Introduction

Vigan, a charming city nestled in the province of Ilocos Sur in the Philippines, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. With its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and ancestral houses, Vigan offers a unique glimpse into the country’s rich cultural history. If you only have 48 hours to explore this gem, here are 10 cool things you absolutely must do in Vigan.

1. Take a Scenic Kalesa Ride

One of the first things you’ll notice upon arriving in Vigan is the abundance of colorful horse-drawn carriages known as kalesas. These charming vehicles are not only a unique mode of transportation but also a great way to explore the city’s historic streets. Hop on a kalesa and let it take you on a leisurely tour of Vigan’s enchanting sites, such as the Calle Crisologo, a street lined with preserved Spanish colonial structures. This leisurely ride allows you to embrace the old-world charm of the city and capture memorable photographs.

2. Stroll along Calle Crisologo

Calle Crisologo is unequivocally the most well-known street in Vigan. With its cobblestone pavement, ancient streetlights, and meticulously preserved Spanish-era houses, a leisurely walk here feels like stepping back in time. The street is lined with souvenir shops, local restaurants, and cafés where you can immerse yourself in Vigan’s thriving culture and indulge in local delicacies. Don’t forget to explore the various ancestral houses on Calle Crisologo that have been converted into museums, providing a glimpse into the city’s rich history and heritage.

3. Visit the Bantay Bell Tower and St. Augustine Church

Perched atop a hill, the Bantay Bell Tower is an iconic symbol of Vigan. Dating back to the 16th century, this stunning brick structure offers panoramic views of Vigan City and the neighboring towns. Climb up the steps to the top of the bell tower and admire the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding landscape. Next to the tower, you’ll find the St. Augustine Church, also known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity. Step inside this beautiful church and take a moment to appreciate its architectural beauty and serene ambiance.

4. Explore the Hidden Gardens

Nestled amidst the hustle and bustle of Vigan City, the Hidden Gardens is a tranquil oasis that provides respite from the busy streets. This beautifully landscaped park is adorned with picturesque fountains, vibrant flowers, and lush greenery. Take a leisurely stroll along its pathways, enjoy a picnic in the shade, or simply relax and soak in the serene atmosphere. The Hidden Gardens also houses a collection of antique furniture, allowing visitors to marvel at the charm of the past.

5. Treat Your Taste Buds to Vigan Empanada

No visit to Vigan would be complete without trying its famous empanada. This mouthwatering delicacy consists of a crispy orange-colored crust filled with a savory mix of ground meat, grated unripe papaya, bean sprouts, and egg. Locals believe that the secret to a great Vigan empanada lies in the distinct taste of the bagnet (deep-fried pork belly) used as a filling. Head to the public market or any of the local food stalls and savor the flavors of this iconic Vigan dish.

6. Learn about Local Handicrafts at Baluarte

For an educational and culturally immersive experience, visit Baluarte, a mini zoo and museum owned by the respected politician, Chavit Singson. Baluarte showcases the region’s wildlife, including various species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Apart from the wildlife, the museum section will grant you insights into traditional Filipino handicrafts, pottery making, and even a glimpse into the life of a local farmer. The expansive grounds offer breathtaking views of the mountains and South China Sea, adding to the overall charm of the attraction.

7. Discover History at the Syquia Mansion Museum

Delve into the lives of the prominent political figures of Vigan’s history at the Syquia Mansion Museum. Once the residence of President Elpidio Quirino, the museum is filled with historical memorabilia, antique furniture, and well-preserved artifacts. Take a guided tour and learn about the Quirino family’s contributions to the country while marveling at the unique architectural elements of the mansion. The lush garden surrounding the mansion provides a tranquil setting to reflect on the rich history of Vigan.

8. Experience Pottery Making in Pagburnayan

Step into the world of traditional pottery making at Pagburnayan, a heritage site where skilled artisans produce clay jars using age-old techniques. Watch in awe as the craftsmen skillfully mold and shape the wet clay into beautiful and functional jar pieces. You can even try your hand at pottery-making and take home your masterpiece as a unique memento of your time in Vigan. Immerse yourself in the artistry and appreciate the craftsmanship behind this centuries-old tradition.

9. Ride an All-Terrain Vehicle at Mindoro Beach

Just a stone’s throw away from Vigan lies the picturesque Mindoro Beach, where thrilling adventures await. Rent an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and embark on an exhilarating ride along the sandy shoreline and dunes. Feel the adrenaline rush as you maneuver through the challenging terrains, enjoying the sheer beauty of the coastal landscape. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or simply looking for a unique way to explore the outdoors, an ATV adventure at Mindoro Beach is an unforgettable experience.

10. Sample Local Specialties at the Vigan Public Market

The Vigan Public Market offers a diverse array of local products and delicacies, making it a food lover’s paradise. Indulge in authentic Ilocano dishes such as bagnet, longganisa (local sausage), and chichacorn (crispy corn kernels). The market is also a great place to buy souvenirs, including woven goods like blankets and capiz shell products. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the market, interact with friendly locals, and savor the flavors of Vigan.

In just 48 hours, Vigan leaves an indelible mark on visitors by offering a glimpse into the country’s colonial past and vibrant culture. From the scenic kalesa rides to strolling along the historic streets and discovering hidden gems, there is something for everyone in this heritage city. So, pack your bags and embark on an adventure to Vigan, where the enchanting atmosphere and timeless charm will create memories that last a lifetime.

Sources:
– Visit the Philippines. “Vigan – the Heritage City.” (https://www.visitphilippines.org/destinations/vigan)
– Vigan.ph. “Vigan City.” (https://vigan.ph/)
– Baluarte Official Website. “Welcome to Baluarte.” (https://www.baluarte.com.ph/)