Monday, July 15, 2013

Stalking Mayon

My two goals in Albay were to eat Bicolano food (checked three times) and to see Mount Mayon (checked seven plus plus times).

Legazpi Airport

Albay welcomes every traveler flying in to Legazpi City with a view of Mount Mayon. Unfortunately for me, I was on the wrong side of the plane. But no matter, at the tarmac, Mount Mayon provides a beautiful background to an otherwise boring foreground.

A grand welcome to Albay.
And when flying out of Legazpi City, a view like this makes waiting for departure time a lot less boring.

Getting to and from Legazpi airport: Take a tricycle. It would cost Php 50 per tricycle going to the city center from the airport (and vice versa). The tricycle will take you straight to wherever it is you want to go, provided it's in Legazpi City. If you want a cheaper option, from the airport, walk about 400 meters to Washington Drive, and take a jeepney to the city (minimum fare is Php 8).

Ligñon Hill

Ligñon Hill is located just behind the airport, but I don't know if you can exit from the airport through a back door :-) The park is open daily from 8AM to 10PM (entrance fee is Php 20). It is open to joggers from 5AM to 8AM for free, all they have to do is jog jog jog all the way up up up the hill.

Mayon hiding behind clouds as seen from the zipline tower at Ligñon Hill

Gawking at Mayon is not the only activity at Ligñon Hill. Getting to the hill is an activity in itself. From the highway, you have to take an easy uphill walk to the entrance. After paying the entrance fee, you can arrange for an ATV ride (Php 1800 for a 150cc ATV) and then visit the Japanese tunnel (for a fee of Php 10) just a few meters from the entrance. The tunnel was used by the Japanese as a storage area for ammunition during World War II. What's there now? Just a short, well lit tunnel with some sad–looking military–costumed mannequins.

A tired mannequin–soldier guards the entrance of the tunnel

Then the real challenge begins. Going up the hill. It's a 15–minute hike uphill, with no flatland in between. If you want to take a shortcut, you can take the Kapit Tuko Trail. I took the shortcut and I reached the top with sweat dripping from my forehead, my eyebrows, my nose, my neck, my armpits. A big sweaty mess. I should have just taken the long road. (Do not take the shortcut if it's raining or if it just rained. The trail can get really muddy.)

Beginning of the Kapit Tuko Trail

Other activities along the long and winding road (if you don't take the shortcut) are rappelling and crossing the hanging bridge.

The road ends at the observatory which sits on top of the hill. The observatory houses souvenir shops, restaurants, and restrooms. Off to the side are two ziplines (Php 250 for the basic zipline and Php 350 for the "Superman" zipline). Surrounding the observatory are benches and green grass, where you can relax and gawk at Mount Mayon to the north. Your main purpose in visiting Ligñon Hill, I suppose. If you get bored staring at Mayon, you can go to the opposite side and look at airplanes land or take off with Legazpi City as the background.

The airport runway and Legazpi City as seen from Ligñon Hill

Going to Ligñon Hill: If coming from Legazpi City, take a Loop 1 jeepney (fare is Php 8).

Daraga Church

You guessed it. I came here to see Mount Mayon and, I'm ashamed to say, not the church. From what little information I read on the sign outside the church: Daraga Church was built by the Franciscan missionaries in 1773. You can read more about the church here.

Hear mass at Daraga Church with this view tugging your eyes to the right

Going to Daraga Church: Take a Legazpi–Daraga jeepney and tell the driver you're going to Daraga Church. From the main road it's a short uphill walk to the church.

Cagsawa Ruins

I have seen many photos of an old bell tower with Mayon in the background and I bet you have, too. This is Cagsawa Ruins, a popular tourist stop in Albay.

Just before the gate to the ruins, souvenir shops abound. Entering the gate will entail a fee of Php 10. Beyond the gate are more souvenir shops and what remains of Cagsawa Church after the 1814 eruption of Mount Mayon.

It is best to go really early in the morning, say 6AM, when Mayon is most likely to show herself. There's really not much to do here but see Mount Mayon and have one of the photographers take silly pictures of you. The photographer won't ask for a fee but will expect a donation.

Going to Cagsawa Ruins: Take a jeepney going to Guinobatan/Ligao City/Oas/Polangui. From the highway, it's a short 500–meter walk to Cagsawa Ruins. But on a hot day, instead of slowly sweating for 500 meters, you might want to take a tricycle (Php 10 per person).


They say a visit to Albay would not be complete without an ATV ride. There are a few tour operators offering ATV rides. It was when I was walking to Cagsawa Ruins that I noticed so many ATVs parked in rows. Ah, the headquarters of Bicol Adventure ATV.

Trails offered by Bicol Adventure ATV as of June 2013
(Click to enlarge)

This is a pretty expensive activity. All you do is drive around in a little ATV over rocks, streams, grass, mud. Go uphill, downhill, left, right. Take wide paths, narrow paths, no path. And in the end, feel your right hand go numb from squeezing the brakes and gripping the handle for three hours (depending on the trail; choose a shorter trail for a less hand–numbing experience, or better yet, don't use the brakes. Haha).

The terrific view

Oh, and the reward? A majestic view of Mayon, Legazpi City, and Camalig (Mi-isi Green Lava trail)—if it's not blanketed in fog.

Yes, Embarcadero de Legazpi is a mall. A mall with a view of Mayon. On my last day in Legazpi City, with nothing else to do, I decided to go to Embaracadero to stalk Mayon, yet again, and then have dinner.

Going to Embarcadero de Legazpi: Take a Legazpi–Daraga jeepney. The driver will know where to drop you off. Then it will be a 10–minute walk to the mall. If you're too lazy to walk, look for jeepneys plying Daraga–Tahao Road–Arimbay.

On the road

Heading north on a van to Pili in Camarines Sur from Legazpi City, I waved goodbye to Mayon from my window.

A Fraction of Albay:
Ligao City: Kawa-Kawa Hill
Ligao City: La Terraza Restaurant
Legazpi City: Affordable Accommodations
Legazpi Eats: 1st Colonial Grill, Small Talk Café, Bigg's Diner
Stalking Mayon (you're here!)


  1. Wow, you're really adventurous. And Mt Mayon looks amazing! And it's a relief to know there's a mall there. :)

    1. Hi Sheryl! "A relief to know there's a mall there?" Hmmm...planning on shopping? :)

  2. One of the places I want to visit. What's the best time of the year to visit Albay?

    1. Best time to visit? I really don't know. Not during the rainy season, I guess, hehe :-) 2nd week of June ko ni adto...while it was raining every day in Cebu that time, wala gyud ni uwan didto, except on the last night...

  3. The Mayon Volcano is simply stunning! Love your shots :-)

  4. Dang! Mustachio has been almost EVERYWHERE! >_<

  5. What a perfect view for take off and landing! :) and how fun to try that zipline and ATV with Mt. Mayon in the background!

    1. Perfect view...if you are seated on the right side of the plane :-) I was on the wrong side hahaha :D

  6. Swerte mo kahit July nakita mo ng malinaw ang Mayon. 1st week of December kaya makikita ko kaya yan if ever pumunta kami dun...

    1. Hi Ian! On the first day it was shrouded in clouds, luckily it cleared up the next day (and was covered in clouds again later on). Swerte nga! Locals say it's usually clear early in the mornings. Try to go to Cagsawa or Lignon at the crack of dawn :)

    2. By the way, I went there 2nd week of June... I don't know if that makes any difference in terms of weather... maybe it was really just luck.

    3. Were planning to go on december 1st week and we are hopeful to see it. Most them says it is clearly seen at early morning.

    4. Less than two weeks to go...prepare to be awed! :)

  7. thanks for your Legazpi posts. got me all covered for my upcoming trip. hehe.

  8. Hi. Which side of the plane were you when you first traveled to Legazpi City? I am going to avoid that when getting plane seats. I am planning to take a plane going to Legazpi and really wanted to see Mayon from up high.

    1. Hi Joey. I'm sorry, but I forgot. Anyway, google search will tell you to take the left side when coming from Manila, and take the right side when leaving Legazpi. Happy travels!