Vigan is acknowledged by UNESCO as the best example of a Spanish colonial planned city in Asia, dating back to 1572. In 2014 the city was named as one of the world’s New7Wonders Cities, which increased its popularity immensely.
It’s a very popular destination for the local crowd, and usually taken as a standalone tour. However, due to Vigan’s distance from other popular destinations, we encourage foreign tourists to make it a part of a more extensive travel package across Northern Luzon. Let our experts help you with incorporating Vigan into your vacation to the Philippines.
From Manila to Vigan there are two main ways. You can take a direct bus from either Cubao, Pasay or Manila City. Both aircon and regular buses are available, and the ride takes 8 to 10 hours. For a more pleasant traveling experience, fly to Laoag and take a two hour bus ride from there.
From Baguio, there are regular buses and travel time is about 3-5 hours. Going via Baguio is the best option for people who are traveling in northern Philippines, since Baguio is already in their path.
We believe the best idea is to incorporate Vigan into such a plan, and make sure it also include other nearby locations. These destinations are some of the best places in the Philippines, such as Sagada, Banaue and Batanes.
Vigan offers accommodation of every price range. The best hotels are near the mestizo district (old part of town), usually older buildings renovated and turned into lodgings. The mestizo district is where all the fun is, and that’s why we chose to only work with hotels in the area. Our list is short, but showcases the best hotels for all budgets types.
History of the City
Originally a trading post and home to Chinese traders, the city was officially established in 1574 by the Spanish conquistadors with the intention of being a center of power in northern Philippines. Therefore it is modeled in a European style, with local and Chinese influences infused.
The mestizo district is cobblestone built in a grid pattern, with 233 historical buildings tightly scattered within 25 streets. It is the only example of a Hispanic colonial town in Asia, and differs from those of Latin America thanks to its Asian influences. Most of the buildings were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, and has been going through conservation practices over the last three decades. Although many of the houses has been modified on the interior, their exterior has remained the same.
What to do in Vigan?
Vigan is a historical place. Just walking around the cobblestone streets around Calle Crisologo, or even better, taking a ride in a horse drawn carriage will take you back to the Spanish era of the Philippines.
When strolling around you’re sure to pass through Plaza Burgos and Plaza Salcedo. There you can find the dancing fountains (a must see at night), and St Paul Cathedral. A nice short walk outside of town will take you to the beautiful Bantay Church. The church’s ancient bell tower, used as a watch tower during the Spanish era, is one of the most alluring sights around.
Other than that, you’re sure to find many things of interest in one of the city’s many historical museums. Burgos Museum displays Ilocano artifacts, the Syquia Mansion showcases old furniture and antiquities, and Casa Caridad and the Crisologo Museum are the ancestry homes of two of Vigan’s most prominent families. Be sure to check those and get a glimpse of the town’s fascinating past.
You can also check out traditional clay workshops (Burnayan) near Crisologo Street, and even try making pottery yourself. Another type of traditional workshop is Caoayan Town Loom weaving factory, where they make woven products by hand. Both experiences are free of charge and a lot of fun, as well as a good opportunity to buy souvenirs.
Other attractions that are not historical themed are also available. You can hit Moindoro Beach, a rare black sand beach in the outskirts of town. Baluarte is a zoo of free roaming, non-carnivore animals that is also free of charge. If you are in town for a while it is sure a fun activity.
How does Vigan fit in my Philippines travel plan?
Traveling to Vigan is a must if you are interested in the local history and heritage. That being said, due to its relative remoteness from other tourist attractions, we advise people to include it in a more comprehensive package of northern Philippines. Vacation packages can include destinations such as Banaue and Sagada, or a grand tour of the Ilocos province.
By doing so you’ll stray a bit from the beaten path, and discover a different side of the Philippines, not yet experienced by most foreign tourists.