Travelers en route to the Cagayan Valley will inevitably pass through this gateway province, which is a best-kept secret hiding under plain sight. Perhaps, in their haste to reach their destination further up north, people get to just breeze by the highway and miss the opportunity to savor the natural vibrance of Nueva Vizcaya.
Excitement begins right at the provincial boundary at the gateway town of Sta. Fe, perched at the peak of Balete Pass an altitude of 914 meters feet above sea level. After ascending the zigzag from Nueva Ecija, you will be rewarded with a commanding view of the road below and the mighty Cordilleras, Sierra Madre and Caraballo mountain ranges.
The spot, which is still popularly known as Dalton Pass, named after US general James Dalton who was killed during the closing months World War II in 1945. It has a hilltop war memorial in remembrance of the thousands of Japanese, American, Filipino and Chinese troops were killed during the fierce battles.
Within the town’s interiors is the two-tiered waters Imugan Fall, which has shallow catch basin where you can, swim, fish or simply soak in the icy water.
Another must-see is the 2,200-hectare Santa Fe Forest Park, a reforestation project with Benguet pine and West Indian mahogany, which is now a municipal recreational area, training center, and transient lodging.
The rustic town of Dupax Del Sur is known for its postcard-pretty 18th-century St. Vincent Ferrer Church, which is like a nostalgic scene from the movies. Along with a nearby Spanish-era brick bridge, it was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum.
Along the provincial road leading to it is The Green Oasis of Dupax, a farm and plant garden, and a newly-opened restaurant which serves tasty and organic food and beverages.
The provincial capital town of Bayombong is getting known for its farm- and nature-themed tourist establishments situated on its remote barrios.
Courage Integrated Farm in the upland barangay of Bansing is the toast of the town with its location at the bosom of the mountain overlooking several municipalities in the valley below. The 16-hectare farm is planted with hundreds of fruit and citrus trees, dragon fruit, and a host of other crops. Guests get to do a pick and pay activity which generates farm tours during fruiting season.
As its name suggests, it takes courage and skill, not to mention a trusty 4 x 4 vehicle, to drive up the rough and tough terrain leading to the farm.
The farm is also developing the vast property for a scenic restaurant to cater to day visitors and special events complement the Mediterranean-themed chapel, Instagrammable bric-a-brac items scattered on its slopes, a Lord of the Rings-themed hobbit house for overnight lodging, and a hobbit reading and playpen room.
Moreover, outdoor lovers can rough it out, pitch tent and sleep under the stars with the mesmerizing view of the nightlights.
On the way down, you can swing by Nueva VizKawa Wellness Farm and dip in their hot “kawa” aromatic baths and get a massage afterwards to soothe and rejuvenate your body and calm your senses.
Just a few minutes away from Bayombong town proper is the mountain-top Log Cabin of the Paragliding Flysite in Ambaguio. While paragliding won’t resume until perhaps the fourth quarter, the area gives you the feel and thrill of flying above the rolling hills and treetops.
The wooden cabin is also a superb place to sip locally-brewed coffee and snacks while gazing at the horizon.
Last but not least, the town of Kasibu is another must-visit for its vast 529-hectare plantation of citrus fruits, such as calamandarin oranges, mandarin (satsuma and ponkan), and pomelos, which is sold all over the country.
In late June, it was officially proclaimed as the “Citrus Capital of Luzon” by the Department of Agriculture, a moniker it has been known for decades.
The 47-km drive inland from the Cagayan Valley Road is worth the hassle, as you can pick and buy citrus from the planters themselves and scout derivatives and pasalubong on the side.
Adrenaline junkies can go spelunking at the 4.2-km Capisaan Caves, the country’s fifth longest system, which has a network of chambers, the Lion and Alayan Caves, which take pride in their rare calcite formations and an underground river.
Under the Covid-19 pandemic protocols, only the 2-km halfway route is allowable for tourist activities. Beginners can try an abridged version, if only to get a feel of the subterranean world which has been luring cavers from all over the country and other parts of the world.
With adventure, nature and culture coming into play in a valley of fun, Nueva Vizcaya is undoubtedly naturally vibrant.