Once you've braved the difficulties of reaching the Cordilleras of place. The most striking feature of these mountains is provided by serried ranks of narrow rice terraces that climb the hillsides - now collectively listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After allowing the high-maintenance terraced paddies to decline somewhat, the local Igorot people have found a new pride in their heritage following the UNESCO listing and a profitable trickle of tourists. The way to appreciate fully the endeavour that went into creating and maintaining these extraordinary two-thousand-year-old man-made ledges is to get up close and personal by taking a hike.
The paddies, with their high earthen walls, green pools and constantly trickling water, are often divided by bright red chongla plants. They are criss-crossed with paths and steps and there are numerous farms and dwellings that often look identical. It's easy to get disorientated, but local children are happy to act as guides for a few pesos and this is a worthwhile investment. Having reached bustling Banaue, an onward trek to the less busy village of Batad in the island of Luzon in Philippines, shows the rice terraces at their very best. It is necessary to drive from Banaue to the Batad junction, and from there up to the Saddle, which is the jumping-off point for the hike.
There is ample casual accommodation in the village, and it is best to stay overnight rather than make it a day trip - the return journey to the Saddle up the steep mountain path is strenuous and can take two hours or more. The village sits at the bottom of a natural amphitheatre formed by the curving, terraced hillsides, and the opportunity to stay for a while and do some exploring should not be missed.
WHEN TO GO
April or May when the swaying expanses of rice are at their pre-harvest best.
TIME IT TAKES
About 90 minutes (by car) to the Saddle, then another 90 minutes from there down to Batad.
Extending the hike to the fabulous Tappiya Falls beyond Batad. where the superb outlook and a cooling swim will be a great reward for the climb.
A 15-minute side trip down steep steps from the Banaue-Sagada road to the unspoiled and traditional farming village of Bangaan amidst its own rice terraces.
Whilst in the Banaue area - a visit to Poitan, a village noted for artisan weaving and wood carving.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
The rainy season (June to August) often makes roads and tracks in the area impassable.