Itbayat is perhaps the town of superlatives.
Itbayat, the northernmost municipality of the northernmost province of the Philippines (a mere 200 meters away from the southernmost point of Taiwan), is one of the most exotic and most difficult to reach destinations in the country. Sounds very daunting, right? But the long travel time and arduous journey are a small price to pay for this unspoiled piece of heaven.
The municipality is composed of a group of islands said to be made up of coral reefs that were uplifted from underwater. While the popular notion is that main island of Itbayat has no beaches to offer those in search for one, a hike around town can lead you to the quiet nook of Kaxobcan Beach, a hidden gem of white sand and crystal clear waters borne out of an earthquake.
The lack of beaches doesn’t mean that swimming is impossible while in town. Paganaman Port is home to several natural swimming pools made more picturesque by towering cliffs. Or hop onto a boat and head to Mavulis, the northernmost island of Itbayat, and enjoy its white pebbly beaches. If boulder beaches are more of your thing, head to Diogo Island.
Due to its rugged terrain peppered with steep cliffs, towering rock formations and uneven grounds, hiking is a favorite activity of those who wish to reach its more challenging destinations. The Rapang Cliffs, a popular spot due to its stone bell and the goats grazing the area, take around five to seven hours to reach.
Itbayat has two extinct volcanoes for those raring to go on a hike up the forests and slopes of Batanes. Mount Riposed treats you to a breathtaking, panoramic view of the island while Mount Karaboboan, the highest point in Itbayat, gives you a view of Taiwan on a clear day.
Spelunking is another favorite activity in Itbayat. Torongan Cave, which can be reached after an hour of hiking, is said to be the first landing place of the Austronesian ancestors of the Filipinos. Head to the end of the cave and you will find that it opens up to the sea, a sight that will surely take your breath away. Other caves that you can explore are Northern Sarokan, Eastern Sarokan, Do’tboran Cave, and Pevangan Cave.
Don’t forget to drop by the Raele Village to see the traditional stone houses that Batanes is known for. Nahini Votox, a burial site with distinct boat-shaped markers, is another must-visit for those who want to learn more about the local culture. For a touch of the supernatural, check out the Manoyok, a sinkhole said to be haunted by those who have been thrown in it for suspicion of witchcraft.
A trip to Itbayat is without a doubt a very physical and challenging adventure. Take a break and relax while eating some fresh lobster and coconut crabs that are abundant in the area. Locals can also pack meals in Tipoho leaves so you can take them on-the-go.