Sagada is famous for its hanging coffins

Located in the Mountain Province, Sagada is a fifth class municipality. Think of it as a small, slightly developed village at the heart of the Cordillera. Life here is simple. Agriculture is the primary driver of the economy, but tourism has been contributing significantly. The town’s three major roads are flanked by inns, guesthouses, and restaurants catering to tourists. It has a generally chilly climate year-round, much colder than Baguio, something that attracts domestic tourists. Aside from the cooler temperature, it also has a lot to offer to adventurers, sightseers, and history buffs alike. It’s best known for the hanging coffins, waterfalls, and a network of caves. The good news is, the local government and the residents themselves are environment-conscious and have enforced certain regulations.

Sagada is famous for its hanging coffins. This is a traditional way of burying people that is still utilized. Not everyone is qualified to be buried this way; among other things, one had to have been married and had grandchildren. Popular activities include trekking, exploring both caves and waterfalls, spelunking, bonfires, picnics, rappelling, visiting historical sites, nature hikes, and participating in tribal celebrations. Guides can be found upon registration at the tourist-office in Sagada Proper (the main town) for a small fee. Most of the guides are natives, also known as Igorots. How to get there? From Manila head to HM Transport Cubao Teerminal in Quezon city where you can ride a Coda Bus bound for Sagada. Take note that there is only 1 trip daily at 9:00 PM. Fare is 720 pesos and travel time is roughly 12 hours. According to legend, Sagada was founded as an ili or village by Biag, a man from Bika in eastern Abra. The people from Bika were forced out of their ili by raiding headhunters. Biag’s family resettled in Candon but when baptism or the giving of names was enforced, Biag’s family chose to move back toward the mountains in search for a settlement. Along the way, he and his siblings decided to part ways. A brother, Balay, chose to return to Candon, a sister to Abra. Another brother settled along the upper Abra River. Biag pushed further to the east until he came to what is now Sagada. Activities in Sagada? 1. Marvel at unique hanging coffins. One of the main reasons a lot of people make the trek up to Sagada is to see the iconic hanging coffins. The Igorot people of Sagada have traditionally ‘buried’ their dead in colourfully painted coffins clinging to the sides of limestone cliffs, or piled up at the entrance of caves. They believe these methods of burial provide an easier path for the spirits to reach the great beyond, as well as keeping wild animals from their remains. These days it is more common for locals to bury their dead in cemeteries – although there are still a few locals who choose to be buried in the traditional way. 2. Spelunking in massive cave systems. If adventure is your middle name then spelunking may very well be the perfect activity for you. The most popular spelunking adventure is the Cave Connection tour, which takes you from Lumiang Cave through Sumaguing Cave. Exploring the underground cave system involves wading through chilly rivers, rappelling down waterfalls, and squeezing yourself through tiny openings. It is like being birthed again, except this time you are old enough to be aware of it. Definitely not for the claustrophobic! There are also stacks of wooden coffins located at the mouth of Lumiang Cave, which is always an interesting sight. 3. Hike in the lush mountainous surroundings. There are many hikes on offer in the mountains around Sagada, some that can be done independently and a large number that requires a guide, which is very affordable. Echo Valley is one of the most popular hikes in a Sagada itinerary and on a half day hiking there you will see rice terraces, an underground river, hanging coffins, and a waterfall, along with lots of gorgeous scenery. If you feel like a challenge, you could climb the highest peak in Sagada – Mt Ampacao – or hike to one of the waterfalls mentioned below. There are a large number of hikes available with local guides from the Tourist Information Centre, where you can pick up a free map and guide with hikes listed. 4. Swim under a waterfall. It can get pretty hot during the day up in the mountains and what better way to cool off than in a deep, cool pool under a cascading waterfall? I can’t think of any! There are numerous waterfalls around Sagada that can be visited independently or as part of a tour. Visit Bokong Falls for its deep, perfectly shaped rock pool close to town, Bomod-Ok Falls for its impressively high falls surrounded by rice terraces, and Pongas Falls for an adventure, with a challenging trek of slippery trails, and a sheer drop off to reach it.

5. Try all the excellent eateries. The Philippines is not known for its cuisine but it doesn’t mean there aren’t delicious food destinations – Sagada is definitely one of them. For such a small town there is a ridiculously high number of eateries, and the crazy thing is – almost all of them serve incredible food. Sagada is known for its lemon pie, but there are so many other delectable dishes that are done so well here – wood-fired pizza, Korean dishes, fried chicken that Colonel Sanders would be proud of, traditional Pinoy dishes such as chicken adobo, handmade Italian pasta dripping with cheese, and so much more. 6. Try the local coffee. As with its cuisine, the Philippines is also not generally known for having great coffee, but Sagada is definitely an exception. Due to the higher altitude and cooler mountain temperatures, coffee grows exceptionally well in this mountainous corner of the Philippines and a lot of the local cafes not only serve the premium local stuff, some even roast the beans themselves onsite. 7. Go for a leisurely stroll around town. The surrounding mountains of Sagada offer gorgeous spots for hiking and adventure, but the town itself is beautiful and also definitely worth exploring. There are pine-covered mountains surrounding you everywhere you look, and once you head any direction from the main street of town, you will very quickly come across the lush and verdant countryside with mountain views, rice terraces, and a whole lot of peace and quiet. 8. Try your hand at rock climbing. If you have ever wanted to give rock climbing a try but have been put off by high prices, then now is your chance. Rock climbing in Sagada is relatively cheap and with a low difficulty level, it is the perfect place for beginners. You can either just show up, it is located behind the cemetery in town and the attendant is usually there, or ask for more information at the Tourist Information Centre. All the gear is provided.

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