Just because it took us 12 hours to bike around southern Batan Island does not mean the whole thing is such a pain in the arse (well, it really was, literally) and that you shouldn’t do it. You can, and for the record, you don’t need ninja biking skills to pull this one off. The roads of Batan Island are generally good, there will always be locals around to help you in case you run into trouble, and the route is easy to navigate even without a guide.
A word of caution, however: biking around Batanes is physically taxing. You need to be fit to do this, not really because the route is dangerously complicated, but because it’s quite long and you’re going to make countless stops along the way because there’s just so much to see.
BIKE RENTAL. We rented our bikes on an hourly basis from our host. The whole trip cost almost P500 for both of us—a pretty affordable price, and definitely cheaper than when we hired a tricycle to tour us around the same spots (a trike tour costs P200-P250 per hour, which really wasn’t workable for us since we take so much time taking photos. Besides, we hate rushing). Since there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of bicycles around Batanes, you can simply ask your hotel/inn if they can arrange for a bike rental for you—that is, if you didn’t bring yours along (and we highly recommend mountain bikes to make everything easier). Or maybe ask the locals if you can rent theirs for the day. Haha.
You’re going to originate from Basco, the capital, where you’re most probably based. Below is the route we followed. It’s not perfect, but we’re discussing it just in case somebody wants to try.
MAP OF BATAN ISLAND. Share it, use it on your own trip, just don’t claim it as your own! If you want a bigger version, email us at two2travelblog(at)gmail.com.
BASCO > DOWNTOWN MAHATAO > DIURA FISHING VILLAGE > DOWNTOWN MAHATAO > SAN VICENTE > IVANA > UYUGAN > SONGSONG > ITBUD > MARLBORO COUNTRY > DOWNTOWN MAHATAO
The roads here pass along the mountainside where there are lots of blind curves on one side and the roaring waves of the ocean down below on the other side. Be careful when negotiating this route. We don’t advise you to take this at night since there are no lampposts to guide your way. Everything from motorbikes to trikes to trucks pass by this road too. It’s as narrow as Naguilian Road going to Baguio (only with better views).
Right after the Mahatao welcome post (not arch. see photo), take a left turn at the fork (you’ll see a sign pointing to Diura Fishing Village here. If you want to go to Diura, take this left).
This will take 15-30 minutes from downtown Mahatao. Once you get to a three-pronged fork, take the middle, which will take you all the way down to the village. You’ll know you’re there when the sea comes to view.
You can have your lunch in one of the restaurants here (we forgot the name of the canteen we dined at, but it’s near the plaza). There’s also an old church nearby.
The House of Dakay, the oldest stone house in Ivana (not in Batanes, as many accounts would tell you) is found here. The Ivana church, Honesty Coffee Shop, and Ivana port going to Sabtang are also a couple of steps from one another.
You’ll pass by Songsong Ruins, an uninhabited village ravaged by a tsunami in the 1950s.
Verdant hills, stony shores, the works.
This is mostly uphill, as you’re making your way back north (please refer to map).
You’ll reach a a waiting shed and a fork right past it—one going up (left), the other going down. The right goes down to Imnajbu, a seaside town, while the left one marks the ascent to Marlboro Country. This road is partly concrete, mostly dirt road under construction. The ascent took us one hour (hardly any picture-taking happened at this point).
This is the best part: go out of Marlboro Country using its opposite gate (just pedal onwards; if you look at the map, you should be going north. Don’t go back the way you came in). From here, it’s an AWESOME downhill ride for about four kilometers straight. The last few kilometers are the same ones you passed by on the way to Diura Fishing Village. Just keep going left, and soon you’ll emerge at another fork—one going straight through a bridge, the other (right) going up. Take the bridge, which will take you to the inner alleys of downtown Mahatao’s village. One or two turns and voila! You’re at the town proper. Easypeasy.
ALTERNATIVE ROUTE (WITH TRICYCLE + BIKE)
BASCO > DOWNTOWN MAHATAO > DIURA FISHING VILLAGE > MARLBORO COUNTRY > DOWNTOWN MAHATAO
Bike from Basco to Diura, call for a trike in Mahatao to fetch you at Diura and take you up to Marlboro Country (you can strap your bike onto the trike), and spend an hour or two there. You don’t need to make the tricycle wait, because you can just bike the way down to downtown Mahatao. From downtown Mahatao, you can retrace your route to Basco or you can hire a tricycle to take you back (P120, Mahatao to Basco, with bikes strapped on the trike). We recommend this if it’s nearing nightfall. Or if you’re too tired, just like us.
Here are the trike fares to the spots along the bike route we mentioned. Please note that these are prices for two people. They may charge more if you’re a bigger party because of the uphill roads.
- Basco > Marlboro Country (30 mins): P200
- Basco > Diura Fishing Village (20 mins): P180
- Basco > downtown Mahatao (15 mins): P100 (An extra P20 for two bikes strapped on the trike)
- Basco > Ivana (30mins): P200-P220
- Wear sunscreen (we did not. And we’re currently paying for it).
- Suit up (again, as you can see from the photos, we did not).
- Bring your water bottle for refills along the way. You will pass by a refilling station in Ivana, left side of the road along the village before the port.
- If you plan on taking lots of photos, allot one whole day for this activity.
- Take your meals at downtown Mahatao and/or Ivana. At Honesty Coffee Shop, there’s coffee and cup noodles but we recommend you pop in only for a look and maybe some photos. Better to take your meals at Mahatao. After that, there’s hardly any place else to buy heavy food, although there are sari-sari stores as far away as Uyugan.
- Start as early as the sun is up to get back before nightfall.
- Bring a friend. Really. I mean, who’s going to take your pictures?!