There are few places in the world where human endeavour is so beautifully merged with the landscape as the awe-inspiring rice terraces of the Philippines. Built into the Cordilleras mountains, these ingenious solutions to difficult agricultural conditions have allowed humans to cultivate rice crops for millennia.
The best months to see the rice terraces are March to May or October and November when the fields are either growing or full and the weather is drier. The terraces are grouped into five clusters and each is spectacular in its own right. In case your time to see spectacular things is limited when you travel, we’ve picked three that we feel are the most awe-inspiring.
Batad Rice Terraces
Said by many to be the best-preserved and the most beautiful terraces in the Philippines, Batad is the amphitheatre-shaped cluster people tend to think of when they hear the words “rice terraces.” There’s not much in Batad, but you’re really there for the views. There are two ways to enjoy them.
The first is from your guesthouse, where you can wonder at the incredible stone terrace walls while giving your tired feet a break. The second is to hike around and get a closer view. Tappiya Waterfall is a popular trek and is only about an hour’s hike from the village. Awa View Deck is a more gruelling walk up the side of the mountain, but the views are well worth the effort. It’s also possible to do a multi-day hike through the terraces from Batad to Pula to Banaue, a trek visitors claim was the trip of a lifetime.
Hungduan Rice Terraces
More difficult to get to than Bangaan or Batad, the Hungduan rice terraces are often overlooked and see fewer visitors. The Hungduan cluster of terraces is rich and varied. The Kinga Rice Terraces share Batad’s famed amphitheatre shape, while the Bacung Spider Web Terraces are a unique formation whose long lines resemble a spider’s web. You can enjoy spectacular views of the Hapao and Nunggulunan Terraces from the road or access them easily via a short walk.
Visitors to the area have many options for other activities besides being awe-struck. Serious mountain-climbers can trek up nearby Mount Napulawan. For those who prefer the lower altitudes, Balentimol Falls is only a 15-minute hike from the highway. You can also soak your sore muscles in the Bogyah Hot Spring or take a refreshing dip in the Hapao River. Hungduan features a heritage village that displays traditional houses and offers a glimpse into the area’s rich cultural history.
Nagacadan Rice Terraces
Like the Hungduan Terraces, the Nagacadan Terraces are often overlooked. Kiangan is the oldest town in the Ifugao region, however, and these scenic terraces are equally worth the trip. These terraces are unique in that they’re bisected by a river and dotted with traditional villages. The path through them, though challenging, is deeply rewarding.
Kiangan has a lot to offer visitors besides the scenery. If you can’t get enough of hiking, serious trekkers can head up Mount Kapugan. Cavers might want to check out Pangaggawan Cave, a system of eight caves that features an underground waterfall. There’s also a community museum that offers visitors a chance to take in some local, traditional culture. Kiangan is rich in historical sites related to the Second World War and the era of Spanish colonization.
The terraces are, as UNESCO says, a “living cultural landscape” that blur the line between natural and built environments. They remind us that living sustainably with nature is key to the survival not just of the ecological systems that sustain us but of the cultural systems that sustain us, too.
Image credit: runkokorun