Top 8 Things to Do in Laoag & Paoay, Ilocos Norte



It was a cold early morning when we landed in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. It was still dark outside when we made our way to our breakfast stop. I was so glad to have the much needed cup of coffee before heading to our first activity of the day — Sand Dunes! Although it seemed like bouncing around on the 4×4 while it cruises through the sand dunes jolted me awake more than the coffee did. Haha! And sliding down the dunes a couple of times while sand boarding gave me that boost of adrenaline enough to power through the day.

That was just one of the highlights of our recent Ilocos Norte trip. Our itinerary was full of cultural sites and good food. We visited churches, museums, and filled our bellies with sumptuous Ilocano dishes. Our itinerary was packed because there was just so much to do in Ilocos and so little time. So if you’re also planning a trip to Ilocos, let us help you build your itinerary.

In this post, we list down some of the best things to do and tourist spots to visit in Laoag and Paoay. You can visit both these towns the Day 1 of your trip. And if you’re interested in making a trip to Pagudpud too, you can check out our Things to Do in Pagudpud and Burgos article.


Tourist Spots in Laoag and Paoay

Paoay Sand Dunes

If you didn’t know there’s a desert in the Philippines, it’s time to head to Paoay! Paoay Sand Dunes is one of the two most popular sand dunes in the province, next to La Paz in Laoag City. Sitting next to Suba Beach, it spans 88 square kilometers which makes for a great 4×4 off-road adventure.

Riding a 4×4 through the ups and downs of the sand dunes feels like a roller coaster, albeit an extra dusty one! This activity had me holding on to the metal bars of the truck for dear life, but it was worth every adrenaline-inducing minute.

Suba Sand Dunes Paoay

Apart from being a tourist attraction, the Paoay desert has brought many a film to life. Among notable films shot here were Nora Aunor’s Himala and Mel Gibson’s Mad Max.

The best time to do this activity is in the morning when the sun isn’t as harsh yet or in the late afternoon so you can enjoy the colorful sunset. And don’t skip the sand boarding! It may look scary, especially if you see people doing it standing up, but you can definitely do it sitting down. Just try to keep your mouth closed or you might get a taste of the sand. Haha!

You can book your Paoay Sand Dunes 4×4 adventure and sand boarding, aside from other things to do in Laoag and Paoay, in advance via Klook.

RESERVE YOUR SLOT HERE!

Rates:

  • 4 x 4 (1 hr): P2,500 (up to 5 pax)
  • ATV (30 minutes): P1,000 (up to 2 pax)

Location: Paoay, Ilocos Norte


Paoay Church

Paoay Church or the Saint Augustine Church is one of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines that was collectively declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Before this, it was also declared a National Cultural Treasure in 1973. According to the historical marker by the church entrance, the Augustinians laid the cornerstone of the church in 1704. However, it took a whopping 192 years before the church opened to the public in 1896.

Paoay Church

Its stunning facade has become a popular backdrop for tourist photos. It has a mix of Gothic and Baroque designs with some Oriental elements. Aside from the facade, another distinct feature of the church are the huge buttresses on the sides and the back of the building. While beautiful, these buttresses cater to practicality more than aesthetics. More than anything, they’re meant to weather earthquakes.

Standing next to the church is a three-story bell tower. Separating it from the church was also a measure to protect it against earthquakes. In the past, the bell tower served as a communication device to the townspeople. It also served as an observational post for Filipinos during the World War II.

You can visit Paoay Church as part of the Laoag City Tour. You can hire a tricycle for this tour (P1,000) which can accommodate up to 3 people. If you’re a bigger group or you prefer traveling around in a car/van for a more comfortable ride, you can also book a private Laoag City Tour via Klook.

BOOK THIS TOUR HERE!

Visiting Hours: Daily, 8:00 AM – 11:55 AM; 1:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Location: Marcos Avenue, Paoay, Ilocos Norte


Kusina Valentin

Located right across Paoay Church is a quirky little restaurant called Kusina Valentin . Its facade will remind you of Filipino ancestral homes, but its menu takes a modern twist. Formerly known as Herencia de Paoay, their signature pinakbet pizza is a must try, if only to satisfy your curiosity.

Sampler Pizza-Kusina Valentin

At first glance, it might seem like a regular vegetable pizza using pinakbet veggies. However, this pizza comes with a side of bagoong. I know it sounds a bit odd! Trust me, I was a bit skeptical to try it, too. But those who are curious enough to try are in for a treat. The bagoong gives this pinakbet pizza a unique burst of flavor.

Aside from their pinakbet pizza, they also have longganisa pizza, and bagnet pizza. If you can’t decide which Ilocano-themed pizza to try, you can also order their sampler. Kusina Valentin also serves Ilocano dishes like poqui poqui, dinengdeng, and insarabasab, along with their all-Filipino menu.

Operating Hours: Daily, 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Location: 14 McArthur Street, Barangay Sangladan, Paoay, Ilocos Norte


Malacañang of the North

Overlooking Paoay Lake, the Malacañang of the North was the official Marcos Family residence in Ilocos Norte. Built in 1977 by the Philippine Tourism Authority — now known as the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority or TIEZA, the mansion is also called Malacañang ti Amianan by the locals. Today, it serves as a museum managed by the provincial government of Ilocos Norte.

Malacañang of the North

Featuring 19th-century Spanish colonial architecture, this two-story mansion features seven bedrooms. While some of the rooms are now restrooms for visitors, four bedrooms remain open for viewing, including three rooms that were once occupied by the Marcoses. The office of Ferdinand Marcos inside the mansion is also accessible to visitors including a gallery with photos during his administration.

Visit Malacañang of the North as part of your Laoag City Tour! For a convenient and hassle-free tour, you can book a private tour in advance via Klook. Feel free to check out other things to do in Laoag and Paoay too!

BOOK THIS TOUR HERE!

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM; Monday, CLOSED
Entrance Fee: Adult, P70; Student & Senior Citizen, P50; PWD, Children 12 y.o. and below, FREE
Location: Barangay Suba, Paoay, Ilocos Norte


Nagbacalan Loom Weaving

Abel Iloco or Inabel is a local innovation that Ilocanos take pride in. This hand-woven textile with intricate patterns traditionally comes to life using a weaving loom. Today, a few towns in the region retain weaving communities that continue this legacy. One of the loomweaving sites is in Barangay Nagbacalan, Paoay.

Nagbacalan Loom Weaving

A visit to the Nagbacalan Loom Weavers Multi-purpose Cooperative allows you to step into history to see how Inabel gets crafted. According to our tour guide, Manang Arlene, the whole weaving process used to start with preparing the cotton to make threads. However, because of the lack of availability of raw cotton, threads used to make Inabel today are now purchased.

You can watch every step of this process and even try weaving in Nagbacalan. Spoiler alert: it’s not easy! But you’ll surely have a different appreciation for this traditional weaving process that is an art in itself afterward.

Location: 22 Barangay Nagbacalan, Paoay, Ilocos Norte


Laoag Cathedral & Sinking Bell Tower

Laoag Cathedral, formally called Saint William’s Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Laoag. Established in 1580, wood and thatch made up the foundations of the first church. Meanwhile, the present structure, highlighting Italian Renaissance, came to be in 1612.

The church is also known for its bell tower which locals call the sinking bell tower. There’s talk of the bell tower slowly sinking over time, hence the name. Case in point: rumor has it that the tower entrance used to be high enough for a man-mounted horse to pass through. Today, crawling is likely the main mode of entry. (Do note, however, that entering the bell tower is no longer allowed!)

If you’re planning to do a Laoag City Tour, the Sinking Bell Tower is a usual stop. You can do a tricycle tour (P1,000) that can accommodate up to 3 persons. If you’re a bigger group or you want a more comfortable ride, you can book a private Laoag City Tour via Klook.

BOOK THIS TOUR HERE!

Location: Laoag City, Ilocos Norte


La Paz Sand Dunes

La Paz Sand Dunes is the other popular sand dunes site in Ilocos Norte. Similar to Suba Sand Dunes, you can also go on a 4×4 adventure here. Then, after the very thrilling ride, you’re in for another treat with the unlimited sand boarding.

Much like the Paoay Sand Dunes, the La Paz Sand Dunes have set the scene for different films. Among them, Fernando Poe Jr.’s Ang Panday features the sandy expanse!

If you’re interested in adding this to your itinerary, here are some tips for you. Make sure to hold on tight when you’re riding the 4×4, the waves of the sand dunes is not for the faint-hearted. Wear comfortable clothing especially if you plan on going sand boarding. And if you go sliding down the sandy slope, keep in mind that you’ll have to climb back up too. This part is actually more tiring, to be honest. With that, remember to bring a bottle of water with you.

You can book your 4×4 adventure at La Paz Sand Dunes in advance via Klook.

RESERVE YOUR SLOT HERE!

Location: La Paz, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte


La Preciosa

If you’re looking for a place to try Ilocano dishes in Laoag, consider La Preciosa. They serve Ilocano favorites along with other Filipino dishes. Among the dishes you can try are their crispy dinardaraan (an Ilocano version of dinuguan). Other Ilocano dishes you can order here are insarabasab, dinengdeng, sinanglao, warek-warek, higadu, and various bagnet dishes.

La Preciosa

La Preciosa is also known for their cakes and pastries. We were told that this is where you can try the best carrot cake in the province. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to try it during our visit. If you dine at La Preciosa during your Ilocos trip, give it a taste and let us know if their carrot cake lives up to its reputation!

Opening Hours: Daily, 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Location: Arabella’s Event’s Place, F. Julian Street, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte


Where to Stay

Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel. Photo provided by the hotel via Agoda.

To complete your upcoming Ilocos Norte trip, you can’t stop at knowing the best things to do in Laoag and Paoay! You have to make sure that you have a place to stay in as well. Being the capital of the province of Ilocos Norte, Laoag is also the usual base for tourists visiting the province. Aside from that, this is also where the airport is located so it’s a convenient location if you’re going to fly to Ilocos. There are multiple accommodation options you can consider booking here. To help you with choosing one for your trip, here are the top-rated hotels in Laoag.

Top Hotels on Agoda

Top Hotels on Booking.com

Find more Ilocos Norte Hotels!

Klook.com


How to Get There

By Air

Traveling by air is the fastest way to get to Ilocos from Manila. Cebu Pacific flies to Laoag daily so you can book a flight on a day that’s most convenient to you. It only takes 1 hour and 20 minutes which is a significant difference compared to the travel time of up to 9 hours if you take the bus.

Aside from the shorter travel time, Cebu Pacific flights to Laoag also have good timing. You’ll arrive in Laoag at around 5:30 AM so you can immediately start your day exploring. Having the first day of your trip as a full day gives you a lot more time to see more attractions especially if you’re running on a tight schedule.

By Bus

If you’re planning to fill your much-needed vacation with things to do in Laoag and Paoay, traveling by bus is also an option. There are multiple bus companies that travel from Manila to different parts of Ilocos. Travel time is 8 to 9 hours depending on your destination and the traffic condition. You can check out our Manila to Ilocos by Bus article for more details.


Updates Log

2024.03.23 – First uploaded

Related Article: Top Things to Do in Pagudpud & Burgos, Ilocos Norte


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