The city of Vigan is a must-visit destination on the main island of Luzon, Philippines.
Vigan is a destination I would recommend anyone to visit while in the Philippines, simply because of its rich history and an experience like no other in the country.
The historic city of Vigan is one of the few remaining colonial towns left in the Philippines.
The ancestral houses that line up the cobblestone streets and sights of horse-drawn carriages take you back in time when the Spanish ruled the country for over 300 years.
Vigan is one of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines. The structures in the picturesque city of Vigan remain intact, with cobblestone streets and a unique architecture that fuses Philippine and Oriental building designs and construction, with European colonial architecture.
In May 2015, Vigan City was officially recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities together with Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and La Paz.
New7Wonders Foundation president and founding member Bernard Weber led a ceremony held at St. Paul Cathedral, where he handed a bronze plaque to Vigan Mayor Eva Grace Singson-Medina, signifying the heritage city’s election as one of the world’s wonder cities.
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WHERE IS VIGAN
Vigan is part of the Ilocos province, northwest of the Luzon Island of the Philippines. It is the capital of the Ilocos Sur province, about 403 km north of Manila.
Besides the historic city of Vigan, there are other scenic destinations that you can visit along the way, such as Baguio, Pagudpud, Sagada, Laoag City, and La Union – all of which are a relatively short distance from Vigan.
DISTANCE OF NEARBY DESTINATION FROM VIGAN:
Vigan to Baguio – About 200 km, land travel time around 5h.
Vigan to Pagudpud – About 161 km, land travel time 3h and 20 min.
Vigan to Sagada – About 186 km, land travel 4h and 50min.
Vigan to Laoag City – About 82 km, land travel time around 2h.
Vigan to La Union – About 140 km, land travel around 3h.
BEST TIME TO VISIT VIGAN
Vigan enjoys two kinds of seasons, the dry season from November to April and the wet season from May to October. It is recommended that travelers visit during the dry season, especially from December to February, when temperatures are much cooler and touring will most likely not be interrupted by rains.
TRAVELING TO VIGAN FROM MANILA
Travel to Vigan by Air:
For those who have limited time, you can reach Vigan quicker via an hour’s flight to Laoag from Manila. National carriers such as Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific serve the Manila to Laoag route daily.
From the airport, head to any bus terminal in Laoag City and make your way to Vigan. The distance between Laoag and Vigan is 82 km, and the travel time will take approximately 2-hour by bus.
Travel to Vigan by Land:
Traveling by land to Vigan is more common for those coming from major cities like Manila. The travel time from Manila to Vigan usually takes 8-10 hours, depending on traffic.
I recommend taking the night buses to save time – they are punctual and comfortable and even offer WiFi on-board!
THE VIGAN VIBE
I arrived in Vigan a few days before Christmas – and it was festive as it could be.
I remember the joyous energy the moment our tricycle pulled in Calle Crisologo. It was around dinner time, and there were people gathered around tables piled with savory Filipino cuisine and buckets filled with ice-cold beer, set under festive Christmas lights. The setting was perfect for your Instagram feed.
Add the clattering sounds of the horse-drawn carriages passing by and Filipino Christmas music playing outdoors – it left quite a magical first impression of Vigan.
THINGS TO DO IN AND AROUND VIGAN
You may rent a tricycle driver to take you around Vigan. For a day’s visit, we were able to negotiate 400 PHP for a driver who took us around Vigan’s most exciting sites.
THE FAMOUS CALLE CRISOLOGO OF VIGAN
Calle Crisologo is Vigan’s main draw.
You haven’t officially been to Vigan if you did not walk along Calle Crisologo, the centerpiece of the Vigan Heritage Site in Ilocos Sur. Well-preserved ancestral homes line up the four blocks of a cobblestoned street. The main avenue is a stark comparison against the now-commercialized central city of Vigan.
Stepping foot on Calle Crisologo transports you back in time, even without the need of a time machine.
Rich in centuries-old history, this cobblestone street is lined with ancestral houses where the rich used to live during the Spanish-Philippine era.
The street gets uber busy during the day and throughout the night. Wake up before sunrise and walk around the empty street to get some fantastic shots!
VIGAN’S SYQUIA MANSION
Vigan’s Syquia Mansion is a house of the sixth President of the Philippines, Elpidio Quirino.
The Syquia Mansion in Vigan has housed four generations of Syquias and witnessed several periods in history – the Spanish and American colonial periods, the Commonwealth and the Republic.
Today, the famous Syquia Mansion of Vigan now stands as a museum of stunning beauty — the home, one of Vigan’s first Bahay-na-Bato, is inspired by classic Spanish luxury and architecture.
The first floor, which serves as a garage, contains the family’s carriage. In contrast, the second floor includes treasured paintings in the Philippines, grand furniture like four-poster beds, other interesting memorabilia, and a central courtyard, also known as Azotea.
With items from the past arranged in such an informative, picturesque way, it’s safe to say that Syquia Mansion is truly a door to the past — a door that helps locals and tourists alike appreciate Vigan more.
I highly recommend spending at least an hour of your day in Vigan visiting the mansion.
THE BELL TOWER OF VIGAN
Besides Calle Crisologo, the Bell Tower is considered by many as the other iconic landmark in Vigan.
The church and bell tower are considered to be two of the oldest structures in Vigan. The bell tower was built in 1590, and the church was in the following year. Bantay Bell Tower was used as a watchtower during the Spanish colonial period.
Head up and enjoy the cool breeze and stunning views of the Cordillera mountains.
THE MAIN SQUARE IN VIGAN – PLAZA SALCEDO
Vigan’s central plaza, Plaza Salcedo (Dancing Fountain), attracts visitors at night for the colorful dancing fountains.
Observe colored jets of water and shooting laser lights moving to the sounds of pop music.
When night falls, the fountain becomes a gathering place for tourists, lovers, and families with children. Watch kids running around and jumping through the jets of water, while romantic cavaliers propose to their chosen sweethearts.
HISTORIC CATHEDRAL OF VIGAN: ST. PAUL CATHEDRAL
One of the oldest Cathedral in the Philippines, the original structure of St. Paul Cathedral was initially built in 1574 as a chapel and later replaced by a Church in 1641.
The Church was built multiple times following destruction from earthquakes and burned down. St. Paul Cathedral, as it stands now, was built from 1790 to 1800.
EXPLORE OUTSIDE OF VIGAN! VISIT BALUARTE
Baluarte is an excellent alternative for those who want to explore other sites in Vigan.
Baluarte houses a small zoo, butterfly farm, chapel, and shooting range. Feed monkeys, camels, deer, and peacocks in the open enclosure, then head to the big cat enclosures to catch a glimpse of majestic lions and Bengal tigers.
You don’t have to pay for entrance, with all profits from the animal feed purchased going to support the zoo. Wander through the well-kept grounds of gardens and pools, stopping at the quaint pink chapel to escape the heat.
HIDDEN GARDEN IN VIGAN
The Hidden Garden is a bit of a ride outside of Vigan.
Before arriving at Hidden Garden, I had the impression that it would be a botanical garden with lots of full-grown trees and plants. But once we arrived, we noticed the garden has plants in every corner that were mostly up for sale.
The garden also features a restaurant that serves local, provincial foods that are popular in Vigan.
EAT TRADITIONAL FOOD FROM VIGAN
Ilocos region has its own delicacies, and you can taste all of them in Vigan.
If you are an adventurous eater, seeing some of these delicacies on the menu could make you question how brave you really are.
Let’s take a look at a few of the local delicacies you can taste in Vigan:
Pinapaitan is one of the famous dishes in Ilocos and Vigan, which consists of different goat or beef innards such as tripe, liver, kidney, intestine, pancreas, and heart. Initially, the goat innards were used for this dish. Still, because there are different cooking variation and substitution, beef innards were also used.
It is believed that Pinapaitan already exists in Vigan and in Ilocos before the coming of the Spaniards.
History tells that the Spaniards were not much successful in their conquest of the Ilocos region, and because of this, they were not able to teach the Ilocanos most of their ways of cooking.
Vigan longganisa is a popular breakfast dish when in Vigan.
This dish is best served with eggs and rice. These Vigan native sausages are made with ground pork and tons of garlic.
But what sets Vigan longganisa apart from other native sausages is that it incorporates the local Sukang Iloko to complete the longganisa filling.
In Ilocos, locals call their bagnet chicharron? This calorie-filled delicacy is a savory ulam (or pulutan) with its addicting juiciness and crispiness from boiling and deep-frying pork belly. This Ilocos specialty is so popular that you can also buy bagnet along roads when you’re on your way back home.
Vigan Empanadas is a delicacy that is synonymous not just to Vigan, but the province of Ilocos.
The colorful Vigan empanadas are usually filled with grated green papaya, toge (mung bean sprouts), thinly-sliced carrots, whole egg, and skinless Vigan longganisa.
We recommend you eat the Vigan empanadas immediately, as it will lose its crunchy empanada crust when left for too long.
VIGAN’S POPULAR SNACK: CHICHACORN
Chichacorn is one of Vigan’s most popular snacks and is sold virtually anywhere in town.
The word chichacorn is a word combination of ‘chicharon’ and ‘corn.’ Chichacorn is a unique Vigan snack because of its white (not yellow!) popped corn kernels.
The chichacorn Vigan snacks are available in different flavors, like garlic, chili, cheese, and adobo.
THE VIGAN DELICACY: POQUI-POQUI
When in Vigan, you must try Poqui poqui.
This popular Vigan dish is a traditional Ilocano vegetable dish made of eggplants sauteed in onions, garlic, and tomatoes, and finished off with beaten eggs.
The poqui-poqui Vigan food is commonly served for breakfast with steamed rice or as a side dish to grilled fish or fried meat for lunch.
WHERE TO STAY IN VIGAN
Although Vigan may not have the same luxury resorts in Maldives, Vigan has accommodations that fit the budget of every type of traveler. There are dormitory types, mid-range, and upscale hotels for you to choose from.
There are different hotels that tourists can stay in Vigan City depending on your needs, size of the group, and budget. Find out which type of accommodation is perfect for your trip to Vigan with these choices:
The best part is that you can easily walk along the main street of Calle Crisologo and quickly find accommodation on the spot.
ONE VITTORIA HOTEL
Situated in Vigan, One Vittoria Hotel offers modern and comfortable accommodation with free WiFi access throughout the property. It operates a 24-hour front desk and provides a free shuttle service to the heritage area of Vigan city.from booking.com
An outdoor pool sits in the middle of Hotel Luna, located in Vigan. Offering air-conditioned rooms and suites with free Wi-Fi, the hotel has its own restaurant and provides free parking.
All rooms have a flat-screen cable TV and private bathroom with hot and cold shower. Free toiletries and slippers are provided.from: booking.com
HOTEL LUNA ANNEXX
Set in Vigan, within 200 m of Calle Crisologo and 600 m of Bantay Bell Tower, Hotel Luna Annex offers accommodation with a restaurant and free WiFi as well as free private parking for guests who drive. This 3-star hotel offers room service and a concierge service.
HOTEL SALCEDO DE VIGAN
Located at the heart of Vigan’s Heritage Village, Hotel Salcedo De Vigan offers rustic and comfortable accommodation with free WiFi access in the entire property. Operating a 24-hour front desk, it provides meeting/banquet facilities and free parking space on site.
HOTEL VENETO DE VIGAN
Located in the heart of Vigan City, Hotel Veneto De Vigan offers elegant and comfortable accommodation with free WiFi access throughout the property. It operates a 24-hour front desk and provides complimentary parking space on site.
Fitted with wooden flooring, air-conditioned rooms include a wardrobe, clothes rack, electric kettle and a flat-screen TV with cable channels. Offering shower facility, the attached bathroom also comes with towels and free toiletries.from booking.com
ESCOLTA’S HOMEY LODGE
Situated in Vigan, 200 m from Calle Crisologo, Escolta’s Homey Lodge features accommodation with a shared lounge, free private parking and a garden. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and a shared kitchen, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hostel has family rooms.from booking.com
METRO VIGAN INN
Boasting a shared lounge, garden and views of garden, Metro Vigan Inn is situated in Vigan, 2.3 km from Calle Crisologo. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and room service, along with free WiFi. The inn has family rooms.
All rooms at the inn are fitted with a seating area, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a private bathroom with free toiletries and a bidet. The units at Metro Vigan Inn have air conditioning and a desk.from Booking.com
Gordion Hotel offers air-conditioned rooms one block from the cobblestone street of Crisologo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Offering free Wi-Fi and parking, it houses a bar and 2 restaurants.
Hotel Gordion is a 5-minute walk from Vigan Cathedral, Town Plaza and the Plaza Maestro. It is a 10-minute drive from Vigan Airport.from Booking.com
PARADORES DE VIGAN
Located in Vigan, 600 m from Calle Crisologo, Paradores de Vigan provides accommodation with a fitness centre, free private parking, a garden and a terrace. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, room service and free WiFi throughout the property.from Booking.com
CIUDAD FERNANDINA HOTEL
Ciudad Fernandina Hotel is located in Vigan only a 10-minute drive to Plaza Burgos. The hotel provides free WiFi access at all areas and complimentary shuttle services. Rooms are well-furnished and fully air-conditioned.from Booking.com