There are many rice terraces in the Philippines, and they are an absolute spectacle that you must see before you die.
In my case, I was very fortunate to see the three “largest” rice terraces in the Philippines: Banaue, Batad, and Maligcong. For me, Maligcong Rice Terraces stands out as the most beautiful rice terraces in the Philippines.
Before, it was only my dream to see the rice terraces in person. Now, it is an experience and a memory that will forever make me smile whenever I cherish it.
In this blog post, I will tell you all the things you need to know when traveling to Maligcong Rice Terraces. May this post convince and help you visit the most beautiful rice terraces in the Philippines.
Before anything else, let’s know first what Maligcong Rice Terraces is all about:
Where is Maligcong Rice Terraces?
Maligcong Rice Terraces is a hidden gem in the Philippines located in Barangay Maligcong, Bontoc, Mountain Province. The terraced rice fields sit at the slopes of Mount Kupapey down to the Chico river tributary. See below the location of Maligcong Rice Terraces in Maps.
What is Maligcong Rice Terraces?
Maligcong Rice Terraces is a National Cultural Heritage Site of the Philippines, a testament to the ingenuity, craft, and indigenous engineering skills of the inhabitants of Maligcong. It expresses the rich culture and history of the Maligcong community who built the terraces.
It is one of the rice terraces in the Philippines to have stone walls to support the rice paddies. Without a doubt, embedded on its walls is the immeasurable manual labor that the residents of Maligcong have given to create the masterpiece.
The name Maligcong came from the word “ligcong,” which means to level the land for a rice field. “Ma,” on the other hand, is added to the word “ligcong” to describe the location of the village surrounded by rice fields.
Why Visit Maligcong Rice Terraces?
A sea of clouds, scenic mountain ranges, and of course, the humongous terraced rice fields await you in Maligcong. It is a destination packed with three awe-inspiring spectacles, the ones that can make you feel absolute bliss.
Yes, that’s how Maligcong Rice Terraces has made me feel. No words can describe its beauty, and no pictures and videos can give justice to the actual scenery.
I discovered Maligcong Rice Terraces in an Instagram post in my feed way back in 2019.
It was the year when I promised myself that I would travel for a whole year, visiting new places at least once a month. Read my 10 years of my story.
2019 was also the year when I really wanted to visit places where a sea of clouds occur. So, when I learned that it could happen in Maligcong, I immediately added it to my bucket list.
Comparing my Maligcong experience versus Mount Pulag, I can tell that I enjoyed Maligcong more. Yet, Mount Pulag is more memorable because there I had my first sea of clouds experience.
When viewing Maligcong Rice Terraces, there are no bummer scenarios besides when it is raining. The scenery at the viewpoint is perfect with or without a sea of clouds.
At the viewpoint, if a sea of clouds did not appear, the majestic rice terraces would be there to fill your eyes with wonder. It will always be a win-win situation!
In my case, I was blessed to experience both. I’ll tell you how later on.
Also, I have to tell you that Maligcong is still an underdeveloped tourist destination in the Philippines. But don’t let it discourage you!
I am one hundred percent sure that traveling to this faraway, undeveloped place is worth your money and time. In fact, it is another reason why you should visit Maligcong.
You have to experience it while it is still untouched by modern civilization. If you plan to visit, you can expect real adventure, an authentic connection with nature, and a genuine encounter with locals.
Things to do in Maligcong
In Maligcong, the four best things that you can do are:
- Climb Mount Fato
- Climb Mount Kupapey
- Trek in the Rice Terraces
- Visit the Sitios (Favuyan and Favarey)
Some travelers do these in one hike. They start the hike in Mount Fato then traverse to Mount Kukapey’s peak. From mount Kupapey’s peak, they descend to the villages by the rice terraces.
But in our case, we split the hike into two.
By the way, I joined a group called Malaya Travels, which did all the fantastic work organizing the trip. They helped me explore the rice terraces, and they made sure that all members enjoyed the whole trip. The best travel group ever!
The first part of hiking did not immediately start by the time we reached our homestay in Maligcong. It was noontime when we arrived, so we ate lunch first and took a 2-hour nap.
Why nap if there is a spectacular view that awaits?
We were really excited to see Maligcong Rice Terraces but, we left Manila by midnight, so we hit Maligcong the next day noontime.
The road to Bontoc is zigzag and would pass numerous turns. It will not let you have a deep sleep, no matter how comfortable your vehicle is.
We decided to sleep for a while to gain energy for the hike – and if you are planning to come to Maligcong, you should do the same too!
Either way, the rain poured after we ate lunch. So, that 2-hour nap was something that’s really for us. Later on, I realized that the rain is a factor for a more spectacular view during a hike. You will know later why.
Our first hike started at 3 in the afternoon. It was still drizzling lightly by that time, so we had to wear raincoats while hiking.
IMPORTANT: You need to get a guide when visiting different places in Maligcong. It is still an off-the-beaten-path destination, and it would be hard to go explore by yourself. You can ask your homestay owner to get you a guide.
Some parts of the trails in both mountains (Fato and Kupapey) are hard to detect unless you’ve hiked at them many times. There are no signboards that can help you navigate through the mountains. It’s another reason why you will need a guide.
Nevertheless, it’s going to be a real adventure! You’ll have fun, I’m sure.
Hike Mount Fato
When you are in Maligcong, you should hike Mount Fato first before Mount Kupapey. It will serve as your appetizer for all the sensational views that await on Mount Kupapey.
Mount Fato is a mountain west of Sitio Favuyan in Barangay Maligong, standing at 1438 meters (4717.9 feet). Climbing Mount Fato is easy, but beginners might need a few warm-up sessions before hiking this mountain.
The hiking trail in Mount Fato will require you to scramble several times. There are also leg-stretching steps that you will encounter while hiking. So you gotta be wearing comfortable and stretchable shorts or pants unless you want to rip them during the hike.
However, when you get near the summit, the path will be mostly flat. The surroundings you will see are mostly pine trees – great for forest bathing!
At the summit, there you will see a few large rocks that you can further climb. Climbing them will give you a better view of the scenic surroundings.
During our hike and in the trail, I expected to see nothing but fog at the summit. It was still drizzling and raining by the time we hit the middle of the track.
But, when we reached the peak, it did not turn up that way! Fortunately, the rain stopped as soon as we arrived at the summit of Mount Fato.
What’s more fun? There was a clearing! I was surprised by the view that greeted us there at the peak.
There I saw the mountains breathing. The white vapor rose from the blue giant surrounding us. It’s one of the most fascinating phenomena I have ever witnessed in my entire life.
That’s when I realized that it is actually the precipitation that makes the sea of clouds.
The moisture from the ground evaporates, creating low-lying clouds. When they accumulate, they form the overcast. And if seen from above, it is what we call the sea of clouds.
While we were rejoicing at the summit because of the clearing, the sun suddenly peeked out of the clouds. It started to paint the sky with golden colors.
I cannot forget the feeling I had that time. I already felt that my trip was complete. I thought I had seen enough spectacle for the entire trip. Also, I thought I was ready to go home.
My wanderlust was definitely satisfied.
We were back in our homestay with the sun already below the horizon. As much as I can remember, it was around 6:30 pm.
At our homestay, we had an absolutely delightful dinner. Food from the mountains will always taste better than anywhere else! By 9 pm, we went to bed and had the most desired sleep.
Hike Mount Kupapey
Mount Kupapey is the highlight of the trip to Maligcong. Hiking this mountain is something not to be missed. It is the best thing to do in Maligcong, and you will know why.
Mount Kupapey is the peak in the Philippine Cordillera mountain range, located within Barangay Maligcong. It has an altitude of 1,650 meters (5413 feet) above sea level.
For me hiking Mount Kupapey is easier than Mount Fato, yet the trail is a bit longer. The steps could be slippery because of the fallen leaves of the pine trees settled down the ground. I suggest that you wear shoes with excellent grip when hiking Mount Kupapey.
The most important is that you must be at the summit of Mount Kupapey before sunrise. Overnight camping is not allowed, so you really must wake up very early in the morning and hike to the peak.
There is a fireplace at the summit of Mount Kupapey to keep you warm if you arrive too early at the peak. It’s also a good place for bonding with your friends or special someone. Don’t forget to bring them there!
Bring and eat marshmallows. Talk about your lives, dreams, and feelings. The stars above you will make your aspirations come true.
Going back to our hiking story…
We woke up around 2:45 in the morning to prepare ourselves to hike Mount Kupapey. The weather was fine, and it seemed there was no rain coming.
I looked up in the sky, and I saw stars glittering brightly. That time I knew there would be a clearing on our hike. I felt excited. Really excited. I mean, yeah, super excited!!!
You know, for me, excitement is one of the best parts of traveling. It is a feeling that always gives me energy even I lack sleep. It’s hard to explain how but it just works. Do you experience the same, too?
Anyway, we started hiking around 4:15 am. It was dark and a bit cold. I brought my favorite sweater, but after a few inclined slopes, I decided to remove it.
If you are coming to Maligcong by June as we did, you don’t have to bring any thick jackets. I’ll tell you more about what you need to pack later in this blog post.
We reached the summit minutes before 6 in the morning. And this was the view (no filter):
All the colors of the sky are present. There is a sea of clouds, and Maligcong Rice Terraces is wide open for us to behold.
Perhaps, this is one of the most beautiful places on earth!
The clouds were like the blanket of rice terraces that slowly disappeared as the sun soared up to the sky.
At Mount Kupapey’s summit, I witnessed the clouds flow and fall like water above and from the hills. It is a remarkable natural spectacle that will give you goosebumps when you see it in person.
That day is the day I promised myself that Mountain Province would be my retirement place.
As the sun continued to rise, Maligcong Rice Terraces began to glow with lush green colors. Then I knew the best was yet to come.
Some people call Maligcong Rice Terraces “the Stair-ways to the Sky.” But, I think it’s better to be renamed “the Carpeted Stair-ways to Heaven.” Unquestionably, it is a marvel that the world must need to know and see.
Another indescribable display of natural beauty was unveiled when the sun peeked from the surrounding mountains from the east.
The sun began to brush the clouds with warm light from the horizon, turning the sea of clouds into giant cotton candy.
Soon after, the sunlight reached the terraces. Step by step, the rice terraces turn golden… It’s the part which you just can’t describe by words. They won’t give justice to the scenery that you can see up there on the summit of Mount Kupapey.
If I could just repeat that moment over and over again.
Since we visited Maligcong in June, the whole rice terraces have been covered with lush rice crops. That made Maligcong Rice Terraces look like stairs covered with green carpet.
After the harvesting season, the paddies would be void of rice crops. By that time, Maligcong Rice Terraces would look like stairs of giant mirrors reflecting the light in the sky.
We were lucky to spot a portion of the terraces that were not planted by rice. Somehow it gave us an idea how does a harvested rice terraces look like from above.
Again, I would like to remind you that the trails in Mount Kupapey could be very slippery, especially after it rains. For me, I found it harder to descend than to ascend in Mount Kupapey. Much better if you could bring a trekking pole to support your knees when stepping down.
Have extra care when descending. The summit of Mount Kupapey may be the highlight of the trip to Maligcong… But an epic adventure still awaits down there in the trail going back to the villages/homestay.
Explore the Rice Terraces
Usually, people start exploring Maligcong Rice Terraces right after coming to the peak of Mount Kupapey. There is a trail that will lead you straight to the rice terraces from the summit.
However, you can always visit the rice paddies anytime you want from your homestay when you’re in Maligcong.
Trekking Maligcong Rice Terraces is the main adventure that you can experience in Maligcong. It will also be the most “historic” experience as you will be walking in an ancient masterpiece built more than a millennium ago.
Maligcong Rice Terraces may have stone walls, but the corner edge of each rice paddy where you will walk through is still made up of mud. They are slippery when wet.
Yet slowly, they are improving. Some parts are now paved, and locals have added stepping stones.
I suggest that you improve your balance before trekking in any rice terraces. There are narrow parts of the trail of about only 6 inches wide. If you missed a step, you might fall to the paddies and go home baptized in mud! LOL.
When we were trekking, I tripped over a stone. Luckily, I quickly regained my balance, and I did not fall into the mud. But my left foot was soaked in mud. HAHA!
It was my stupidity that I did not watch my steps. But can you blame me if the view while trekking was like this?
I also encountered stairs attached to the stones walls while trekking Maligcong Rice Terraces. I feared that they would roll off as I stepped on them, but I found that they were sturdy intact with the ground.
You might think that Maligcong has cold weather since it is situated on a high elevation. No, it is not. That is especially when you trek with no cloud cover as we did. The wind in the rice terraces feels refreshing, but the sun will make you sweat a lot.
Do not forget to bring enough water!
I brought only a liter of water during our hike, and it was a big mistake. Though I found streams flowing down the terraces, I preferred not drinking the water from them.
The water is crystal clear. But, I know my stomach, and I would not risk it. In this photo, you will find bubbles created by the small cascade. There are cleaner ones than the stream in the image shown above. Regardless, drink at your own risk! Haha!
Anyway, if you come to Maligcong Rice Terraces before the harvest season, you get the chance to see the lush rice crops up close along the trail.
Here are more of the images of the Maligcong Rice Terraces to inspire you to visit this wonder:
Overall, trekking Maligcong Rice Terraces is an unforgettable adventure experience for me. I am grateful, fulfilled, and honored to set my feet on one of the most treasured natural wonders of the Philippines.
The time we spent hiking Maligcong Rice Terraces from the summit of Mount Kupapey was around 3 hours. We headed back to the homestay after we finished the trail.
Visit the Sitios
If you plan to stay in Maligcong for more than 2 days, I suggest that you explore the Favarey. It is one of the sitios in Barangay Maligcong where you can learn more about their culture.
Favarey is also the northernmost village situated in the middle of Maligcong Rice Terraces. When you are at the summit of Mount Kupapey, look northeast, and you can spot Favarey. Here’s the image of the village from the peak
Favarey is considered the “old town” of Maligcong. It is the place where the first inhabitants of Maligcong settled more than a thousand years ago.
In a post by a fellow Filipino, Dennis Dolojan (www.lovemindanao.com/2014/01/favarey.html), he said we can encounter the following things in Favarey:
- Watch the rituals of Igorot People
- See an Etag or salted preserved boar’s meat
- See the Shak-Khod or carabao’ horn
- See Khamo, the berry-like fruit used in fermenting Fayash or Basi.
- See traditional houses.
- Meet Lola Chuma. Maligcong’s remaining tattoed women.
- Meet Lolo Foanta. One of Maligcong’s last remaining indigenous people practicing the Igorot’s tradition extensively.
I did not have the chance to visit Favarey since we lacked time. We needed to go back home. But I’m sure I will come back.
Where is the best viewpoint of Maligcong Rice Terraces?
Based on the experience shared above, the best viewpoint for Maligcong Rice Terraces is at the summit of Mount Kupapey. However, the view from the trail after coming to the peak and before you reach the rice terraces is exceptional as well. Check the images below.
How long to stay in Maligcong?
The ideal length of stay in Maligcong is 2 days. Within 2 days, you can already explore some parts of the village, hike the surrounding mountains and the rice terraces. However, if you really want to get a real immersion in Maligcong, it is better to stay for 3 days or more.
I suggest that you spend extra days in Maligcong. It’s a place where you can intimately connect with nature and experience a whole new world without the stresses of modern civilization.
Have some time to know the culture of the indigenous people from Maligcong. Surround yourself with natural beauty a little bit longer.
How to go to Maligcong?
Going to Maligcong is easy to do and isn’t very complicated. From Manila, all it takes is 1 bus ride and 1 jeepney ride. However, the travel time could last for 12 hours depending on traffic.
Manila to Bontoc (vice versa)
If you are coming from Manila, you can use my affiliate link to Bookaway.com to book a bus to Bontoc. The total travel time is 10 hours, leaving the metro by 9pm and arriving in Bontoc by 7am on the next day. The bus ride costs 21 USD / 1025 PHP.
You can also use the link to go book tickets to go back to Manila. The locations of the bus terminals are indicated on the route shown on Bookaway.com.
Bontoc to Maligcong
If you are already in Bontoc, look for the jeepney terminal to Maligcong. From there, you can catch a jeepney to reach Maligcong.
Travel time: 30 minutes
Fare: around 20 PHP / 0.4 USD
The Jeepney to Maligcong leaves the terminal in Bontoc around:
- 8:00 am
- 12:00 pm
- 2:30 pm
- 4:30 pm
The jeepneys depart once they reach capacity. You can try riding on the top load of the jeepneys to have a more adventurous ride.
The jeepney station is located near Bontoc Public Market (Google Maps Location). I heard that the terminal has moved several times. So I cannot give you the exact location. But the last time I heard, it was in front of Pines Kitchenette and Inn (Google Maps Location).
You can always ask the locals where the Maligcong Jeep Terminal is if you can’t find it. Filipinos are always there to help 🙂
Bontoc is only a small town, and it is entirely walkable. You can use your GPS and the link I provided to navigate yourself to the public market.
If you get lost in Bontoc, you can simply ask the tricycle drivers to bring you to the Bontoc Public Market. The fare should not be more than 2 USD / 100 PHP.
Maligcong to Bontoc
After you explore Maligcong, you can head back to Bontoc also by jeepney. Jeepneys pass Maligcong Road in Sitio Favuyan, where most homestays are.
If you want to have a sure ride, go in front of Vilma’s homestay or at the end of Malicong Road. It is where the jeepneys are parked. Familiarize the spot using this 360-view:
Usually, the jeepneys in Maligcong depart to Bontoc during these hours:
- 6:30 am
- 8:00 am
- 9:00 am
- 2:00 pm
- 4:00 pm
It is possible to reach Maligcong by car. Be sure that it has enough power to travel steep roads. Also, the driver must be familiar with the way going to the Maligcong. You can use Waze App to give you directions to Maligcong.
Another easy way to visit Maligcong is by joining travel groups. One that I can really recommend is Malaya Travels. They are a group of photographers who love to travel. Their car is really comfortable too!
Malaya Travels is very accommodating, and they take impressive photos of the members during the trip. They give joiners free photo souvenirs.
You can contact them through their Facebook page. They arrange events and tours for your and your group.
Where to stay to see Maligcong Rice Terraces?
There are three highly-rated homestays in Maligcong:
Chen’s Maligcong Homestay
Here’s what a visitor says (Andy Gonzales):
- Accommodating house owner
- Delicious food and affordable meal
- You can cook your own food
- Free coffee
- Really recommended!
Contact number: +639562805628
See in Google Maps: Chen’s Maligcong Homestay
Here’s what the visitors say (Yolande Watson):
- Spotlessly clean and quiet
- Comfortable beds
- Delicious homemade meals
- Unlimited lemongrass tea and coffee
- Resourceful and accomodating homeowner
Contact number: +639057011448
See in Google Maps: Vilma’s Homestay
Perk: Closest view to Maligcong Rice Terraces
Here’s what the visitors say (Julio Torres):
- Very accomodating homeowner
- Meals are at a reasonable price, delicious and sumptuous
- Unlimited Coffee
- Clean rooms
- With safe parking for your car
Contact Number: +639155463557
See in Google Maps: Suzette’s Homestay
Perk: Has an overlooking view of Maligcong Rice Terraces; meet 4 lovely Labrador dogs.
Our group stayed in Suzette’s Homestay, and I really loved the accommodation! Her sons were our tour guide, and they really helped us a lot, even in small things like carrying bags, finding wooden trekking poles, etc.
The food is fantastic, and the rooms are clean. I can totally recommend it!
What things you need to bring in Maligcong
Here are the things to bring when visiting Maligcong, hiking the rice terraces, and climbing Mount Kupapey and Mount Fato:
|3L bottles of water or water bladder||NEED|
|Clothes of Layering||OPTIONAL|
|Extra Clothes (after hiking)||OPTIONAL|
|Plastics and Garbage bag||OPTIONAL|
|First Aid and Medicines||NEED|
|High capacity power bank||OPTIONAL|
|Waterproof bag or bag with waterproof cover||OPTIONAL|
What is the best time to Visit Maligcong?
The best time to visit Maligcong is from May to June. It is the season with the perfect weather. Read other perks of coming to Maligcong during these months:
- They are the months when the terraces are filled with rice crops. The view when hiking is much better if there are rice crops in the terraces.
- Northern Philippines receives just the right amount of precipitation during May and June. Rainfall for a whole day seems less to happen. It would be quick. Besides, this small amount of rain is a good element that makes the view of Maligcong Rice Terraces more beautiful. A sea of clouds tends to appear after a drizzle/rain.
If you want to see Maligcong Rice Terraces acting like giant mirrors (view from Mount Kupapey), visit after the harvest season in August. However, it’s already the monsoon season in the Philippines – I would not recommend it.
Is Maligcong Safe for Solo Travelers?
Absolutely. The people of Maligcong are kind and honest. They are very accommodating, and they will help you as much as they can. Many solo travelers in the past visited Maligcong – none reported any “bad” experience.
Where is the ATM in Maligcong?
There is no ATM in Maligcong. The nearest ATM is in Bontoc (Land Bank of the Philippines & Philippine National Bank). If you are a foreigner, international transactions are not accepted. See recommendations below:
- Everyone must withdraw cash from large cities before coming to Bontoc, especially during peak season. These ATMs could run out of money fast.
- Consider creating a GCash account or Paymaya account. You can link any Mastercard/VISA to a GCash/Paymaya account so you can withdraw money anywhere. They are also used as means for wireless payment in most stores in the Philippines.
Is there cellular reception in Maligcong?
Cellular connectivity is very limited in Maligcong. However, in some parts of the terraces or in wide-open spaces, you can acquire a reception.
I suggest that you download everything that you need from the internet before you go to Maligcong. For example, Google Maps offline maps. Offline can help you navigate by yourself in Maligcong if you plan to. GPS works in Maligcong.
Other important things to know about Maligcong
- Every visitors need to pay an environmental fee of 50 PHP / 1 USD. The transaction is done on your lodging/homestay.
- The tour guide fee is around 500 pesos / 10 USD for every 5 persons or less. 100 pesos / 2 USD is added for every extra member.
- Please do not smoke while hiking – it might start a forest fire.
- Do not make a campfire outside the campfire area.
- Please refrain from making so much noise, especially at night.
- Maligcong implements 9:00 pm lights off for the entire community.
Where to go after visiting Maligcong?
The adventure, fun, and discovery never stop in the northern Philippines. From Maligcong, you can head back to Bontoc. Then, from Bontoc, you can get a jeepney ride to Sagada.
Sagada is one of the most beautiful places in the country. It is the soul-searching capital of the Philippines. It’s where I had another most memorable experience. You can learn more about Sagada here: Mystic and Scenic: Best Things To Do in Sagada, Philippines.
Jeepney time table (Bontoc to Sagada vice versa)
|Bontoc to Sagada||Sagada to Bontoc|
|8:30 AM||6:30 AM|
|10:15 AM||7:30 AM|
|11:00 AM||9:00 AM|
|11:45 AM||9:30 AM|
|12:30 PM||10:00 AM|
|1:15 PM||11:00 AM|
|2:00 PM||12:00 PM|
|2:45 PM||1:00 PM|
Fare: 45-50 PHP / 1 USD
Travel time: 45 Minutes
Source: Sagada Genuine Guides Association (SAGGAS)
If you want to get another adventure, I suggest Cebu. It is the Adventure Capital of the Philippines! Learn more about Cebu now.
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