The Ultimate Baguio Itinerary: 5 Days In Northern Luzon

Baguio itinerary
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Welcome to our ultimate Baguio itinerary, 5 days of explorations and adventure in the hills of northern Luzon. This travel plan will showcase the best of both the city and its surroundings, revealing the buzzy nightlife scene and the wild jungles and soaring volcanic peaks that tower all around. Just be sure to pack to the urban shoes and the hiking boots, folks!

Baguio City is known as the erstwhile Summer Capital of the Philippines and famed as one of the liveliest student towns in the country. It’s also beloved of domestic travelers because it offers a great escape from the balmy heat of the Manila lowlands and the sunbaked beaches of Cebu and Boracay and the like. It might not come with white sands and turquoise seas, but there are epic hiking paths and waterfalls, oodles of history and vibrant inner-city neighborhoods to get through.

We’ve tried to make it easy for travelers to chop and change this itinerary. That’s mainly because the weather up in the hills of northern Luzon can be a little unpredictable, so you might want to swap out the outdoorsy things for more rain-friendly pursuits. That said, we’d recommend avoiding the months of July and August altogether – they are just too wet!

Day 1 – Finding your feet in the city of Baguio

Baguio city center
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The start of our ultimate Baguio itinerary is all about finding your feet in this buzzing city. We’ll assume you’re staying somewhere near the center. But, before heading out, breakfast…stroll up steep Upper Session Road to find the acclaimed Hill Station. It’s a charming café-bistro strewn with prayer flags and done out in colonial-era styles, offering a morning menu of Belgian waffles with views over the famous Baguio pine forests.

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From there, walk down to the much-loved green space at the core of the downtown. It’s known as Burnham Park after the groundbreaking American urban planner Daniel Burnham, the man who actually designed the whole layout of the city after it was elevated to summer capital status by the occupying Americans in the early 1900s.

The park is a great place to spend a whole morning. It’s broken into 12 various areas, known as clusters. There’s the Burnham Lake (also called the Burnham Lagoon) at the center of it all, where you can rent pedal boats and drift around above the carps. There’s the Avong Ibaloi Heritage Garden, designed to honor and preserve the cultures of the indigenous people of Benguet Province. There’s also an arboretum called the Pine Trees of the World, although many of the imported pines failed to take root, so only local ones still stand.

Later on, drift over to the eastern side of the park and hop the jeepney-filled roads to find the Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral. It’s better known as, simply, Baguio Cathedral, and it’s the most important Christian site in the city. It’s not actually that old, dating back to 1920. However, it sports a pretty pink-and-blue exterior with soaring spires.

For dinner, walk a few streets further up the hill to find Grompy Joe. It’s a strange mix of Americana, Italiano, and Spanish food, perfectly summing up the range of modern influences on the city. So, settle in for a slider or a pizza and get ready for tomorrow…

Day 2 – Museums, culture, and markets

Baguio market
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Day 2 is given over to museums and galleries. It’s not only the best day for culture vultures, but also has plenty for the rainier days of your holiday. There’s no need to rush in the morning. We’d recommend stopping by the top-rated eatery of Tsokolateria Artisinal Café. The folk there serve up some outrageously good cakes and hand-cooked waffles – perfect for keeping your exhibition energy up.

It’s not far from that breakfast venue to the Baguio Museum, either. This one’s the premier place for learning about the unique and rich past of the city and the surrounding region. Even the building in which its housed is built in the style of age-old Ifugao architecture. Inside, there are collections of relics sourced from various tribal groups across the Philippine Cordillera, along with reconstructed models of highland villages and homes.

Next up is Museo Kordilyera (sometimes called the UP Baguio Ethnographic Museum). It’s situated in the city’s university campus and hosts regular live shows of traditional dancing and song run by indigenous peoples from the Cordillera Region. The exhibits themselves change about twice a year but are always dedicated to chronicling the past and heritage of northern Luzon.

When night creeps in, make for the buzz of Baguio Night Market. It’s on the northern side of Burnham Park, where it opens at 9pm on weekdays and 7.30pm on weekends in a real cacophony of stalls selling all sorts, from sneakers to socks to salty fried snacks. Talking of snacks…the street food at the market is the best in the city, so foodies eat your hearts out!

Day 3 – Hiking in Pulag National Park

Mount Pulag
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No ultimate Baguio itinerary could possibly skip out on this one. Yep, the Pulag National Park is one of the great natural jewels of Luzon as a whole. It encircles the highest peak on the island (the third highest in the country, no less) and encompasses a whole patchwork of various habitats and climatic zones, from subtropical highlands to subpolar summits. It’s a must for any adventurous travelers hitting this corner of the Philippines.

Of course, the main reason to come is to hike Mount Pulag itself. It’s actually one of the more accessible treks in Southeast Asia (nowhere near as hard as Rinjani in Lombok, or Mount Agung in Bali, for example). However, the route to the top does take a minimum of two days. That’s on the shortest route, known as the Ambangeg Trail, involving a transfer out of Baguio in the morning, one hiking session of 4-6 hours on the first day, and then a summit push of 1-2 hours, finishing with a descent on the second day.

The way up is riddled with interesting things. You’ll start on breezy tussock plateaus clad in brown grass fields. Before long, the temperature will drop a little and the flora will change considerably, offering glimpses of moss-clad montane forests and blooming bushes of beautiful ayusep flowers.

The best way to plan a hike up to the top of Mount Pulag is to pick an organized tour with a reputable company. They often sort the whole shebang, from registration at the local national park office (compulsory) to hiking meals and all the gear – think sleeping bags, tents, walking poles. Just be warned that hikes can be canceled at the last minute because of sudden changes in the weather.

Day 4 – From Pulag back to town

Mount Pulag clouds
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If Day 3 all went to plan, then you should be enjoying the sunrise over the summit of Mount Pulag (yep, it’s an early start!) after pushing up to the top of the great Luzon peak. What awaits at the pinnacle is one of the most jaw-dropping sights in the whole of the Philippines. They call it the Sea of Clouds, because soft, white tufts of water vapor often spread all around the highest point of Pulag, creating a blanket of clouds that rolls away to the horizon.

After that, it’s another four hours or so descent to the bottom of the mountain, where you can catch a jeepney or private minivan back to Baguio City. The ride is about 2.2 hours in all, so don’t expect to get back to your hotel before mid-afternoon at the very earliest. However, the trip is a pretty cool one, as you weave and wiggle on S-bending roads through the lush Philippine mountains. A potential pitstop at the Ambuklao Dam View Deck can be made roughly halfway, to see one of the region’s most impressive feats of engineering work.

When you return to town, make for Upper Session Road and seek out the North Haven Spa. It’s one of the highest-rated wellness facilities in the city, and we think you’ve earned a little pampering. Guests are served soothing herbal teas on arrival and can choose from a whole range of aromatherapy massages to help get the muscles back into shape.

Day 5 – Gardens and mountain greenery around Baguio City

Baguio hills
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Rise as early as you can and make for the area of Camp John Hay. Once an American GI base back in the 20s and 30s, it’s now a huge portion of the city and something of an adventure park-country club combo. Golfers should be certain to book onto the onsite course for a round – it’s championship-level and was designed by Jack Nicklaus, no less.

Not one for drivers and irons? No worries – there’s loads more to do. Take the Yellow Trail Hike. It’s a 2-hour up and down path that goes right through the famous pine forests of Baguio, offering a great escape from the sound of the tooting jeepneys in the city below. Or, there’s more adrenaline-pumping activity at Camp John Hay, in the form of canopy ziplines and skywalk treks over high-perched suspension bridges.

After a morning of explorations there, head just north to the Mines View Observation Deck. It’s one of Baguio’s most impressive lookout points, taking in a sweeping bowl in the Cordillera and the overgrown remains of old mining areas. It’s also close by to the Baguio Bamboo Sanctuary, a place where you can walk paths between soaring shoots of East Asian bamboo.

The Baguio Botanical Garden awaits on the way back to the downtown of the city. It’s also worth a pitstop if you have the time, what with its Japanese shrines and meditation areas, along with blooms of lilies and rare tropical flowers.

After the ultimate Baguio Itinerary – where to go?

The truth is that most people don’t linger here to complete a full Baguio itinerary. Aside from being a great place to base yourself for hikes to the top of Mount Pulag, the town is mainly seen as a steppingstone to the more-famous reaches of northern Luzon. They include the backpacker havens of Sagada and Kalinga, along with the photogenic rice terraces of Banaue. All of those are great options for carrying on the adventure once you’re finished with our travel plan.

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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.