Finding the right destination for your next holidays is not an easy task. Some of us prefer an all-inclusive holiday in a resort, some a backpacking trip to meet people and others a destination that completely isolates them from the stressful daily life back home. For quite some time now South East Asia has been a good destination to satisfy all of these three classes of tourists. However, the stories of Alex Garland or Philipp Mattheis about finding completely isolated locations with perfect landscapes and secret white sandy beaches now seem outdated, leaving behind overcrowded beaches and lots of cities full of European travelers looking for cheap beers.
The Philippines is a country that always brings back good memories to me. Its beautiful beaches, lovely people and adventurous getaways make it attractive to anyone. However, places like Boracay and El Nido can get very packed and hoped for refuges from stressful daily life can easily turn into party destinations like it happened in Koh Tao, Pha Ngan or Samui in Thailand.
I went to the Philippines with the hope of finding the most remote and underrated getaways and bringing back the Alex Garland stories about traveling off the beaten path. Now, after visiting some incredible locations in the Northern Philippines, I think I found exactly what I was looking for.
Sand dunes, perfect beaches and Spanish towns in Ilocos Norte
First, I traveled to the region of Ilocos Norte, which is located only a 1 hour flight away from Manila and is probablythe best alternative for backpacking in the Philippines, if you are looking for a destination off the beaten path. This area offers such a diversity of activities that you can spend not only days but weeks relaxing, hiking, exploring or even sandboarding.
In some cities you can also feel the Philippines’ Spanish heritage. Vigan is a picturesque town that will make you feel like you’re in Havanna, Santo Domingo or Cartagena. It´s Spanish tradition and lovely cobblestone streets make it the perfect romantic location for those traveling in South East Asia and looking for a place that offers the unexpected.
Untouched landscapes in Batanes
In more than 6 years of traveling, I think I’ve never used the word ‘untouched’ to describe a destination. For me, an untouched destination is something utopian and impossible to find in this modern internet era. Well, Batanes in the Northern Philippines has proved me wrong: A destination where restaurants might have no electricity and Wi-Fi passwords or mobile phone signals are simply impossibilities – the perfect resort for those who hate resorts.
A location so remote in the Philippines that it feels like the first scenes of the old Jurassic Park movies and where all the landscapes all around the island look like a postcard or painting. A place without big hotels like Hilton or Sheraton with onlysmall local pensions where locals play cards or watch sports during the warm evenings.
Batanes´ capital, Basco, is a small village where the airport’s runaway turns into a jogging lane at night and where people leave their doors open all the time. A place that´s proud of its 0% crime rate and where a fully relaxing holiday becomes a reality.
Batanes and Ilocos Norte surprised me. After spending 10 days around these locations, I feel like I´ve seen just a very small part of the region and I can´t wait for the day I can go back and experience again what it’s like to really escape from modern life and go back to traditions.