With its stunning vistas, pristine beaches, and breathtaking natural rock formations, it’s easy to fall in love with Cagayan Valley. Located at the northeastern tip of Luzon, the Cagayan Valley region represents the country’s Region 2 and comprises five different provinces: Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and the Batanes group of islands. The predominantly Ilocano region’s capital is Tuguegarao City, which is known for being the hottest city in the Philippines. Apart from its rich natural resources, Cagayan Valley takes pride in its colorful heritage, lively festivals, and communities that exude warmth and friendliness.
Are you planning a visit to Cagayan Valley soon? Here’s all that you need to know before you start packing your bags.
Name Origins and Geography
Cagayan Valley is the Philippines’ second-largest region bounded by the Cordillera, Sierra Madre, and Caraballo mountain ranges as well as Luzon Strait and the Philippine Sea. Because of its interesting geography, travelers can enjoy the region’s abundance of hilly terrains, white-sand beaches, and laid-back towns in the lowlands. The Cagayan region attributes its name to the Ilocano word for river, karayan, which describes the long stretch of the Rio Grande de Cagayan.
Best Times to Visit
Summer is the best time to visit the Quirino, Isabela, and Cagayan provinces if you want to avoid torrential rains. However, if you’re planning to visit Tuguegarao City, it’s best to avoid the summer months when the weather can turn scorching hot. When checking out hotels in Tuguegarao, you may want to schedule your bookings for months other than May, June, or July if you prefer milder temperatures.
Batanes, which is separated from the mainland, is best visited during the dry season, or anytime between March and May. That said, you may want to visit the province in June if you want to experience the area’s local festivities.
Getting to Cagayan Valley
Road travel from Manila to Tuguegarao, Isabela, and various parts of the Cagayan region other than Batanes can take 10 hours or more. The easiest and fastest way to get to the valley from Manila is to take an hour-long flight to Batanes, Tuguegarao, or Isabela. Plane fares generally depend on the airline, but the typical price range for flights from Manila to Tuguegarao is around PHP 2,000 to PHP 6,000. Batanes flights tend to be on the pricier end, with fares sometimes going upwards of PHP 8,000 during peak seasons.
Alternatively, you can ride a bus bound for Isabela, Tuguegarao, or Aparri. You can find the designated bus terminals in Pasay City, Manila City, and Cubao, Quezon City. Bus fares can range from PHP 500 to PHP 1,000 depending on factors like bus amenities and routes.
Best Activities to Do
Because of its environmental diversity, the Cagayan region is never short of things to do. The area is great for swimming, visiting lighthouses, caving, and checking out historic architecture. Cagayan Valley is also perfect for hiking enthusiasts—the region is home to Mt. Iraya, Mt. Cagua, and Mt. Guiwan, which are all prime hiking destinations.
On top of that, Cagayan Valley is a fun place to be if you’re into festivals. Some festivals to watch out for include Isabela’s Baka Festival and Bambanti Festival, Batanes Day, and Tuguegarao’s Pavvurulun Afi Festival. While roaming around and immersing in the festivities, be sure to check out local delicacies such as the chicharabao (chicharon made from carabao meat), carabao milk candy, and pancit batil patung.
Cagayan Valley has a wide range of tourist attractions that showcase the region’s natural beauty, indigenous culture, colonial history, and more. Some of these include:
St. Peter’s Cathedral, also known as Tuguegarao Cathedral, is an 18th-century church that gained popularity for its stunning Baroque facade. Considered to be the largest Spanish-era church in the Cagayan province, Tuguegarao Cathedral is a serene spot in the city that makes it perfect for quiet reflection.
Another must-see in Tuguegarao is Callao Cave. The cavern, which has seven chambers, is built from towering limestone formations and has a natural skylight that gives it a cathedral-like appearance. Aside from bats, you can also find hornbills and the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat somewhere in the cave’s chambers.
Located in Nueva Vizcaya, Capisaan Cave is the Philippines’ fifth-longest cave network that encompasses various chambers and a four-kilometer underground river. The cave system is teeming with stalactites, stalagmites, mineral deposits, and other rock formations that make it a paradise for lovers of geological wonders.
Arguably Cagayan’s most popular beach attraction, Palaui Island is known for its tranquil atmosphere, white-sand beaches, majestic landscapes, turquoise waters, and diverse ecosystem. Palaui Island, which is located in the Sta. Ana municipality, was previously recognized by CNN Travel as one of the best beaches in the world.
The island is also home to the Cape Engaño Lighthouse, a towering structure built in 1892 that’s widely regarded as a national treasure. The lighthouse sits on top of a hill and offers remarkable views of the Babuyan Islands, Hermanas Islands, and the Pacific Ocean.
Marlboro Hills, also known as Racuh A Payaman, is a blanket of rolling hills that look straight out of a fairytale. The hills are covered by a lush carpet of grass, which you may have to share with a few local carabaos lazing about. Surrounding the hills are awe-inspiring panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Mt. Iraya, Diura Beach, and the Tayid Lighthouse.
Saint Matthias Church
If you have a thing for magnificent old churches, you may want to visit Tumauini, Isabela to see St. Matthias Church. Constructed in 1753, this Baroque church has a striking red color due to its unique foundation of baked clay bricks. The church also features a cylindrical bell tower that perfectly complements the structure’s exterior.
Explore All That the Valley Has to Offer
Getting to know Cagayan Valley’s treasures is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. From picturesque mountains to peaceful coves, the Cagayan region has plenty to offer for travelers seeking a wide range of thrills. When planning your itinerary in the valley, be sure to keep all of a lifetime.