Banaue Rice Terraces © MagalhÃ£es
This fascinating region in northern Luzon is known for being largely untouched by Western civilisation, and gives a glimpse of the true Philippines. In a string of villages around Banaue people live according to age-old tribal traditions. The main attraction in the area is the Banaue Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site dubbed the 'eighth wonder of the world' by locals.
Constructed about 3,000 years ago, the terraces start from the base of the Cordillero Mountains and extend upwards for thousands of feet, cleverly irrigated by channelled streams and springs and made very effectively with ancient tools. The terraces bear testimony to the ingenuity of the ancient Ifugao people. There are more terraces at Batad village and the nearby Tappiyah Falls are a popular attraction in the area; there are also some pools and scenic hiking trails to explore.
At Sagada there are a series of ancient burial caves in the mountainside with the remarkable 'hanging coffins' perched on limestone outcrops. A hike through the jungle in the Valley of Echoes will bring travellers to the beautiful cliffs where the coffins have been strung up. The Banaue region is scenically splendid and culturally fascinating and a must for anybody travelling in the area.