Snaps From Sagada

Snaps From Sagada |

Have you ever seen a mountain? Fog? Clouds? Trees? No? Well, you’re in luck because I have, like, 80 photos of those things to show you today.

Five years ago, friends and I went to Sagada. Save for a four-hour trek to Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins, we mostly did nothing. It was great, especially for a clueless first-timer who had done no prior research. For my second visit, I wanted to do the two things I wasn’t able to do in 2010: the Sumaguing and Lumiang Cave Connection and to see the sunrise at Kiltepan.

We left Manila around 9PM on a Friday, expecting to be in Sagada by 6AM (expectations set by Waze). Naturally, our hired driver had to take a wrong turn while everyone was asleep and we ended up stuck in mud for over two hours. Fun for me, because I am a girl; not very fun for the guys.

Not really sure where we got lost but this structure was the view from where Jaz and I sat and had our coffee. After nearly an hour of trying unsuccessfully to get the van out of the mud, we walked down the road and asked some locals for help. The place had no cell reception or wifi but they had lots of hospitality!

Finally, we were on our merry way. We stopped for some quick photos because this was the view.

We arrived at Talubin around 10AM only to find out the bridge we needed to cross to get to Sagada was closed until 5PM for construction because the recent typhoon wrecked it. We asked some drivers for options and learned we could leave our hired van behind, get a ride towards junction past the bridge and wait for a jeepney to take us to Sagada. Mafel called our inn and told them we were going to be late. After explaining what was up, he offered to have a van pick us up (PHP1500, split among 9 people).

We finally got to Sagada a little past noon.

The delay threw off the day’s itinerary, which I didn’t mind at all. With nothing but rice and adobo oil/soup in my tummy, we headed to Sumaguing Cave to begin the four-hour cave connection.

Sumaguing and Lumiang Cave Connection |

The cave connection tour requires one guide per 3 people so we had three tour guides with us. I think it’s PHP300 or PHP400 per head. Please do not attempt to go without a licensed tour guide because you might die.

I don’t have photos inside the cave because I knew we were going to get wet but the folks I was with had a waterproof camera and I LOOK HORRID IN ALL THE PHOTOS. Here’s one of me being birthed by rocks, though.

It was nearly 5PM when we finished the tour and I was amazed I got out unscathed. Some parts of it had me clutching my head in distress like Psyduck but I just kept in mind what Mafel told me mid-way through: “trust your hands and your feet.”

The cave connection was fun and actually not that hard. 10/10, would do it over and over again!

Dinner was at Sagada Brew. Not much has changed since I was last there, food still takes forever to be served. It took my pumpkin soup (PHP80, not worth it) half an hour and my vegetable-anchovy pasta (PHP150, yummy) ~45 minutes and I had to send that one back because they forgot the anchovies lol. I wanted to snap photos of our food but everyone was starving and I didn’t want to be annoying.

Cave Connection essentials:

-quick-drying, comfortable clothes. I wore a sports bra, a regular Uniqlo tee, and gym shorts but it would be better to wear yoga pants because you’ll be using your butt to descend rocks/slopes.
-trekking sandals or slippers. I wore Havaianas because those things are sturdy as hell.
-a waterproof camera.
-a waterproof bag for your valuables (I brought my phone but you need flash to take photos in the cave so I didn’t use it).
-water. Your guide can carry this for you in his backpack.

You can smoke inside the cave but make sure to bring your cigarette butts with you when you exit. You can also bring a headlamp but it’s not necessary.

We got up at 4AM the next day to head to Kiltepan and see the sunrise, which was at 543AM (thanks, Accuweather). Again, we got lost and that was fine because unlike the sunset, the sunrise takes its sweet time.

There was a crowd at Kiltepan but thakfully, it wasn’t That Thing Called Tadhana/hugot-levels because we could still get a good, unobstructed view for our Instagram photos.

Hello, it me!

There’s a cafe at Kiltepan but it was a Sunday and they were closed. We headed back to town for brunch at Lemon Pie House but they only had pies lol bummer. We crossed the street to Sagada Happy House where I had fish fillet (PHP120, so good) and native coffee (PHP25). It only took the food ~20 minutes, too! I also finally got to use my camera’s remote for a couple of selfies. Hashtag important.


After brunch, we went back to our inn and I took a nap while the rest of the group went to Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins. That proved to be a good move because the trek to Buscalan turned out to be brutal for me (it was my first time as an adult to “climb” a mountain, okay).

Total spent:

PHP5000 (base):
-3.5 days transportation (Manila-Sagada-Kalinga-Manila private van)
-1 night stay at Kapaw-an Inn Sagada
-1 night homestay in Buscalan
-Sagada tourism and Cave Connection guide fees

PHP2020 (incidentals):
-van ride from Talubin to Sagada (PHP165)
-Buscalan meals (PHP80)
-Buscalan tourism fee (PHP75)
-batok tattoo from Grace (PHP500)
-porter fee (PHP500. You actually only have to pay PHP100-150 but I gave a handsome tip because Craven was very nice and how often do these good folks make an income anyway?)
-meals in Sagada and Bontoc (four meals for PHP750, including tips)

It doesn’t have to cost that much for a 3-day trip to Sagada and Buscalan, but you can’t beat the convenience of having your own van and driver because you’re not at the mercy of scheduled trips.

Stay tuned for my Buscalan entry where I post more photos of foggy mountains!

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  • Reply Corinth September 20, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    HUHU! The photos are so nice! I enjoyed reading your adventure! Excited about your Buscalan entry! And I think I need one of those remotes for my DSLR. That would come in handy after Jorge leaves.

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 11:34 am

      I got the Yongnuo brand!

  • Reply Paoline September 20, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    These snaps are amazing! I’ve been to Sagada pero parang through your lenses’ eyes, it’s a different place! :)

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 11:35 am

      Thanks, Pao!

  • Reply Sarah September 20, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    One of the places I’d love to set my foot into. Five months from now we’d also be going high above the clouds, but that is going to be in Mt. Pulag. Would love to go to Sagada. Maybe some other time pag naka tiempo ulit ng promo fare. Hehe. :)

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      I wanna go to Pulag, too!!! Planning on December but I wanna go back to Sagada for the annual bonfire fest which is after Christmas.

  • Reply Jhanz September 20, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    These are beautiful, Helga!!! :) Makes me want to pack my bags and travel to Sagada (as I’ve always wanted). Hope you get well soon. :)

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      Thank you, Jhanz! Definitely visit Sagada!

  • Reply Cha September 20, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Been waiting for this post! Amazing photos. :)

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks, Cha!

  • Reply Louise September 21, 2015 at 2:09 am

    Still haven’t been to Sagada. Someday. Your photos are so beautiful. The clouds omg! I feel like if I was there, I would have been enticed to jump sa may clouds because they look so fluffy, but then I would die haha.

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      DIBA!!! Sea of clouds. <333

      Thanks, Louise!

  • Reply kenna September 21, 2015 at 2:54 am

    The pictures are lovely!!! Now I want adobo.

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      Thanks, Kenna!

  • Reply Shayne September 21, 2015 at 5:11 am

    Jesus Christ, Helga! I’m still so freaking blown away that a place like this exists in the Philippines. I mapped it out, and it’s about 4 hours away from my mom’s hometown. So I might just make the trek up there when we visit during the holidays! :) Yay! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Sagada has an annual bonfire festival every December! Is your mom from Baguio? :)

      • Reply Shayne September 21, 2015 at 2:39 pm

        Ahhh! My mom’s from San Fernando City in La Union, so a little further up north from Baguio.

        • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm

          My mom’s from San Juan, La Union!

  • Reply Kah September 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Super great photos! <3 Makes me want to plan that Sagada trip ASAP. :)

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Thanks, Kah! You really should go! I love it there. <3

  • Reply Romzs September 21, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Sobrang ganda!!

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks, Romzs!

  • Reply Mimi Gonzales September 21, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Gorgeoooouuusss photos!!! I love foggy mountains and I haven’t seen anything quite as beautiful as that! *.* I wanted to come to Sagada so bad, not because of the movie hype, but to see views like that! I love your self-portraits, too :)

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      You should go!!!

      My friend’s mom thought I was having issues/problems when she saw I was in Sagada haha. THAT DARN MOVIE!!!

  • Reply JC September 21, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Tried to see if I could make it through your post for five minutes without snickering at your humor inserts, but alas. The cave connection is fun, indeed. Would you try it again if given the opportunity, or do you feel it’s just a one time thing? (because we’re a little scared of it, tbh)

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 5:30 pm


      Yup, would do the cave connection again! It’s scary at times but it’s also really fun. :)

  • Reply Aye Laniton September 21, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    God, the photos are amazing! I never thought of going to Sagada since it became very mainstream after the movie and then lots of people just wanted to see the place. But I think I should go during off peak season to avoid crowds. :)

    Your hair is amazing!!

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      Definitely go! I think the hype has sort of died down, or maybe we just went during the rainy season (kind of dangerous, btw).

  • Reply Karen September 21, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    It’s a beauty! :) I really want to see it in person but then I’m too paranoid with all the twists and turns going there AND the long hours of sitting in the bus. I think you can also share some tips on how to beat boredom when travelling for long hours. :)

    • Reply Helga September 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Oh, travel at night so you can sleep. :)

  • Reply Bae Milanes September 21, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    OMG, I’m dying over the (first) sunrise photo! It looks like ~heaven~.

  • Reply Tony September 21, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Sagada is beautiful and dreamy! The photos really want to make me go on a trek. I think I should put hiking on my bucket list because from your experience, it seems really fulfilling. :)

  • Reply Sar September 21, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    Yey, I’ve been waiting for this post!! I love how your hair complements with the background. It became more magical :) Sagada is so beautiful! I need to tick it off from my list :)

  • Reply CJ September 22, 2015 at 12:21 am

    Ermergerd sobrang ganda ng place! :((((((

    Props for keepin it realz (re: dying inside the cave) . :))

  • Reply Abbie September 22, 2015 at 6:10 am

    I loved all the photos, and I’m not sucking up (you know I love you), but that photo of you in your hoodie (plus blurred background, so gorjaaaaas) is what blew me away most <3

  • Reply Kai September 22, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Would love to see your batok tattoo ate helga! :))

  • Reply Maroon Caludin September 22, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Wow, sounds awesome, and looks amazing! Those pictures are beautiful!

  • Reply April September 22, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Geez. I’m crying inside because of your foggy mountains photos. They are incredibly beautiful! :”>

  • Reply Rej September 22, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Love your photos, Helga! :) I also read your old post about your first Sagada trip. Glad you enjoyed! :)

  • Reply Richel V. September 22, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Adding Sagada to my travel list! It’s crazy that my travel buddies and I were just talking about it the other day and this post just makes me want to pack my bags and pull them to an adventure. Great shots, btw! Hopefully I’ll be able to experience those shots first hand after the rainy season.

  • Reply Christine September 23, 2015 at 12:34 am

    What a great experience!!! That sunrise view is stunning Helga!


  • Reply Vanna September 23, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Your photos are so lovely, Helga! Are there any updates about this year’s Sagada bonfire fest? I’m planning to go as well. By the way, what did you use to edit your featured image? Thanks! Looking forward to your Buscalan post. <3

  • Reply Tricia Willa September 23, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Lovely photos Helga! I have been constantly dragged by my friends to go to Mt. Pulag and as well as Sagada, its just that my parents are strict. My friends kept telling me on how beautiful the sunrise and basically the whole surrounding when your up in the mountains. Hopefully someday I’ll get the chance to visit such beautiful place.

  • Reply Aiza D. September 23, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Lovely photos!!! Makes me guilty for not posting pictures of places I’ve been to. I am just too lazy to post process and post ’em. Do you use VSCO for those?

    I think I am going to need your tips when we go there.

  • Reply Jae September 24, 2015 at 1:06 am

    Lord, ang ganda ng Earth. <3

    P.S. Lakas maka-That Thing Called Tadhana feels nito, girl!

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