Apayao Province

Welcome to Apayao Province, an enchanting and lesser-known destination in the Northern Luzon region of the Philippines. 

Boasting a wealth of cultural heritage, impressive biodiversity, and awe-inspiring natural attractions, Apayao is a true hidden gem waiting to be discovered. 

In this blog post, we embark on an exciting journey to unravel the mysteries of Apayao, highlighting its unique charm and distinctive allure that sets it apart from other popular tourist destinations. Read on!

The History and Culture of Apayao

Pre-colonial Era and Indigenous Groups 

Long before the arrival of colonizers, Apayao thrived as a hub for various indigenous groups, most notably the Isneg people. 

These tribes lived in harmony with nature, with their communities forming the backbone of Apayao’s rich cultural tapestry. 

They developed their governance systems and established trade networks with neighboring tribes, which continue to shape the province’s heritage today.

Spanish Colonization

In the late 16th century, Spanish colonizers reached Apayao, introducing new customs, religious beliefs, and administrative systems. 

While the impact of colonization was profound, the Isneg people and other indigenous tribes managed to preserve many of their traditions and practices, skillfully weaving them into the fabric of Apayao’s evolving identity.

American Occupation and World War II

During the American occupation of the Philippines in the early 20th century, Apayao experienced significant change, particularly in education, infrastructure, and commerce. 

This period also saw the province playing a crucial role during World War II. Its remote and rugged terrain provided a strategic advantage for local resistance fighters and allied forces.

Cultural Heritage and Traditions

Isneg Tribe and Their Customs

The Isneg tribe holds a central place in Apayao’s cultural heritage. Known for their resourcefulness and solid communal bonds, the Isneg people continue to practice their age-old customs, such as the “pamuhay” ritual, which celebrates successful hunts and farming ventures. Their traditions, dances, and music showcase a deep connection to the natural world, embodying the essence of Apayao’s cultural landscape.

Indigenous Arts, Crafts, and Clothing

Apayao’s indigenous communities excel in various art forms and crafts, reflecting the province’s creative spirit. 

Traditional weaving techniques produce vibrantly colored textiles used in clothing and home furnishings. 

Hand-carved wooden artifacts, intricate beadwork, and skillfully crafted pottery showcase the craftsmanship and attention to detail passed down through generations.

Unique Local Festivals and Events

Apayao comes alive during its colorful local festivals, such as the “Say-Am” festival, where communities celebrate their rich heritage, agricultural bounty, and timeless traditions. 

These events are characterized by lively performances, engaging rituals, and a showcase of the province’s delectable cuisine, offering visitors a glimpse into the heart and soul of Apayao.

Apayao’s Diverse Natural Wonders

Lussok Crystal Cave and Underground River

Venture into the enchanting depths of Lussok Crystal Cave, a subterranean wonder filled with sparkling stalactites and stalagmites. 

The cave also boasts an underground river, where visitors can take a guided boat tour to witness the mesmerizing beauty hidden beneath Apayao’s surface.

Manacota Underground River and Cave

Discover the secrets of the Manacota Underground River and Cave, a natural marvel that showcases Apayao’s rich biodiversity. 

Explore the cave’s majestic chambers and navigate the tranquil river, encountering a variety of flora and fauna along the way.

Anag-sicapo Wildlife Sanctuary and Waterfalls

Immerse yourself in the pristine wilderness of the Anag-sicapo Wildlife Sanctuary, home to several spectacular waterfalls cascading through the lush greenery. 

Embark on a guided trek to experience nature’s soothing sights and sounds, while learning about the unique wildlife species that inhabit the area.

Mountain Trails and Rice Terraces

Mt. Kilang and Its Panoramic Views

Ascend the slopes of Mt. Kilang, one of Apayao’s most picturesque peaks. The mountain offers exhilarating trails that reward hikers with panoramic vistas of the province’s verdant landscape. 

As you reach the summit, take in the breathtaking scenery that stretches as far as the eye can see.

Dupag Rock Formation

Challenge yourself with a trek to the awe-inspiring Dupag Rock Formation, a geological masterpiece sculpted by time and nature. 

Climb the jagged limestone formations and be rewarded with a stunning view of Apayao’s pristine surroundings, making the adventure worthwhile.

Apayao’s Very Own Rice Terraces

Experience the serene beauty of Apayao’s rice terraces, meticulously carved into the mountainsides by generations of skilled farmers.

These living cultural landscapes reflect the ingenuity of the local people and provide a serene backdrop for leisurely walks and contemplation.

Rivers and Lakes

Apayao River and Its Significance

Witness the life-giving force of the Apayao River, an essential water source for the province’s inhabitants and wildlife. 

The river holds great cultural and ecological significance and offers numerous recreational opportunities, such as fishing, rafting, and swimming.

Lake Bulagao

Savor the tranquility of Lake Bulagao, a serene body of water surrounded by lush forests and rolling hills. 

The lake is an ideal spot for picnicking, birdwatching, or simply enjoying a moment of peaceful reflection amidst Apayao’s picturesque landscape.

Eco-tourism Activities and Water Sports

Embrace the spirit of adventure with various eco-tourism activities and water sports available in Apayao. 

From kayaking and paddleboarding to wildlife-spotting and guided treks, there’s something for every nature lover and adrenaline enthusiast seeking an unforgettable experience in this beautiful province.

The Warmth of Apayao’s People

Stories of Local Hospitality

Experience the genuine warmth and friendliness of Apayao’s people, who welcome visitors with open arms and radiant smiles. 

From heartwarming tales of home-cooked meals shared with locals to impromptu invitations to join in community celebrations, the kindness and generosity of Apayao’s residents create lasting memories and enduring connections.

Experiencing Local Cuisine

Traditional Dishes and Delicacies

Indulge in the mouthwatering flavors of Apayao’s local cuisine, a delightful fusion of indigenous ingredients and culinary techniques passed down through generations. Sample traditional dishes such as “pinikpikan,” a unique Igorot delicacy, or “inlagim,” a flavorful vegetable soup. Don’t forget to try the province’s native rice wine, “tapey,” to complete your culinary adventure.

Food Recommendations and Must-try Items

Treat your taste buds to some must-try items in Apayao, including “etag,” a smoked and fermented pork dish, and “kini-ing,” a smoked meat delicacy often enjoyed with rice. 

Be sure to taste the sweet and savory “ukoy,” a crispy shrimp cake that makes for a perfect snack, and the delectable rice cakes called “kakanin” for a taste of local dessert.

Engaging with Local Communities

Community-based Tourism Initiatives

Participate in community-based tourism initiatives that allow authentic interactions with the locals and a deeper understanding of their customs and way of life. 

These projects, often led by indigenous communities, provide opportunities for visitors to learn about traditional farming and weaving or even participate in age-old rituals and celebrations.

Supporting Sustainable Tourism

As you explore the wonders of Apayao, remember to support sustainable tourism practices that help preserve the province’s unique cultural and natural heritage. 

Choose eco-friendly accommodations, patronize local businesses, and respect the customs and traditions of the people. 

By doing so, you contribute to the community’s well-being and the long-term preservation of Apayao’s extraordinary treasures.

A Traveler’s Guide to Apayao

Best Time to Visit

The ideal time to explore Apayao is during the dry season, from November to May. During these months, the weather is more favorable for outdoor activities and sightseeing, with reduced chances of heavy rainfall.

However, visiting during the province’s local festivals can also provide a unique and memorable experience, so consider timing your trip accordingly.

How to Get to Apayao

Reaching Apayao is an adventure in itself, with several transportation options available. 

The most common route is to fly into Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, and then take a bus or van to the province. 

Alternatively, you can take a bus from Manila to Apayao, although this option may require a longer travel time. 

For a more personalized experience, consider renting a car and taking a scenic road trip through Northern Luzon.

Travel Tips and Essentials

Before embarking on your journey, ensure you have the following essentials for a smooth and enjoyable trip:

  • Valid ID and other necessary documents
  • Appropriate clothing for Apayao’s climate, including rain gear and comfortable footwear for trekking
  • Sun protection and insect repellent
  • A reusable water bottle and eco-friendly travel products to minimize your environmental impact
  • A basic first aid kit and any personal medications
  • A camera to capture the unforgettable moments

Accommodation Options

Homestays and Guesthouses

For an authentic taste of Apayao’s hospitality, opt for a homestay or guesthouse experience. Staying with local families provides an intimate glimpse into their daily lives and helps support the community’s economy. 

Meanwhile, guesthouses offer comfortable and affordable lodging options catering to a range of budgets.

Hotels and Lodges

Apayao also boasts a selection of hotels and lodges for travelers seeking more conventional accommodation options. These establishments often provide amenities such as air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, and private bathrooms, ensuring a comfortable stay while close to the province’s natural and cultural attractions.

Activities and Experiences

Adventure Sports

Thrill-seekers can choose from various adventure sports in Apayao, such as white-water rafting, spelunking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. 

These exhilarating activities offer unique ways to explore the province’s breathtaking landscapes while getting your adrenaline fixed.

Cultural Immersion

Dive deep into Apayao’s rich heritage by participating in cultural immersion experiences, such as attending local festivals, learning traditional crafts, or engaging in community-led initiatives. 

These encounters foster meaningful connections with the locals and provide a deeper appreciation for their customs and way of life.

Wildlife Spotting

Nature enthusiasts will find ample opportunities for wildlife spotting in Apayao’s diverse habitats. 

Embark on guided treks through the province’s forests, rivers, and mountains to observe various species, such as the Philippine eagle, cloud rat, and many endemic birds and reptiles. 

These encounters serve as a reminder of the importance of conserving Apayao’s unique ecosystems for future generations.


In this blog post, we have unveiled the captivating allure and distinctive charm of Apayao Province, an off-the-beaten-path destination brimming with cultural heritage, natural wonders, and warm-hearted people. 

As you venture to this hidden gem in Northern Luzon, remember to embrace the role of a responsible traveler, engaging with local communities, respecting their customs, and supporting sustainable tourism practices.

By choosing to visit Apayao, you contribute to preserving its unique treasures and help empower the local communities that call this beautiful province home. 

So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in the magic of Apayao, and create memories that will last a lifetime.