DIY Guide to Maligcong Rice Terraces and Mount Kupapey (Kofafey)

Mount Kofafey in Maligcong
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If you ask me, Maligcong is one of the most underrated places in the Philippines. Hali and I went here a while ago to visit Maligcong Rice Terraces and Mount Kupapey (also known as Mount Kofafey). Here’s an updated travel guide to Maligcong, including How to Get Here, 2D Itinerary, and more.

Maligcong is a quiet mountain village in Bontoc, Mountain Province. It was relatively uncharted until a few years ago, when it was discovered by backpackers and trekkers who were looking for new hiking destinations.

There are 3 main destinations in Maligcong: Maligcong Rice Terraces, Mount Kupapey (also called Mount Kofafey), and Mount Fato. It’s possible to visit these on a weekend, even if you’re coming from Manila.

Our trip to Maligcong

I’d first seen Maligcong in another travel blog and I’d seen wanted to see it for myself. The opportunity came when Hali and I chanced upon a joiner tour to Sagada and Maligcong. After a short tour in Sagada, we proceeded to Maligcong in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

From the city proper, it takes about 30 minutes of winding, steep mountain roads to reach our accommodation in Maligcong: Suzette’s Homestay. To be honest, I was terrified of the ride but our driver seems confident even when approaching steep turns.

Rice terraces view from Suzette's homestay
View from the dining area in Suzette’s homestay. (Photo credit to Hali)

I was relieved when we finally arrived at Suzette’s Homestay. Ate Suzette gave us a warm welcome and prepared freshly brewed coffee for us. We enjoyed the warm brew in the alfresco dining area which directly faces a view of the Maligcong Rice Terraces. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing amidst the cool mountain weather. Later on, we slept in comfortable beds to prepare us for the early trek in the morning.

Maligcong Rice Terraces and Mount Kupapey

Mount Kupapey is an easy 2-hour climb that offers an overlooking view of Maligcong Rice Terraces. If you simply want to explore the rice terraces, the climb isn’t necessary — you can just go outside and walk around, talk to the locals, and take pictures.

However, some would argue that going here isn’t complete without the trek to Mount Kupapey.

Mount Kofafey in Bontoc
Mount Kupapey/Kofafey in the distance. (Photo credit to Hali)

It’s best to do a pre-dawn climb to witness the sunrise in the summit. Normally, the climb starts at 3 or 4AM. However, during our trip, it was slight rainy and extremely foggy that Ate Suzette suggested we leave at 5AM instead. Apparently, another group of visitors had climbed the mountain a day before us and couldn’t stand the cold, so they’d went back immediately without waiting for the clearing.

The morning cold was penetrating. Hali and I wore thick jackets and caps. I had a shirt layered with a long-sleeve top and jacket. I also wore my usual leggings and then put on pants. This turned out to be not a good idea. It was warm, but during the trek, the pants proved to be heavy and restrictive when walking.

Our guides also recommended that we wear trekking shoes instead of trekking sandals since the path would be muddy.

We also brought head lamps and flashlights.

Mount Kofafey in Maligcong
Hali and I during the climb. (Photo credit to Hali)

We left a little past 5AM. It was still dark. We walked along the highway and then through a series of cemented steps before reaching the mountain slopes.

As we got near the view deck, we came across clearings surrounded by pine trees.

Clearing in Mount Kofafey
Clearing in Mount Kupapey. (Photo credit to Hali)
Trail in Mount Kofafey
The woody trail to the view deck. (Photo credit to Hali)
Maligcong trail in Bontoc
The mountain is thick with pine trees. (Photo by Hali)

We finally reached the view deck. The trek was relatively easy, since there were no difficult assaults required in the trail. The temperature dipped further down. Other climbers in our group kept reminiscing about Mount Pulag and other mountains in Benguet known for cool temperature.

Throughout our trek we were accompanied not just by guides but also Ate Suzette’s dog Kunig. Our guides said Kunig always go with them in the trek. Hali was fond of Kunig and spent a lot of time taking pictures of him. Kunig, it turned out, is a bit of a snob when it comes to cameras. :p

Kunig the dog guide in Maligcong
Aw, come on, Kunig. Let’s take a photo together! (Photo credit to Hali)
Group shot in Mount Kofafey
With the whole crew and Kunig turning his furry back to the camera. (Photo credit to Hali)

We waited for a clearing, but unfortunately there was none due to the rainy weather. The rice terraces were obscured by a thick fog, though every now and then it cleared up a bit so we could get a glimpse of the majestic Maligcong Rice Terraces.

Mount Kofafey in Maligcong
Look at the rich browns and greens. Isn’t that lovely? (Photo credit to Hali)
Maligcong rice terraces
Maligcong rice terraces showing itself a bit as the fog clears up. (Photo credit to Hali)

I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see what we came here for. Hali was more forgiving. He said it’s the way it goes when mountain climbing — due to the high elevation of the mountains, there’s always a chance there won’t be a clearing in the summit. He still managed to admired the scenery from where we were standing.I wanted to martyr myself and wait for a clear view, but our schedule was to pack up and leave back to Manila before lunch time. That’s one of the downsides on going on a joiner tour — you have no say in the schedule.

However, we did manage to get a few good pictures, including a photo of me and Kunig. Sshh, he was actually taking a nap.

Mount Kofafey in Maligcong
It’s a good morning! With Kunig the dog guide. (Photo credit to Hali)

Since the sun was already up, on our way back we also got to appreciate the wooded trail and stop now and then to admire the rice terraces in the sleepy village.

Here are a few photos of Maligcong Rice Terraces.

Group shot in Maligcong Rice Terraces
Group shot in Maligcong Rice Terraces. (Photo credit to CJ Balignasay)
Maligcong Rice Terraces in Bontoc, Mountain Province
Maligcong Rice Terraces. (Photo credit to CJ Balignasay)
Maligcong Rice Terraces in Bontoc, Mountain Province
Maligcong Rice Terraces.

Overall

Despite the foggy summit earlier, this hike is one of the best hiking experiences I’ve had in the country. The trip was worth it for the sight of Maligcong Rice Terraces alone. I’d been to Banaue Rice Terraces and the lesser-visited amphitheater-like Batad rice terraces, but the Maligcong Rice Terraces is something else. Perhaps it’s the richness in colors or the sleepy, cozy ambiance of the village.

Nevertheless, Maligcong is one of the places I’m sure I would love to visit again in the future.

Before I end this story, here’s our year-ender video featuring Sagada-Maligcong!

Travel Guide to Maligcong (Bontoc, Mountain Province)

Maligcong is an ideal destination for hikers and tourists who are looking for remote or off-beaten destinations in the Philippines. It’s best for people who are physically fit, since walking or trekking is required to explore its surroundings.

The top attractions in Maligcong are Maligcong Rice Terraces, Mount Kupapey (Kufafey), and Mount Fato. Other mountains include Mount Parutan. There are other lesser-known tourist spots such as Bontoc Museum, Mainit Hotspring, Ganga Cave, and more. There are also hidden waterfalls such as Liknon Falls, which you can explore with the help of a local guide. Visiting these may require a longer stay, as these places often require hours of commute or trekking.

In this guide, I will focus more on the main tourist destinations in Maligcong mentioned above.

How to get to Maligcong

From Manila, it takes about 11-12 hours to reach Maligcong.

There is a direct bus from Manila to Bontoc. It is also possible to go via Manila-Baguio-Bontoc or Manila-Banaue-Bontoc route.

Manila to Bontoc

  • From the HM Bus Station in Cubao, ride a Coda Lines bus bound to Bontoc.

Schedule from Manila to Bontoc is 8PM, 9PM, 10PM, and 10:30PM.

Travel time is 10-11 hours. Fare is about P725 for semi-deluxe and P935 for deluxe per person.

Bontoc to Maligcong

  • Once in Bontoc, head to the jeepney station located at the back of the public market. Ride a jeep to Maligcong.

Schedule from Bontoc to Maligcong is 8AM, 12PM, 2:30PM, 4:30PM, and 5:30PM. Schedule from Maligcong to Bontoc is 6:30AM, 8AM, 9AM, 2PM and 4PM.

Travel time is 30 minutes. Fare is about P20-25 per person.

When is the best time to visit Maligcong

Maligcong Rice Terraces in planting season
Planting season.

If you wish to see green rice paddies, the best time to visit is during the planting season (April and May).

If you wish to see the gold & green paddies ready, visit during the harvest season (August to September).

2 Days Itinerary to Maligcong

Here’s a sample 2 days itinerary to Maligcong, including a climb to Mount Kupapey and Mount Fato.

Day 0
10:30PM ETD Manila to Bontoc

Day 1
9:30AM Arrival in Bontoc town proper
12:00 – 12:30PM Jeep from Bontoc to Maligcong
12:30 – 1:30PM Arrival in accommodation / rest
1:30 – 5PM Climb Mount Fato OR explore surrounding rice terraces
5PM onwards – Free time

Day 2
3:30AM Breakfast / morning prep
4 – 5:30AM Climb Mount Kupapey
5:30 – 6AM Sunrise
6 – 7:30AM Descent / detour to rice terraces
7:30 – 8:30AM Wash up / packup
9AM – 9:30AM Jeep from Maligcong to Bontoc
11AM ETD Bontoc to Manila (ETA 10 or 10:30PM)

There are other side tours you can visit depending on your route to Maligcong, such as Banaue. In our case, we went on a 3-day trip which includes Sagada and then Maligcong.

Things to know before you go

Here are important travel tips to Maligcong:

  • If you are commuting, take note of the bus and jeepney schedules.
  • Bring enough cash with you. The nearest bank or ATM is in Bontoc town proper.
  • Make sure to respect the culture in the community. Avoid wearing mini shorts or engaging in PDA (public displays of affection).
  • Lights out for the entire village is 9PM.

Here are some important trekking tips:

  • Local guides are required when visiting Maligcong Rice Terraces or climbing the mountains. Most homestays offer tour guide services, so you can easily arrange this when booking.
  • Practice the LNT principle. Take your trash with you. Also, the community specifically prohibits collection of any flora or fauna.
  • Mount Kupapey/Kofafey is an easy climb (rated 3/9 in mountain climbing difficulty). It takes 1-2 hours to reach the view deck, depending on your pace. The view deck offers an amazing view of Maligcong Rice Terraces. Mount Kupapey is the usual climbing choice of newbie climbers or first-time visitors in Maligcong.
  • Mount Fato is a more difficult trek compared to Mount Kupapey, with ascending trails. It also offers a view of Maligcong Rice Terraces. You can do a twin-hike of Mount Kupapey (morning) and Mount Fato (afternoon) in one day.
  • Make sure to wear thermal clothes for the climb. It can get cold especially in the months of December to February.

And here are some personal suggestions:

  • If you’re staying in Ate Suzette’s, make sure to try their arabica coffee. It’s excellent. I had more than 3 cups on the night we stayed there.
  • Kunig no longer accompanies visitors trekking to Mount Kupapey. However, other dogs may still go with you. 🙂
  • If you’re looking for a similar experience, you can visit Banaue and Batad which also feature rice terraces.

Where to Stay in Maligcong

Here’s a list of accommodations in Maligcong. (Updated as of 2020) Usual rate is P350-400 per person per head.

  • Suzette’s Homestay: Facebook, 09155463557
  • Chen’s Sacya-An Home: 09562805628 / 09207939550
  • Terrace View Homestay / Rowena’s Homestay: 09151881732
  • Vilma’s Guest House: 0905701148
  • Dong-Elay’s Homestay: 09120246406

Suzette’s Homestay is the go-to accommodation for backpackers visiting Maligcong. If you read other blogs, most likely they are recommending this homestay as well. It has panoramic views of the rice terraces and is close to the jump-off point to Mount Kupapey and Mount Fato.

That saying, I also encourage you to check out other homestays in the area.

Budget and expenses

Here’s a summary of expenses (Updated as of 2020):

  • Bus fare (Manila to Bontoc or vice versa): P735-935 per person
  • Jeepney fare (Bontoc to Maligcong): P20-25 per person
  • Guide fee to Mount Kupapey or Mount Fato: P500-600 for every 5 pax / additional person is P100 (Note: Guide is good for 5-6 people. If you are over 6 in the group, you need to hire an additional guide.)
  • Miscellaneous fee

A safe budget would be P3000-3500 per person for a 2D/1N stay including a tour of Maligcong Rice Terraces and Mount Kupapey.

 

Has this guide to Maligcong Rice Terraces and Mount Kupapey in Bontoc, Mountain Province been helpful to you? If you have questions, let me know in the comment section below!

 

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10 Comments

  1. Hi tanong ko lang Kung saan yung falls dun sa video nyo? Sa bontoc din po ba yan? Saka Kung pano din po pumunta salamat.

    Keep on posting

    1. Hi. Twin falls po yun sa Sagada. Pero meron ring mga falls sa Bontoc, afaik you have to ask the locals where to find them.

  2. Hi Kat,

    Nice post. Very detailed and helpful. I am planning to visit Maligcong on January but I have limited time. Can you give me some advises about where to see the rice terraces within the town proper only or can I view it from Ate Suzette’s place?

    I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you very much and enjoy your trips. 😀

  3. Hi Kat. This is my first time to comment on your blog post but I am already an avid reader of your blog ever since I discovered it. I think I will love this place. I will consider going to Maligcong as a side trip when I visit Sagada soon.

  4. I was just thinking where should my next solo travel be and then I see this post, maybe I should go to Mt. Kofafey. I’ve already been to Banaue and I’ve never heard of Maligcong rice terraces. And you are right, it has its own beauty to offer. It looks really beautiful, maybe it wouldn’t be this cold at this time of the year, but I’d still bring something to help me endure the cold just in case.

    1. We plan to go back during the harvest season on the 3rd or 4th quarter of the year. I’ve been told the golds are amazing. 🙂

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