There are places that you will return to again and again, and one of them is Sagada. The grueling travel to reach this place will be rewarded by the stunning view of its sunrise, the cold weather that will take your tiredness away, the fresh air of the mountains, its view and most of all, their unique cuisine. I went back to Sagada not because I was broken-hearted, but to return to the places that left a mark on my first visit and realized that I never truly left (that was while I was eating a crepe). I wandered on its narrow streets, draped in thick jacket, together with other tourists, squeezing ourselves in its non-existent sidewalks whenever vehicles passed by. You may ask the famous question “where do broken hearts go?” when in here, but I am not broken-hearted; you will never be in this place.
Top Food Picks
The restaurants in this place drive me nuts sometimes. They open way late than usual, closing usually after lunch for the staff to take some afternoon nap (if you’re late for lunch, you’re out of luck), and opening for a limited number of hours for dinner before closing way, way too early for me, like before 9PM. But we’re tourists so we have to adjust. Apart from that, the food experience in Sagada is one of the things that you will definitely go back for, so without further ado, here are our top restaurants to choose from.
Top 10: Barbecue Stand
Eisenberg Rating: 1,000 out of 2,000 stars
The always reliable barbecue stand along the main road offers a variety of street foods on stick from pork barbecues, hot dogs and animal intestines for the brave at heart. They also have fish balls, squid balls, chicken balls and other related stuff. Good for when you don’t want to eat a heavy dinner, and it was a nice experience, just walking at the street during a cold night, eating at the sidewalk. There are several of these stalls along the road but there are two known stalls in the area, just follow the smell of a food being grilled and you will arrive there. Price range: Less than $0.5.
Top 9: Strawberry Café
Eisenberg Rating: 1,120 out of 2,000 stars
This one is not in the map despite being within the town proper. It is hidden and what you need to do is tap the third brick on the wall, and then…just kidding. You need to enter a narrow alley (it’s safe, don’t worry) to be able to reach this place. Your only look out is a small signage (barely visible at night) that advertises its existence. Why do you need to go here? Because of their legendary yogurt of various flavor. But obviously, the best among them is the strawberry yogurt with real strawberries to boot. The place is a bit small but cozy, a warm respite to the cold atmosphere outside. Plus, you could buy honey here that they are selling in bottles and their WiFi is good. Price range: $2 for the yogurt.
Top 8: Gaia
Eisenberg Rating: 1,130 out of 2,000 stars
I hate healthy foods and this place is known for it. The restaurant made famous by the Filipino film “That Thing Called Tadhana”, Gaia is visited by throngs of tourists for this reason. It has a cool view of the rice terraces, though the original place (where the film was shot) at the second floor is now closed. So for those who want to take pictures of the actual table used in the movie, you’re out of luck. The new place is cool though, with all glass walls perfect for savoring the view while eating their no-meat menu (you could eat some tofu to survive in there), and munching their all-vegetables serving. But they have this awesome chocolate cupcakes that you should definitely try. Price range: $5 to $6.
Top 7: Salt & Pepper
Eisenberg Rating: 1,300 out of 2,000 stars
One of the most famous restaurants in Sagada, Salt & Pepper offers traditional Sagada food in not so fancy plates. The place has a cool local design and a veranda overlooking the main street. Try Etag, a traditional ham of Sagada, (a sort of a smoked meat), and also their roasted chicken. The ham has a crisp to it that you wouldn’t taste anywhere. Their menu doesn’t have that much of a variety and the waiting time is somewhat long but they do have some cool alcoholic drinks if that’s your trip. Price range: $5 to $6.
Top 6: Sagada Brew
Eisenberg Rating: 1,400 out of 2,000 stars
A nice place famous for their coffee (brewed, to live up to its name, unlike the instant coffees served in most restaurants), this one is also where you could taste some of the awesomest cakes in Sagada. Their price range is a bit higher compared to others but they serve vegetables on the side so that’s a plus. Their breakfast menu is of wide range from toast, oatmeal to sausage and eggs to Filipino-style breakfast: rice with beef tapa, daing na bangus (millk fish), sweet pork sausage and others. They also have waffles to pair up with their coffee. The taste of their food is just average, nothing to be excited about, but the place is quiet cool and you could opt to buy some of their freshly ground coffee beans.
Price range: $4 to $5.
Top 5 Yellow House
Eisenberg Rating: 1,550 out of 2,000 stars
I always visit this place for their French crepes which are super delicious, it is insane. It was manned by a Filipino guy who funnily speaks French and will boast about having to learn how to cook in France. It is just a small space with a couple of chairs and a small veranda, more like a stall really, but you could people watch while eating that crepe with banana slices and Nutella and sipping their awesome coffee. Its good for when you’re sleepy. Price range: $2 to $3.
Top 4: Rock In
Eisenberg Rating: 1,680 out of 2,000 stars
This place is not within the town proper but way outside it, along the main highway. You might need to have to be dropped by specifically in this place because from the main highway you have to enter a long winding side street to be able to reach this place. But if you decided to walk, you will be rewarded by a nice view of mountains and trees everywhere plus you can lie on the main road and take a picture there and run when a bus approaches. It’s fun. During the picking season, this place is famous for its lemons, their farm at the back of their restaurant stretches for miles up to the bottom of a hill. This place is primarily a hotel but their restaurant is just as famous with a huge (like huge, huge) dining area with television sets. There are even tables set up outside overlooking a beautiful garden (plus their comfort rooms are cool too). Their price is not that high and the food from pansit (fried noodles) to their yogurt and sisig, are the best that I have ever tasted in Sagada.
Price range: $4 to $5.
Top 3: Sagada Lemon Pie
Eisenberg Rating: 1,700 out of 2,000 stars
The place famous for its lemon pie, it has cool native vibe inside where guests would seat at the floor around a low, long rectangular table. This place is at the farthest part of the main road of the town. I suggest visiting it after that sunrise hike so your tour guide’s van could drop you there, because the place is famous for their breakfast. The serving is a bit long so you will have to wait but it is worth it. Try eating their lemon pie (which you could buy per slice) with their awesome coffee, and your tired body from that hike will feel relaxed afterwards.
Price range: $3 to $5.
Top 2: Masferre
Eisenberg Rating: 1,800 out of 2,000 stars
One of the high-end restaurants in Sagada, Masferre is frequented by Western tourists for their wine and food, from grilled beef tenderloin (steak served with mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes), pork ribs glazed with lemon, orange or strawberry, tuna steak or their famous pork belly (it’s one of the best I have ever tasted). The price ranges from $6 and up, way higher than the average price in the area and honestly their price range was annoying. But they have a modern set-up and their place is larger than the other restaurants. Don’t expect a super class ambiance though, it is still Sagada. Price range: $6 to $8.
Top 1: Slab House
Eisenberg Rating: 1,900 out of 2,000 stars
A somewhat new restaurant, Slab House is a simple restaurant with ordinary tables and chairs and bare decorations around their dining area. But this place serves the tastiest breakfast ever with decent serving, quick service and warm staff. Their food is super cheap, ranging from Filipino rice meals (pork adobo, lechon kawali, pork sinigang, bangus belly) to Western foods (toasts, eggs and other boring stuff). The best thing about this place is they have unlimited brewed,yes, brewed coffee that is just so perfect for the cold weather. Price range: $3 to $4.
Where To Go
Back then, Sagada is a relatively peaceful place to visit but the influx of tourists is slowly changing the place (but restaurants do close early still and they have siestas). The places to visit and things to do are still as enjoyable as before though with its growing popularity, it changed the soul of the locals (and their guides) from once being gentle and warm people to rude and condescending ones. But that does not mean that they’re all bad or you wouldn’t enjoy your visit there. So here are my top spots to visit and activities to do in Sagada.
Top 10: The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin
Eisenberg Rating: 890 out of 2,000 stars
The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin is just at the heart of the town proper beside the underwhelming Catholic church. The interior was just your typical church with pews and normal ceiling plus a variety of statues of saints at the main altar, but the exterior is pretty good. The majority of the locals in Sagada are Anglican due to American influence, I guess the Spanish didn’t bother to climb the place during their 300 years of overstay in the country or they just couldn’t climb a mountain.
Top 9: Pottery and weaving
Eisenberg Rating: 1,000 out of 2,000 stars
This part of the trip is mostly bypassed by tourists but that just shows you which ones do really care about the culture of the place, not just visiting it for its beautiful sceneries. The intricacies and the century-old tradition of weaving in Sagada is displayed in this one place where locals gather to create those masterpieces. The old style art of pottery is also interesting, and you should try to buy some of their products to bring back home. If you’re in a guided tour, the guide usually will bring you in this place after the Echo Valley tour on the way to Lake Danum for sunset.
Top 8: Lake Danum
Eisenberg Rating: 1,120 out of 2,000 stars
Usually proceeds after the Echo Valley Tour, this lake (meaning: water in local dialect) is not that big, more of a large swamp but surrounded by beautiful trees. With its cold atmosphere, you could just sit there and relax (people usually visit during sunset) while eating some yogurt that you can buy from the Indian vendor near the area. It is a bit of an underwhelming place to visit but the drone shots that can be taken from here are amazing. After that, you can troop to a nearby hill (the place now has covered area for tourists) to watch the sunset. The sunset varies from cool to normal depending on the day you visit the place.
Top 7: Marlboro Hill Sunrise
Eisenberg Rating: 1,400 out of 2,000 stars
The alternate place for a sunrise, Marlboro requires a one hour hike to reach the summit, unlike the relatively easy Kiltipan. But the good thing about this place is it has a huge moor that is nice for hanging out when it is not swamped by tourists. The sunrise here is also amazing and with Kiltipan currently closed, this is the alternative for sunrise watching in Sagada.
Top 6: Bomod-ok Falls
Eisenberg Rating: 1,410 out of 2,000 stars
Thehike to this place is awesome enough that if you will not be impressed withthis falls, it will more than make up for it. The hike takes more than one hourso be sure to be fit before going in this place. The water is cold but if youcan, try swimming in it and jumping from the top. The place is good for havinglunch but please take your trash with you.
Top 5: Hanging Coffins
Eisenberg Rating: 1,425 out of 2,000 stars
Sagada is famous for their hanging coffins. It is an ancient funeral norm of hanging coffins from mountain cliffs and is still practiced by the locals there. The purpose of suspending the casket from the mountain rocks is to bring the deceased closer to heaven. In ancient times, coffins were made from carved and hollowed-out wood. They are ‘hung’ in place through the use of projecting beams. You can see these coffins by taking the Echo Valley Tour which composed of some moderate hike to reach the place. The site is not that awesome but the mountains and its view make up for it. Best to visit the place during the afternoon.
Top 4: Cave Connection
Eisenberg Rating: 1,500 out of 2,000 stars
The trip to Lumiang Cave to Sumaguing Cave is one of the extreme activities you can do in Sagada. Just visiting the Sumaguing Cave is a bore but most tourists just try this one. For this one, you definitely need a local guide armed with an ancient lamp to assist you inside the cave (and tell some story about the place). At the entrance of Lumiang Cave you will find some wooden coffins, some destroyed by earthquake and are opened up, so better not take a peek inside those as you passed by the entrance in the dark. The trip from the two caves will take less than 2 hours (3 hours if you’re slow or you’re a big group) and it is advisable to have one guide for two tourists because the cave has so many winding paths that lead to very steep drops and you will likely die, seriously. The rock formations may interest you but the jokes about them are corny, and the stop overs for photos were annoying. There are 3 levels that we invented. Level 1: Rock stage with extremely small crevices (not fit for fat persons.) Level 2: Rock and Water stage, this is same with level 1 but includes wading through extremely cold shallow waters that is much worse than trying to fit in a very small hole. Level 3: Death stage, a combination of Levels 1 and 2 but includes climbing with ropes and drops that need assistance from your guide (meaning stepping on their shoulders). At the end, this is a satisfying activity but just be careful or you will die.
Top 3: Rice Terraces
Eisenberg Rating: 1,650 out of 2,000 stars
The hike to Bomod-ok Falls is a trail filled with rice terraces, not as majestic as the one in Banaue but definitely cooler than the one in Bali which is always featured by those vloggers, they are really missing something out. The path is narrow at times so you need to stop to let the other tourists coming back from the falls to pass by, or vice versa. There will be a lot of worthy spots here to take pictures so be prepared.
Top 2: Mt. Ampucao Sunrise
Eisenberg Rating: 1,700 out of 2,000 stars
While Mt. Kiltipan is currently closed and tourists trooped to Marlboro for sunrise, we decided to hike in a less-known mountain to watch the sunrise, and when I say less-known, meaning there were no living souls (except us and our guide) in this place, and with that, it was the most peaceful sunrise I have ever witnessed with just you and nature all around. Just be prepared for a one hour hike in a relatively easy trail but with some very steep drop (I slipped for the first time).
Top 1: Mt. Kiltipan Sunrise
Eisenberg Rating: 1,810 out of 2,000 stars
Also popularized by the movie that we mentioned, Kiltipan has been notoriously swamped by tourists that instead of sea of clouds they say that you will see a “sea of people” instead. But the remedy is to visit the place during off months and on weekdays when there are less tourists. The sunrise in Kiltipan is the most beautiful sunrise I have ever witnessed in my entire life, with clouds covering the top of the mountains and the light from the sun slowly appearing in the horizon. Words or even photos could not justify the beauty of it. Anyway, another cool thing about this place is that during your wait in the dark, you could have some noodles soup and coffee from various vendors to warm you up.
Geek Guide Data
Transport– The travel time to Sagada roughly takes a gruelling 9 to 12 hours from Manila. You can take a bus from Cubao in Quezon City that will go straight to Sagada for nine hours or more with several stops. I recommend the most convenient one, which is to take a bus to Baguio. Take what we called “joy bus,” a bus’ version of a business class plane ride that will cut your travel time in half, for just three hours. From there you can take a bus straight to Sagada for six hours. Travel time is just the same but taking a needed break in Baguio, by either stopping by to eat and walk around for a couple of hours or staying there for a couple of days is so recommended because nine plus hours in a bus will kill you. Bus trip to Sagada starts at 5 in the morning. Take the morning ride because sunrise at the road with the mountain view is breathtaking. Going in and around the area requires a rented van with guide for convenience. An environment fee must be settled upon arrival because some places will ask for the receipt at the entrance.
WiFi and power plugs– There is a strong internet connection in most parts of the town but you need to buy a local SIM card to access the internet. The WiFi connection during the bus rides will be very poor as you’re in the middle of mountains but try to record the spectacular view in a video and save it for later posting. Some hotels do have WiFi service (the connection strength varies) but check first with their admin before booking your rooms. Electricity in Sagada is 220 Volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. If you travel to Philippines with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 60 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. The power plugs and sockets are of type A, B and C. Electricity here is dependable despite being at one of the tallest places in the country.
Hotels– majority of hotels converge around the main road of the town but some hotels are in the outskirts, so you definitely need service cars or tour guides and their cars to go around the place or to visit the restaurants in town. Or you can walk, it’s up to you.
Shopping and English –There is a variety of things to buy in Sagada I don’t even know where to start. The place is famous for lemon picking during its season or you can buy some lemon pie which tastes like heaven especially when paired with coffee, this is serious. The place is famous for their pottery and hand-weaved clothes but there are as also coffee, tea leaves, honey, yogurt, jams of various flavors (blueberry, strawberry etc.) and some local sweets. Souvenirs such as shirts, key chains, magnets and other stuff are also popular. English language can be understood and is spoken very well in the area like in most parts of the country.
Weather – November to May are the best months to visit the Sagada, December to January being the coldest months. The rainy season in the Philippines starts from June to August. March to May typically would bring the local tourists to town but they prefer Baguio City so you can still look forward to a peaceful vacation, but if you can, do visit the place before those months.