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Things to do in Philippines

Hanging coffins and mountain scenery in Sagada

Sagada is a small valley in the mountains that’s famous for its hanging coffins and mountain scenery…

By Rupert Andres
Philippines tour guide

Sagada hanging coffins

Sagada is a small valley in the mountains that’s famous for its hanging coffins. On this tour, you’ll get to learn all about this ancient burial practice, as well as visit coffee farms, caves and soak up the peaceful mountain scenery. Guests often tell me Sagada is their favourite stop in the Philippines because it has everything: history, trekking, waterfalls and the best restaurants, including the famous Yoghurt House. There’s also a natural cloud sea in the mornings which is so famous that Filipinos from Manila drive up on weekends to see it at sunrise.

I think it’s important for visitors to come to the north of the Philippines as it’s very different from the rest of the country. This is because the remote tribes here were less influenced by Spanish colonists, so they’ve kept most of their original traditions. If you go to Sagada now, there are people that still believe in Animism, as well as pagans and Christians. When it comes to sustainable tourism, the government here does a good job of preserving the local culture too. Tourist numbers are controlled and while the hanging coffins are scattered all over Sagada, there are only a few areas where visitors can see them.

The tour starts around 9am with a walk to Echo Valley. On the way, we’ll stop to look at St Mary’s Church and visit a new public cemetery. This is where most locals are buried now, partly because the criteria for being laid to rest in a hanging coffin is very strict, you need to have children, money and to have died by natural causes. Locals are very protective of their customs. From here, we’ll walk to a viewpoint to see some of the hanging coffins, which are pegged to the cliffs so they can’t be dug up by animals. Guests are amazed to learn all about this 2,000-year-old tradition.

The trip continues with a gradual uphill trek, passing through a cave with an underground river, while enjoying the alpine scenery. This leads to Bokong Falls, where guests can cool down in the clear water and relax before lunch at a restaurant. You’ll get to try some local dishes, including our famous cured meat, etag, which is salted and sun-dried. After lunch, we visit Ola’s coffee farm, where you’ll learn about the harvesting process and get the chance to taste some of the strong, fragrant coffee.

A highlight is our visit to Lumiang Cave, which is part of Sagada’s vast network of underground caves and was once used as a burial ground. In fact, we’ll get to see around 100 coffins at the mouth of the cave. Our final stop of the day is at Sagada Weaving and Pottery where you’ll meet the local artisans who create intricate hand-made products using traditional techniques. We usually head back to town mid-afternoon, so you have time to explore independently and relax. Although Sagada is a small community, there’s plenty to enjoy, from craft beer cellar tours to souvenir stores and locally-run coffee shops.


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Alfred & Rupert Andres

Rupert Andres is from Manila and has been adventure guiding for six years. He leads tours all over the Philippines, from its tropical islands to the rice terraces in the north. Rupert is a natural storyteller and entertainer with a real passion for guiding; he's keen to share his love for Filipino culture with visitors.
Rupert Andres, Sagada tour guide

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Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Suzanne, who's travelled extensively in The Philippines. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember – the free diver who can take you swimming with turtles, the guides who can take you to secret lagoons and hidden beaches, and the locals who can school you in the art of nipa weaving.

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