Heritage houses, cobblestone streets, kalesas, historic attractions, and delicious cuisine—these spell out Vigan City. 

As one of the best preserved Spanish colonial towns in the world, Vigan City has a unique charm that anyone would be attracted to. In fact, you might not see much of its classic architecture and matching cobblestoned streets elsewhere in the Philippines. Plus, there are food and attractions of interest in and around the city that surely make the 8 to 10-hour road trip so worth it.

Best Places to Visit in Vigan

Vigan is an amazing place to travel to. Here are the best places to include in your Vigan Tourist Spots itinerary:

  1. Calle Crisologo
  2. Syquia Mansion Museum
  3. RG Jar Factory
  4. Bantay Church Bell Tower
  5. Baluarte Resort

What’s inside this blog?

To get to know more Vigan City, let’s take a look at this Vigan tour guide and travel back in time!

History of Vigan City

a view of the old houses in calle crisologo in vigan

Vigan was an important coastal trading post in pre-colonial times. 

Long before the Spanish galleons came, it was the Chinese junks who sailed first to Isla de Bigan through the Mestizo River. They came to barter exotic goods from Asian kingdoms in exchange for gold, beeswax and other mountain products from the Cordilleras. Most Chinese settled in Vigan, intermarried with the natives and started the multi-cultural bloodline of the Bigueños.

In 1572, King Philip II sent Captain Juan de Salcedo with about 80 soldiers to explore the coast of Los Ilocano that sailed from Manila to Vigan.

After the successful expedition and exploration of the North, Captain Juan de Salcedo founded “Villa Fernandina de Vigan” in honor of King Philip II’s son, Prince Ferdinand who died at the age of four. Because of this, he was rewarded by the King with the old province of Ylocos which then composed of the Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union and some parts of the Mountain Province as his Encomienda and was accorded the title as Justicia Mayor de esta Provincia de Ylocos.

It was believed that when Salcedo asked a native what the name of the place is in Spanish, the native could not understand a word he was saying. Salcedo then pointed on the ground and the native thought that he was actually asking for the name of the vegetation planted on the ground. So the native said “bigaa apo, bigaa apo”, referring to a tuber plant from the “gabi” or taro family. From then on the Spaniards named the place Bigan.

In the 17th century, Vigan City witnessed one of the bloodiest wars in Philippine history—the revolt by Diego and Gabriela Silang against the Spaniards.

During World War II, Vigan came close to destruction at the hands of the Japanese, if not for a priest taking in the Filipino wife and child of the city’s Japanese military commander, on the condition that Vigan be spared.

But the battles didn’t stop there because after the war, in the 1970s, the town became a battleground again but this time, between political clans vying for control of Ilocos.

The state of Vigan City then was far from the tourist destination that it is now.

Vigan City: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Vigan heritage village has never failed to catch attention in the tourism scene. Because Vigan has maintained its authenticity in its grid street pattern, historic urban layout, and use of open spaces, UNESCO has inscribed it in the list of World Heritage Sites.

According to UNESCO, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.

Places to visit in Vigan

One of the most beautiful places in the Philippines is Vigan so when you’re in town, make sure to check out these places for an amazing trip! From Vigan houses to jar factories, we’ve rounded up all the best places you must see in the historic city of Vigan.

a local woan passing through a colorful souvenir shop in vigan

Address: Crisologo, Vigan Philippines

A trip to Vigan Philippines won’t be complete without walking along the iconic Calle Crisologo. The Spanish houses erected here by the wealthy families have been so well-maintained over the years. Tourists can ride a kalesa or simply take a fun walking Vigan tour to see the marvelous heritage houses.

2. Syquia Mansion Museum

the exquisite dining hall of the syquia mansion

Photo credits to Dan Lundberg / Flickr

Address: Quirino Boulevard, Vigan Ilocos Sur

Located in Quirino Boulevard, the Syquia Mansion Museum has been decorated with antique furniture, paintings, and exhibits from the time of President Elpidio Quirino, a native of Vigan. The stunning house was owned by Quirino’s wife, who belonged to the affluent Syquia family.

3. RG Jar Factory

different vases and pots in rg jar factory

Address: Gomez St, Vigan Ilocos Sur

After you’re done exploring the Vigan heritage village, go for a unique couple or family bonding activity in RG Jar Factory where you can make your own pot and jar. The jar makers can demo how it’s done and let you create your own clay pot or jar. The place does not have any entrance fees whatsoever but you could donate any amount, it’s up to you. 

4. Bantay Church Bell Tower

tourists climbing the bantay church bell tower

Address: Bantay, Ilocos Sur

If you can’t get enough of the Vigan heritage village and want to get a taste of the city’s old-world charm, go to Bantay Bell Tower. The Bantay Church Bell Tower served as the town’s watchtower in 1591. The magnificent view may have been the reason why it was supposedly “Diego and Gabriela Silang’s favorite date spot during the 17th century.”

5. Baluarte Resort

antrance at the balaurte park and zoo

Address: Quirino Boulevard, Tamag, Vigan City, 2700 Ilocos Sur

Just 10 minutes away from Calle Crisologo, Baluarte Resort and Mini Zoo lets you get close to nature’s wonderful creatures from cute little birds to big cats a.k.a. tigers. It’s also dubbed as the “Home of the Big Cats in Vigan,” as it shelters Bengal tigers, white lions, and leopards.

Things to do in Vigan

Here are some of the most fun activities you must try in Vigan City:

1. Food trip

a kalesa passing through a vigan restaurant

Vigan Ilocos Sur is a haven for foodies! Wherever you look, you’ll find a grand restaurant, hole-in-the-wall cafes, or quaint eateries that serve oh-so-delicious food! You must try their famous Vigan longganisa and empanada! What’s even better is that the food here isn’t expensive unlike in other touristy places. 

2. Go on a weaving tour

a guy weaving abel cloth

Abel cloth is a traditional woven product in Vigan known for its unique beauty and durability. Many families hand abel cloth down to younger generations as heirlooms as this is something that represents their culture. Places you can visit are: Cristy’s Loomweaving, Rowilda’s Loomweaving, Vigan Public Market, and Calle Crisologo.

3. Make your own pot

a newly formed beautiful vase at rg jar factory

Another fun activity you can try in Vigan Ilocos Sur is pottery making! If you love planting, this might come in handy for you! You can visit RG Jar Factory and test your hand skills at pottery. If you don’t have the patience and creative “skill” for it, you can try the less graceful but possibly equally satisfying alternative: smashing jars to make clay beds for fishponds.

4. Visit the Vigan Cathedral

facade of the manila cathedral

The Vigan Cathedral, also known as the St. Paul’s Cathedral is considered a major religious landmark not only of northern Luzon but the country as well. The original structure was built in 1574 with wood and thatch. It was just a mere chapel then. It was only in 1641 when it was turned into a church and was completed in 1800. 

The St. Paul’s Cathedral follows a Baroque architectural design that has been modified by Ilocanos to strengthen the structure against earthquakes which is known as “Earthquake Baroque.”

5. Discover the Hidden Garden Vigan

Contrary to its name, Hidden Garden Vigan is not actually hidden. In fact, it’s found at the heart of Vigan City and is frequented by tourists and locals alike. Here you can shop souvenirs, clothes, and plants or dine at their garden restaurant that serve fresh food everyday after a tiring Vigan tour at the Vigan heritage village!

Must-try food in Vigan

One of the main reasons travelers go to Vigan is the food! More than the Vigan longganisa and empanada, there’s more that this charming town offers. Make sure to try these when in Vigan:

1. Vigan longganisa

different vigan longganisa in the market

Oh dear, trust us! You can’t leave Vigan without tasting the city’s famous longganisa! Unlike the usual longganisa that’s sweet and juicy, Vigan longganisa is rich in flavor kicking your taste buds with garlic, salt, paper, and special herbs and spices! It’s kind of dry and saltier when eaten. Tourists never leave Vigan without buying this delectable treat for their family and friends back home.

2. Empanada 

vigan empanada

Photo credits to Jose Nicdao / Flickr

Another treat you shouldn’t miss when in Ilocos is the Vigan empanada! It is a deep-fried pastry stuffed with meat. But what makes Vigan empanada different from others is its stuffing. Their empanada is filled with meat, vegetables, and egg, then paired with the best vinegar sauce! While you’re eating, you can also watch the famous dancing fountain Vigan near the plaza!

3. Sinanglaw 

Sinanglaw is a soup dish made of beef and beef innards flavored with garlic, onions and ginger. Kamias gives it a distinctly sour taste with a hint of bitterness, usually a favorite pulutan (beer match). It’s been compared to the popular beer chow pinapaitan.

Best time to go to Vigan

The best time to go to Vigan is around January to May. Vigan celebrates its town fiesta every January while summertime in the Philippines is best to be spent from March to May.

How to get to Vigan

There are two ways to get to Vigan: by bus and by plane.

By bus

From Manila, you can ride a bus bound for Vigan. The travel time will take about 8 to 10 hours depending on the traffic.

By plane

From Manila, you can take a plane to Laoag City. Upon arrival, there is a lot of public transportation available in the Laoag City Airport that can take you to Vigan. Travel time is about an hour. It’s faster but it’s thrice the price of the bus fare ticket. 

For affordable accommodation in Vigan that doesn’t sacrifice comfort and quality, make sure to check out www.zenrooms.com!

Frequently Asked Questions About Vigan City

Q: What is Vigan famous for?
A: Vigan is famous for its well-preserved Spanish Colonial town, historical Vigan tourist spots, and delicious food and delicacies. Because of its charm, it has been inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Q: Where is Vigan located?
A: Vigan City is located in the province of Ilocos Sur. Here you can find the famous Vigan houses that date back to the Spanish colonial era and so many more.

Q: What are the most beautiful places in Vigan?
A: Vigan is an amazing place to travel to. Here are the best places to include in your Vigan Tourist Spots itinerary whether you want to learn more about the facts about Vigan City, history of Vigan City or just chill:

  1. Calle Crisologo
  2. Syquia Mansion Museum
  3. RG Jar Factory
  4. Bantay Church Bell Tower
  5. Baluarte Resort Vigan Philippines
  6. Vigan Cathedral
  7. Crisologo Museum
  8. Plaza Salcedo
  9. Ilocos Sur Adventure Zone
  10. Mindoro Beach of Vigan

Q: What are the best things to do in Vigan?
A: Here are some of the most fun things to do in Vigan: 

  1. Food trip
  2. Travel back in time in Calle Crisologo
  3. Go on a weaving tour
  4. Pot-making
  5. City tour

Q: How many hours drive from Manila to Vigan?
A: The travel time from Manila to Vigan is around 8-10 hours.

Q: How many hours Vigan to Pagudpud?
A: Traveling to Pagudpud from Vigan takes approximately 3 hours.

Disclaimer: ZEN Rooms claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on ZEN Rooms, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

Ilocos region is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines that is both full of magnificent natural beauty and rich preserved colonial era cultural sites. It is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Vigan City in Ilocos Sur and Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte.

Paoay Church, also known as San Agustin Church, is one of the top tourist destinations in the province. Its spectacular view from all angles occupies most tourists’ posts on social media, as well as postcards, books, and magazines.

What’s inside this blog?

Paoay Church Location

Simabahan ng Paoay is one of the most famous and oldest churches in the Philippines. It is located at Marcos Ave, Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

ZEN Rooms Quarantine Hotels

Paoay Church History

facade of paoay church with candy-colored sky

Ang Simbahan ng Paoay was founded by Augustinian missionaries in 1593, and was a labor of love over time and in the face of earthquakes and other disasters.

The Paoay Church history began in the 17th century. What started as Paoay Church drawing turned into reality. The construction of the Simabhan ng Paoay in Ilocos Norte was spread over a century beginning from 1604: the cornerstone of the church was laid in 1704; the convent in 1707; and the belltower in 1793. Even while still unfinished, Paoay Church was already used by parishioners. In 1896, it was finally inaugurated. But in 1706 and 1927, it was damaged by earthquakes.

Its scars made it more beautiful and worth visiting. Because of San Agustin Church Paoay’s historical and artistic significance, it was designated as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site among the country’s baroque churches in 1993.

Seeing it in person in Paoay Ilocos Norte, you’d think it’s like straight out from a postcard. The sky above the church is often a deep cerulean making it a photographer’s haven. 

Paoay Church Ilocos Norte, overall, is an interesting design. It is adorned with eight pilasters and 24 extravagant coral-block buttresses and ornate stone finials that hold it up and protect it against earthquake damage.

The bell tower was intended to be constructed at a distance from the church to minimize damage should it fall.

According to historians, the bell tower served as a status symbol for the locals—the bell would ring more loudly and more times during the wedding of a prominent clan than it would during the wedding of the less privileged. It was also said to have been used as a Filipino watchtower during the 1898 uprising against the Spaniards.

Photo credits to Dan Lundberg via Flickr

Its altar and retablo are of a plain design compared to others; the latter bears an only a statue of the church’s patron saint, San Agustin. Nevertheless, it doesn’t diminish the church’s beauty.

Paoay Church being one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites

In 1993, Paoay Church Ilocos Norte was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the best examples of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines. The historical church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses.

Portions of the church were damaged by two major earthquakes. In 1973, it was designated as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government. During an excavation inside the church in 2000, a prehistoric human skeleton and fragmented ceramics were discovered and are now on display at the National Museum. 

How to get to Paoay Church

From Manila, you can go to Paoay Ilocos Norte in two ways: by plane and by bus. 

By Plane

You can book a flight from Manila to Laoag which is the gateway to Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

From the Laoag Airport, Paoay Church is 45 minutes to an hour away. Vans and tricycles are available outside of the airport.

By Bus

From Manila, ride a bus bound for Laoag. There are hourly bus rides to Laoag via Farinas, Florida and Partas. Some buses take you directly to Paoay.

Travel time from Manila to Laoag by bus  is around 10 to 12 hours. From the bus terminal, Paoay Church is 45 minutes to an hour away. Vans and tricycles are available outside of the terminal

Places you can visit near Paoay Church

After you tour Paoay Church Ilocos Norte, there are still many great places you can check out near the area. 

1. Malacañang of the North

Malacañang of the North ilocos Norte

Photo credits to Troy Alyson Espiritu via Flickr

Malacañang of the North, also known as Malacanañg ti Amianan, is a presidential museum in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. It was the residence of the family of Ferdinand Marcos when he was the President of the Philippines.

2. Paoay Sand Dunes

a lime 4x4 vehicle at paoay sand dunes

If you want an extreme and thrilling adventure while in Ilocos, make sure to visit Paoay Sand Dunes and book a 4×4 ride! Once you’ve finally decided to take the adventure, brace yourself for a bumpy but oh-so-fun ride like no other!

3. Paoay Lake

aerial view of paoay lake

Locally known as Dacquel a Danum, Paoay Lake is located in Ilocos Norte. Measuring 470 hectares, it is the largest lake in the province of Ilocos Norte and one of the largest natural lakes in the area. Paoay Lake is adjacent to the spectacular Malacañang of the North. The lake is home to almost 77 species of common, endangered, and nomadic birds. Make sure to try boating so you can explore the surrounding areas. 

San Agustin Church Paoay may have gone through devastations like wars and natural calamities. But it has stood the test of time.

Today, Paoay Church stands proud as a mighty icon of the town and the entire province and its unparalleled grandeur continues to make us fall in love with Ilocos Norte over and over again.

Frequently Asked Questions About Paoay Church

Q: Why is Paoay church famous?

A: Paoay Church is famous because of its historical significance and its baroque architecture. The historical church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses. Portions of the church were damaged by two major earthquakes. In 1973, it was designated as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government.

Q: How old is the Paoay Church?

A: Paoay Church is more than 300 years old  already as it was built in the 17th century.

Q: What is the oldest church in the Philippines?

A: The San Agustin Church, built between 1587 and 1606, is considered the oldest and longest standing church in the country. The church was the only structure left intact in Intramuros during World War II.

Q: What are the best places to visit in Ilocos?

A: Ilocos Region is such a great place to explore. Some of the best places to visit in Ilocos are:

  1. Calle Crisologo in Vigan
  2. Vigan Church
  3. Paoay Church
  4. Baluarte Zoo
  5. Malacañang of the North
  6. Paoay Sand Dunes
  7. Paoay Lake
  8. Bantay Church Bell Tower

Q: Ano ang alamat ng Paoay?

A: Base sa alamat, ang lawa raw ng Paoay ay hindi talaga lawa kundi isang bayan na nalunod sa baha bunsod ng walang tigil na pag-ulan dahil sa kasakiman at hindi magandang pag-uugali ng mga mayayamang nakatira noon.

If you’re planning to visit Paoay Church, make sure to book the nearest and quality budget hotel in Ilocos! Check out www.zenrooms.com for more details.

Disclaimer: ZEN Rooms claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on ZEN Rooms, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.