The rice terraces of Batad
Straight up: Batad is ah-maze-zing.
Imagine this: a huge amphitheater of lush, stonewalled rice terraces—over 2000 years old and in impeccable condition—nestled amid a vast stage of steep green hills. You and everyone in the area are effectively cut off from the rest of the world. As you traverse the terraces, the sky is reflected in the ponds of each tiny strip of land. Several clusters of small, traditional thatched huts make up the original village, and (some of the) elders wear traditional garb as they work the land.
The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995, and Batad is one of five Ifugao rice terraces on that list.
The Ifugao people boast a long and rich history, and they are considered unique among the ethnic tribes of the Philippine Cordillera, for a multitude of reasons. The Ifugao may well be the oldest residents of the Cordilleras, and for the most part they managed to resist Spanish colonialism. Agriculture is the principal means of livelihood, and much of the agricultural techniques developed by the Ifugao tribe has remained unchanged throughout the two millennia the terraces have been in existence.
Overall, Batad was well worth the bumpy tricycle ride, the hike, and the 150 peso cabbage-and-rice “chopsuey” lunch I sorely needed before we hauled ourselves back up the hill.
We would definitely recommend staying overnight here for an idyllic experience, but be aware that it adds to the controversy of guesthouses and shops popping up around here, which all negates the authenticity we all want to find at Batad. Better to come in and out for the day, I suppose…
Practical information for would-be travelers to Batad:
Go early! Not just to avoid the crowds but to catch the terraces in the soft morning light, and to outpace any potential afternoon storms.
Batad is supposed to have two plantings a year, which means the terraces will be at their greenest between April-May and October-November. We visited on 4/20 and the hills were (fittingly) lush.
There is a 50 peso per person ‘entrance’ fee, which is supposed to go to the restoration and preservation of the rice terraces.
If you don’t already know— Batad is not accessible by road (though it may well be in a year or two). There is no public transport to the top of the hill, but jeepneys pass by the junction (3km below the saddle) all day if you’re up for a longer hike.
Private tricycles and chartered jeepneys from Banaue are now able to ply the steep roads all the way up to the saddle (paved roads are in the works but a long way from being finished). No idea how much jeepneys are, but our 30km roundtrip tricycle ride was 700 pesos.
From the saddle, the hike down to the terraces is easygoing on a gentle slope, and it only took us about 45 minutes to get back up to the saddle (from the town of Batad), though the stairs were a bit of a pain.
check out this 1-minute clip we made of the Batad rice terraces