Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines

Nueva Vizcaya is a province located at the heart of Northern Luzon, often referred to as the Gateway to the Cagayan Valley. It is surrounded by mountain ranges in almost all sides, Caraballo to its south, Cordillera to its west and Sierra Madre to its east. Being nestled in between mountains, Nueva Vizcaya is a melting pot of ecotourism sites that are yet to be uncovered by the adventurous traveler.

Getting There and Getting Around

The province’s capital, Bayombong, is about a six-hour drive from Metro Manila. There is a domestic airport in Bagabag but it only caters to chartered flights. Commercial bus lines (Victory Liner, Baliwag Transit, etc.) that terminate in Cagayan Valley pass by Nueva Vizcaya. This is the ideal way to get to the province; the bus stops at some points en route which can be interesting for those looking for unique photo opportunities.

There are several car rental services available in the major cities of Bayombong, Solano and Bambang. Those who wish to rough it out a little can join the locals in riding jeepneys or buses that travel throughout the province. For transportation within towns, tricycles are the most convenient (and cheap) means for getting from point A to point B.

Tourist Attractions

The entrance to the province is marked by an obelisk and an arch carrying the all too familiar Welcome message. This is located close to the historic Dalton Pass (also called Balete Pass) where Japanese, American and Filipino soldiers fought one of their final battles during World War II. The rugged terrain is an interesting stop; there is a view deck that offers breathtaking panoramas of the highlands.

The town of Sta. Fe is home to the Imugan Falls, a dual-layer cascade that has a shallow catch basin ideal for swimming and fishing. Nature lovers will enjoy the surrounding terrain where small streams or rivers can also be seen. Close to the falls is the Imugan Mountain Fresh Factory where visitors can shop for jams or spreads made from wild berries and other fruits grown in the area.

There are several small towns to pass by before reaching Bambang, an upland town where some of the best attractions in Nueva Vizcaya are located. Bambang is an ideal base for spelunkers headed to the Capisaan Caves, one of the longest in the country that stretches about 4.2 kilometers. The cave system includes the Alayan and Lion caves, some rare calcite formations and a subterranean river that leads to the best part of the cave. The Alayan cave is considered one of the best in the country.

Several tours groups can take you to the caves located in Kasibu. You can check with the provincial government for information on tours or you can ask a local to point you to the right people. While the latter sounds easier, tourists are advised to book with a legitimate tour agency to ensure safety.

From Bambang, you will reach the provincial capital Bayombong where you can find the Cathedral of St. Dominic, one of the oldest churches in the region. Beside the church is the People’s Museum and Library where history buffs can immerse themselves in the heritage of Novo Vizcayanos. If you have time, the Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Capitol Complex is also worth seeing. Dubbed as the Luneta of the North, the complex features lush gardens complete with exotic flora and a manmade lagoon where you can maneuver colorful mini boats.

After Bambang is Solano, another major town where you can find hotels, restaurants and shopping centers. Solano is an ideal overnight stopover, there’s not much to see and do in town but it offers modern amenities for the weary traveler.

Lovers of the great outdoors can proceed to Ambaguio, a town considered as the gateway to the second highest peak in the Philippines, Mount Pulag. The mountain is a known home to several exotic flora and fauna including the carnivorous pitcher plants and nocturnal giant cloud rats. There are also bonsai forests and dwarf bamboo grasslands. Mount Pulag features varied terrains best suited for mountain trekkers, campers and wildlife watchers. Guided tours through the mountainside will take you to secluded hamlets of indigenous tribes called Karao, Kankanaey, Ibaloy and Kalanguya. These tribes are tourist-friendly and it would be a unique experience to immerse in their traditions that are centuries-old.

Nueva Vizcaya has almost endless ecotourism potential. This relatively unexplored region in Luzon offers a wide array of adventures fit for every type of traveler. There are old churches, museums, wide open spaces, waterfalls, springs, caves and mountains waiting to be explored. Nueva Vizcaya has yet to attract mainstream tourism but when it finally does, the province will easily rival some of the most sought-after destinations in the Philippines.

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