What do Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur and La Paz have in common with Vigan? Let me help you – they are all officially recognized as New7Wonders Cities. The cities are all winners of a popularity poll initiated by Canadian-Swiss Bernard Weber.
Vigan is among the winners thanks to its preserved Hispanic city structure, which has been kept intact. During your visit you can stroll over the cobblestone streets of Calle Crisologo, through a unique Philippine architectural buildings. It is the oldest existing Spanish colonial city and was listed as UNESCO heritage site since 1999. You will lose yourself in the lovely, car-free old town and feel like you are set back in time.
The city with its nearly 50,000 people, is situated in the province of Ilocos Sur around 400km north of Manila. I have visited the city for a weekend and will tell you what you need to know about the Spanish pearl of the north.
How to go to Vigan from Manila?
There are buses every hour from Cubao Bus Station in Manila going to Vigan. The ride will take around 8-9h and costs about P650. I prefer the Partas Bus Company because they have a great service, has several stop, and buses are relatively good.
Where to stay in Vigan?
There are a lot of Vigan hotels in the old town. Prices are a little bit above Philippine average, but you get the quality of service that you pay for. We stayed in the Grandpa’s Inn. I would definitely recommend this inn to everyone. Rooms start from P2,000 (/w complimentary breakfast), it has it’s own cafe and restaurant, and all the city attractions are in walking distance.
What is a perfect trip to Vigan like?
Vigan is a easy to visit over the weekend. But it is a touristic hot spot so make sure you book one of the Vigan hotels in advance.
After you finished work on Friday head straight to the Partas Bus Terminal in Cubao and take the overnight bus to Vigan (direction Laoag). On Saturday morning grab some Filipino breakfast (e.g. Tapsilog) and a strong coffee to replenish your energy for the day.
Your first destination is Crisologo Museum (Opening hours: 8-11.30am/2-5pm, Free Admission) in Calle Crisologo. Floro S. Crisologo was the patriarch of the clan and a politician well known for being responsible for landmark legislations that not only benefited his constituents but the whole country as well. The museum has a nice collection of some of his belongings and you get a nice insight in the housing of the Philippine upper class family.
After this you go to the St. Paul’s Cathedral passing by Plaza Burgos and Plaza Salcedo. The church architecture is unique in the Philippines and famous for its well preserved baroque style. When you come early in the morning you might be lucky and can watch a wedding. After this you might have lunch at Plaza Burgos and mingle with the locals.
In the afternoon you should take a tricyle (P30) and head to the Bantay Bell Tower. Step up the steep stairs to the top and watch the sunset over Vigan. The hightlight of the day is the Dancing Fountain and Light Show at Plaza Salcedo. The show starts at 7.30pm, every night, at Plaza Salcedo. Make sure you come early to get a good place, and have a great view of the show. Then, you can finish the day with a night stroll at Calle Crisologo buying some souvenirs.
Start Sunday with a strong Ilocos Breakfast together with a strong coffee or healthy Kalamansi juice. When you´re finished take a kalesa to your first stop of the day: Syquia Mansion. It is the largest heritage house in the town. The former president of the Philippines married one of the daughters of the family there. Afterwards you may visit RG or Ruby Jar Factory and take a lesson on how traditional jars and pots are made. You might want buy one as a Pasalubong?
Your next stop is the public market to buy some fruits and food for your next destination: Sta. Maria Church. A Partas Bus will bring you there. The bus terminal is just next to the market. The ride to Sta. Maria costs P55 and takes around 1,5 hours from Vigan City. Buses that go to Sta. Maria, leave every hour heading to Manila. The Sta. Maria Chruch is a UNESCO heritage site and famous for its unique baroque style in this region. It is absolutely well worth seeing.
Grab some Empanada in the nearby food stalls and head back to Manila in the afternoon. Buses stop along the main road just in front of the church, where they drop off passengers. You go home with a full tummy and a beautiful impression of one of the most beautiful cities in the Philippines.
Vigan Travel Information
When to go: December to February
Visa: 30-day visas at arrival for the Philippines. More Information: Philippine Bureau of Immigration
Now it´s your turn. What did you do in Vigan and what was most impressive? Share your experiences in the comments as travel inspiration for others.