A Trip to Luzon: The Upper Tip Of The Philippines


Luzon is located in northern part of the Philippines. It is the largest island in the country and it is also the most populated. Luzon is known for its luscious mountains, white sandy beaches, a wealth of historical landmarks, majestic landscapes and incredibly beautiful surfing spots.

For this article, we will feature three of Luzon’s well-loved vacation destinations. La Union, known as the surf village; Kalinga, home of the famous mambabatok Wang Od; and Vigan.

La Union

This surfing mecca is approximately eight hours from Manila and located in the Ilocos Region. The travel time may be painful but totally worth the drive. La Union, or LU as it is called by locals and tourists, is one of the best surfing destinations in all of the Philippines. The waves are perfect for beginners and rarely as choppy as other surfing spots in the Philippines.

Home to Philippines’ best surfers, La Union has a laid-back vibe and a positive community. Residents value that nature has bestowed them with a great and wonderful gift and make an effort to keep their beaches clean of trash.

Aside from surfing, La Union also features beautiful landscapes, dainty cafes and mouthwatering food shacks. Gefseis Greek Grill is number one when I visit and I fall in love with their Moussaka every time I order it.

Flotsam & Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel also offers a wide variety of dishes, and my personal favorite is their delicious pizza. Coffee lovers should take note that the El Union brews the best cup in the province. Aside from coffee they also serve deserts and pancakes.


Known for its well preserved Spanish colonial and Asian architecture, Vigan is a favorite for tourists looking for an old world feel. It is one of the oldest towns in the country and tourists are usually overwhelmed by the cobblestone streets and the kalesa rides. It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, with the famous Calle Crisologo as the most famous attraction.

Notwithstanding the cobble roads and the scrumptious empanada (Latin American pastry), the Vigan Bell Tower in the Bantay Church is frequented by tourists. The Saint Augustine Parish Church also known as the Bantay Church was built and dedicated to St Agustine of Hippo.

If you manage to walk to the top of the watch tower, you’ll see a beautiful, panoramic view of the city, overlooking a cemetery and mountains. The tower was used by the pirates during World Wars I and II. Though the structure was damaged in WWII, it was reconstructed in 1950.    

Buscalan, Tiglayan, Kalinga

Located in the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon, Busalan, Kalinga is home to one of Philippines living legends. Apo Wang Od, as most people would call her, is the last living mambabatok (tattoo artist) of the ButBut tribe in Buscalan Kalinga. She is known as the eldest tattoo artist in the Philippines. There are countless documentaries featuring her and the rest of her grandchildren, whom she’s training to be mambabatoks as well.

Wang Od is known for tattooing headhunters in her  village back decades ago but she now tattoos tourists and locals in her area. Several petitions have been sent to honor her as one of the National Artists of the Philippines, or as one of the National Living Treasures of the country due to her achievement. She has been featured in several  documentaries and also in international books on tattoos, art, and history.

The trek up the mountains is not an easy task, but the scenery is definitely worth the climb. It takes about an hour or two to reach Wang-Od’s village. The steps are very steep and slippery, and there’s always the possibility of falling off the cliff so you’ll have to make sure that you’re wearing the right pair of shoes.  

These locations may require a lot of travel time so you’re best to set aside ten days to two weeks to fully appreciate these beautiful locations. Enjoyed Luzon? Follow Philippine One on Twitter for more travel destinations. Check the website for more articles on Philippine tourism.  

Surf Photo Source: https://twitter.com/lusurfschool

The rest of the photos are personal photos of the writer.    

Written by Abbie Uychiat   Abbie Uychiat studied BS Psychology and is an aspiring independent film director based in the Philippines. She is a dreamer and is juggling the joys of single motherhood, her career as a recruitment specialist and a freelance writer. Part of her mission is to provide a better and cleaner Philippines for the future generation.


  1. Is that wang-od? how old is she? is she still alive?


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