11 Best Places to Visit in Abra for First-Timers
For a long time, Abra province had been a blank spot on the Philippine tourist map… until photos of #2 on this list got viral online.
Travelers are now starting to explore many travel-worthy sights in this landlocked province.
Abra is often skipped partly because of its location in North Luzon. It is sandwiched between two very popular tourist destinations — Ilocos in the west and the Cordilleras in the east.
What you’re going to see in Abra is a mix of both. You can find Spanish-colonial heritage sites and Ilokano culture as well as captivating mountain views and hill tribe traditions.
If you are looking for an up-and-coming destination in the Philippines, check out this list of top places to visit and things to do in Abra province.
1. Kili Falls & Hot Spring
Kili Falls is one of many beautiful places in Abra that you can visit all year round. The main attraction here is not just the waterfall. Hidden behind the main cascade is a hot spring that flows into an icy-cold river. The locals had made a wading pool beside it. The temperature is perfectly warm for a dip! Most times of the year, you can have this relaxing spot all to yourself. Kili Village does not attract a lot of tourists because of its remote location in the hinterlands of Tubo, the southernmost town of Abra. The trail to the waterfall from the village crosses scenic rice fields and a few hanging bridges similar to what you would find in Banaue, Ifugao, Benguet or Mountain Province.
How to go — Brgy. Kili in Tubo is a 3 to 4-hour drive south of Bangued, the capital town of Abra. The passenger jeepney departs from “Tubo House” in Bangued in the morning, at around 8am. There is no fixed schedule and daily jeepney trips are not guaranteed. If there are no jeepney trips on the day of your visit, you have the option to charter a car or motorcycle that can take you to Kili. From Kili village, the waterfall and hot spring is an easy 20-minute walk away.
2. Apao Rolling Hills
Apao Rolling Hills is another obscure spot that you can see in Tineg, Abra. From the viewpoint across the high valley, enjoy a picturesque panorama of dry grassland topped mountains. It is most scenic during sunset when the mountainsides come alive with a spectacular auburn glow.
How to go — The viewpoint of Apao Rolling Hills is located a few kilometers away from Tineg Municipal Hall.
3. Kaparkan Falls
This waterfall is one big reason to go to Abra. Not because of its size, but its extraordinary appearance. Unlike most waterfalls in the Philippines, which are formed by roaring cascades, Kaparkan Falls is distinguished by multi-tiered spring pools/terraces that gently cascade down the forest.
Kaparkan / Kaparcan / Caparkan Falls is also known as Mulawin Falls.
How to go — Kaparkan Falls is located in Tineg, the northernmost town of Abra. Getting there is an adventure in itself as it requires a 4×4 ride along very rough roads. The ride from Bangued takes around 2 to 4 hours, depending on road conditions. Tineg tourism department organizes transport on a military truck or jeepney. The trucks leave Bangued at 7-8am, while the return trip from the falls departs at 2pm. The months from August to November is the best and only time to schedule your trip since the waterfall dries up during the other half of the year.
4. Piwek Rock Formations
This natural beauty can be found farther down the road from Apao Rolling Hills. The highlights here are gleaming white limestone rock formations that wall the banks of the Tineg River.
How to go — From Brgy. Alaoa in Tineg, a local guide can take you across the river on a bamboo raft to Piwek Rock Formations. There are two trails to choose from. The harder yet exciting way requires a bit of rock climbing over large boulders. The easier one is a less steep hike.
A trip to Abra starts in Bangued, the capital town of the province. Go to the view deck of Victoria Park at Cassamata Hill National Park to get a bird’s eye view of Abra’s plains, mighty rivers, and mountain peaks. There are a few heritage sites to see in town including the Cathedral of Saint James the Greater (Bangued Church) and San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine (cemetery chapel).
How to go — You can catch a direct bus from Manila to Bangued. Travel time takes around 8 hours. Or, from Ilocos Norte via Narvacan. Travel time from Narvacan takes 45 minutes to 1 hour. Meanwhile, travel time from Vigan takes around 2 hours.
6. Don Mariano Marcos Bridge
Spanning over the mighty Abra River, the Don Mariano Marcos Bridge is the 3rd longest bridge in the Philippines. Stop over for scenic views of the riverbanks and mountainscape. You
How to go — Don Mariano Marcos Bridge is located along the Abra – Kalinga Road, between the towns of Dolores and Tayum. You will pass through it on your way to Tineg.
7. Tayum Church & Heritage Houses
Santa Catalina de Alejandria Parish Church found within the town proper of Tayum is the most impressive Spanish-colonial church in Abra. This 19th-century Baroque church was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines. Nearby, you can also find many surviving ancestral houses built in Bahay Na Bato style.
How to go — Tayum is located beside Bangued. Getting there takes around 10 to 20 minutes by car or tricycle.
8. Gabriel Silang Gallery of Fine Arts
Also worth a peak in Tayum is the former headquarters of Gabriela Silang. She is known widely as the Joan of Arc of Ilocania for being the first female leader of a Filipino movement for independence from Spain. Within the compound is the Gabriel Silang Gallery of Fine Arts, a private museum owned by the Cariño family that houses collections of retired Philippine Ambassador Rosario V. Carino. This gallery is filled with an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, artifacts, documents and books from different parts of the world that the former ambassador had amassed during his professional career. Its prized pieces include paintings by Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Domenico Ghirlandaioto as well as paintings made by the former ambassador himself.
How to go — Gabriel Silang Gallery of Fine Arts is located along Teodoro Balmaceda Street in Poblacion, Tayum. It is a short walk away from the Tayum Church.
9. Gourd Hats in San Quintin
Another honored artisan from Abra is Teofilo Garcia, a National Living Treasure Awardee who specializes in making traditional hats made from gourds (upo) or kattokong nga tabungaw. The all-weather headgear is primarily made from native gourds that he grows and harvests himself. The insides are hollowed out, dried, and lined with finely woven rattan matting, while the top part is applied with bright orange or red varnish to make for weather resistance. Mr. Garcia is the only one left in his village who still makes these rather whimsical looking masterpieces. He is currently reaching out to young people in his village who are interested in learning the craft. Visitors are welcome to see his workshop and buy a hat in support of keeping the traditional tabungaw-making alive and vibrant.
How to go — Teofilo Garcia’s workshop is located in the town of San Quintin. You can find it along the main road between Bangued and Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. From the highway intersection in San Quintin, drive or walk up the narrow uphill road. The workshop is located a few hundred meters ahead. GPS location: 17.525310, 120.544114.
10. Abel Loom Weaving in La Paz
The town of La Paz is home to a traditional loom weaving industry specialized in producing fine woven fabrics called abel. These textiles are hand loomed by women of the village who have learned the craft from their mothers and grandmothers. Leila’s Loom weaving is one of the largest suppliers of abel in Abra. You can visit their workshop in Brgy. Bulbulala if you want to see how abel is hand-made by the local weavers. They usually have finished products in stock if you are interested in purchasing.
How to go — From Bangued market, ride a ride the jeepney to La Paz. Drop off at the intersection to Brgy. Bulbulala. Leila’s Loom weaving is a short tricycle ride from there.
11. Abra food trip
Don’t leave without a taste of the province’s signature dishes. Try the Abreño-style pancit miki, longganisa, Lechon de Abra, cascaron, abuos, palileng, and more. For pancit miki, go to Doming’s Pancitan in Brgy. Patukanay, Tayum. Make sure to go for early breakfast because the signature noodle dish gets sold out by mid to late morning.
Travel tips before you go
How to go
Bangued, the capital of Abra is the tourist gateway and transport hub in the province. Travel time from Manila takes around 8 hours. The most popular and reliable bus operators are Partas, Dominion, and Viron. Although part of the Cordillera Region, the easiest way to Abra passes by the national highway in Ilocos Sur, North Luzon. From the highway intersection in the town of Narvacan, the road branches inland towards Bangued. This leg of the trip takes only 45 minutes to 1 hour. The nearest major city is Vigan, located 2 hours away. Meanwhile, the nearest airport is Laoag Airport, located 4 hours away.
Where to stay
Most travelers make base in Bangued and nearby towns including Tayum. There are a couple of options of places to stay in this area ranging from hotels to hostels, guesthouses and pension houses. If you want to stay nearer to the main sites in remote towns, consider spending the night at homestays in Kili village and Tineg.