These are 2000-year old terraces that were carved into the mountains of Ifugao in the Philippines by ancestors of the indigenous people.It is commonly thought that the terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand. The terraces are located approximately 1500 meters (5000 ft) above sea level and cover 10,360 square kilometres (about 4000 square miles) of mountainside. They are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above the terraces. It is said that if the steps are put end to end it would encircle half the globe.
Because of its high altitude, Banaue is often described as “where land merges with the clouds to meet the heavens” with the rice terraces as “the stairway to the sky.”
Banaue is synonymous with Luzon’s most famous icon, the Unesco World Heritage–listed Ifugao rice terraces, etched out of the hillsides using primitive tools and an ingenious irrigation system over 2000 years ago. The Ifugao by no means had a monopoly on rice terraces in the Cordillera, but they were arguably the best sculptors.
The rice paddies are fed by mountain springs and streams that are channeled into an irrigation canal that runs downhill through the terraces.In the last few years, tourism has developed in the are, offering activities for visitors which include the traditional sightseeing of the Banaue Rice Terraces and visits to the tribes at the foot of the terraces. A special attraction is considered the Mumbaki , a traditional Ifugao witch doctor that performs spiritual healing rituals.
Banaue’s setting, and accommodation remains of stellar value compared with most tourist hot spots in the Philippines.
The Ifugao are almost as famous for carving wood as they are for carving earth into green, fuzzy, rice-bearing steps. You’ll find myriad locally made carvings and other crafts in the shops surrounding the main plaza. Two kilometres north of town you can ogle rice terraces to your heart’s content at the viewpoint.
Getting to Banaue
The trip from Manila takes about 9 hours and air-conditioned buses have daily trips straight to Banaue. There are many terminals from where you can get the bus, but it is more indicated to visit the airport’s info desk and get the right information. During the trip to Ifugao, the bus will pass through the provinces of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, and the sights won’t be few.
Accommodation around Banaue shouldn’t be a problem, as you are likely to find several inns in town and other lodging houses at reasonable rates. You can also search for private houses where you can stay for a lesser charge.