the hundred of so coffins that are over 500 years old and are stacked at the cave entrance.
Echo Valley also features coffins, hanging from the side of a cliff, and which are definitely a sight to be seen. The coffins are a tribute to the history of the country, as Sagada used to serve as a safe haven for political refugees.
The other reasons tourists stop off at Sagada is for the backpacker culture. It’s actually one of, if not the only, backpacker town in all of the Philippines and prices are low and the relaxed environment encourages extended stays, despite the lack of bucket list attractions.
Timing your trip for holidays or festivals unique to this area is a great way to peek into the local culture and history, especially as Sagada is not highly visited by tourists. The Begnas Festival in Sagada is one such ritualistic celebration, often called the Rice Ritual, occurring three to four times annually when men and women march in traditional wear and perform animal sacrifices for the blessing of a good harvest.
Sagada is a great stop if you are looking to trade in sweaty beach life for some culture in the misty hills. Between hiking trails, caves, and a colorful village, there’s enough to keep you entertained and comfortable for as long as the mountains are calling.