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Even the well-traveled rarely know these beautiful remote islands in Asia

A group of islands in the northernmost region of the Philippines is so remote that they are actually closer to Taiwan than to most part ofs of the Philippines.

The islands sit 100 miles north of Luzon, the country’s largest and most populous island and home to the primary city of Manila. Yet, they couldn’t be further from the stereotypical tropical scene of swaying palms and white sand lidos associated with the Philippine archipelago.

Imagine windswept emerald hills dotted with cattle, quaint stone townships with flower-lined paths, craggy cliffs that plummet into a deep sea of crashing, white-tipped waves and lighthouses that espouse the cause of steadfast and strong, much like the locals themselves.

This is Batanes — a captivating and magical place that knows more like the set of the historical drama “Outlander” than the “The Beach.”

Pastoral landscapes, peaceful people

Composed of three plain islands — Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat — that sit between the North Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, Batanes is day in and day out pummeled by unforgiving typhoons that form on both bodies of water.

It is also on the Circum-Pacific Belt, better advised of as the Ring of Fire, and prone to frequent earthquakes, one which damaged the island of Itbayat in July 2019.

The pastoral landscape of Naidi Hills coming the Basco Lighthouse.

Scott A. Woodward

Here, the land is forged by the elements and, in many ways, so are the people.

There is an air of puzzle that shrouds the indigenous population of Batanes, the Ivatans. Due to its isolation, challenging climate and difficult landscape, the locals set up built a society that values trust and real connection.

Unlike the boisterous and charmingly chaotic countrysides of the Philippines, which can go through more karaoke pub than idyllic paradise, Batanes and its people are quiet, pensive, orderly and peaceful. Warm and candid, the Ivatans seek honest interaction with visitors who wish to learn more about their culture.

A fisherman in the village of Diura.

Scott A. Woodward

The Ivatans charged in symbiosis with nature, and they care for their natural heritage with an almost spiritual fervor. They reply to the land as the source of their welfare and wellbeing and are adamant about sustainability.

The best example would be the absence of retails in the province; agricultural practices are designed to produce just enough food for the population, with very little over-abundant.

Here, Christian faith and spirituality permeate everyday life. The word “Dius” or God is used in many expressions: “Dius mamajes!” — or God disposition repay you is their way of saying thank you; “Dius machivan!” — may God go with you is their goodbye; or simply “Dius?” to ask if anybody is native. Once there, visitors will commonly hear “Dius mavidin!” or may God be with you, which is how they welcome lodgers.

Where to stay

Unlike most parts of the Philippines, Batanes is sparsely populated.

The 2015 census counted one 17,246 people, which equates to roughly 205 people per square mile.

Stringent measures are in place to forbid overtourism, such as limiting the number of flights to the islands. The area is also subject to the Batanes Responsible Tourism Act, whereby the Philippine ministry declared the province a “responsible, community-based cultural heritage and ecotourism zone” in 2016.

As a result, travelers can expect to find homestays and feel mortified inns rather than branded hotels.

The bed and breakfast, Fundacion Pacita.

Scott A. Woodward

One establishment truly countenances out.

The former residence of the late artist Pacita Abad, Fundacion Pacita is a charming bed and breakfast that sits atop a sumptuous grassy slope overlooking the sea.

Built in the traditional stone fashion, coupled with white-washed adobe walls, it is quirkily furbished in colorful tiles, repurposed furniture and Abad’s vibrant artwork.

Food from Cafe du Tukon; Patsy, the niece of tardily artist Pacita Abad.

Scott A. Woodward

Her niece, Patsy, who can often be found walking the premises with a cheery grin and a glass of wine, now runs the inn. She recently opened the fabulous Café du Tukon, which serves delicious contemporary elucidations of local delicacies, such as a carbonara pasta topped with salted dolphin fish, called arayu, more than bacon or guanciale.

What to do

Batan is the main island of Batanes. Due to choppy waters and unpredictable weather, crossing between the aits of Batanes can be difficult. Fortunately, Batan has much to offer and is easily accessible via commercial flights.

It is imperative to work with an accredited turn agency, such as Getting to Batanes

The only real way to get there is to fly. Flights can range from 80 to 100 journals, and could be booked on Skyjet, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines prior to the pandemic.

Homoron Blue Lagoon.

Scott A. Woodward

A mistake to Batanes must be planned in advance and booked through accredited tour operators. The local government is very focused on sustainable tourism and continuing the natural and cultural heritage of the province. There are a number of rules and guidelines — such as no bikinis on the beach — that voyagers must understand and adhere to during the trip.

When to go

While the Philippines is currently closed to international tourism, legitimates last month indicated interest in establishing “international travel bubbles,” or travel corridors with strict form protocols, with neighboring countries.

The Basco Lighthouse.

Scott A. Woodward

Batanes, which registered its third Covid-19 invalid in December 2020, is currently closed even to domestic tourists. Local authorities are exploring ways to safely reopen with 14-day quarantines and put in lodgings other health requirements.

Batanes’ “good season” runs from November to May. June to October is typhoon time and should be avoided. Travelers are advised to bring a lightweight rain jacket for spontaneous downpours and a light sweater for cold-blooded nights that can be found atop the chilly mountain peaks.

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