The hanging coffins of Sagada are one of the most unusual burial ritual sites I have seen. In 2014, Yvonne and I had the pleasure of traveling to the Philippines for a 12 day mini-vacation and one of the best parts of our trip was visiting Sagada. We arrived in Sagada late in the afternoon after a long bus ride from Baguio. The bus ride was about six hours and took us high into the mountain region of Sagada.
Day 1: The Town of Sagada
When we arrived it was late afternoon and we had not booked a guesthouse. We had done our research and the few travel blogs and sites that talked about the hanging coffins of Sagada said it was easy to find a guesthouse and that in low season you did not need to book ahead. We quickly realized that we had made a mistake (like usual) because the little town was abuzz with activity.
The town of Sagada is made up of just a few restaurants, a couple of guesthouses, and a small number of shops. The town might normally accommodate 1,000-2,000 people, but when we arrived it was clear we had stumbled upon a local festival, which is normally awesome and a lot of fun, if you have planned for it. Not so much fun when you need to find accommodations for the next few days. Lucky, we were able to find a room, much farther from the city center than we would have liked and far more expensive, but much better than sleeping on the streets.
After we found a room, we started to explore the little town. It turned out we made it just in time for the annual Sagada Etag Festival. The first night was the miss Sagada beauty pageant, complete with everything you would expect from a regional beauty pageant. There were crazy moms, fat girls trying to dance, young boys making rude comments, and nobody was surprised by the winner.
The first night in Sagada was a whirlwind of activity and a lot of unexpected fun. We had come for the hanging coffins of Sagada but we ended up with an entirely local experience that couldn’t compare to our expectations. This is what traveling is all about!
Day 2: The Hanging Coffins of Sagada
The next day we woke up early and headed out to find the coffins. Our first stop was breakfast, I get cranky if I haven’t eaten, so we always try to find breakfast or we make sure we pack some peanut butter. After breakfast (pictured below), we stocked up on water and snacks for our hike to the hanging coffins of Sagada.
How to get there:
There are two areas were you can see the coffins. The first area is the Lumiang Burial Cave, which is about a 40 minute walk from the town. You can see on the map below that you will need to walk south and head out of the town, if you pass the yogurt house, you are heading in the right direction.
The second area is in Echo Valley. You will needed to head up to the northeast end of town and head behind the big church. It can be a little confusing but just keep going and you will find the path. There should also be other travelers heading in and out of the valley, so if you get lost or confused just ask. We asked about 2-3 times just to make sure we were going in the right direction.
In the Lumiang Burial Cave most of the coffins are on the ground or stacked on top of each each, as seen in the pictures above. But, in Echo Valley, you will find the hanging coffins of Sagada. These are suspended high in the mountains and Yvonne and I were surprised by how high up some of the coffins were placed.
When you arrive in Sagada, you will be expected to pay a tourist tax at the local government administration building. It will cost you about 70 pesos per person. You will also be offered local guides, but you do not need them. If you are planning on exploring the bigger cave called ‘Sumaging’ you are required to hire a guide, but if you are just there to see the coffins, you can do it on your own.
How much time does it take:
You can do both the cave and the valley in one day, but it will be a lot of hiking. If you are healthy and fit, you should be able to do both in one day. We went to the cave in the morning and after lunch we explored the valley, but I was sore the next day. The cave is about 40 minutes out of town and you can spend about 30-50 minutes around the cave. So, we left about 10 am and made it back in time for lunch. We got back into town around 12:30 pm. It took us about 2.5 hours, but we were strolling along and enjoying the beautiful scenery and nature of the mountains.
After lunch, we headed into Echo Valley to see the hanging coffins of Sagada. It took us about one hour to climb down the path and about 2 hours to climb back up. Again, I am a slow traveler and tend not to push myself to hard. You could to do the hike in about 2 hours total, but the area is gorgeous and going slow allows you to take pictures and enjoy nature. We left the town around 2 pm and made it back around 5:30 -6:00 pm. Just in time for dinner!
Day 3: Sagada waterfall and Day hike
There are many activities in Sagada. You can explore the caves, the hanging coffins, go rock climbing, or explore the Sagada waterfall. Yvonne and I thought the waterfall sounded interesting. We headed out to find this awesome waterfall, but after wandering through rice fields and almost falling into a creek, we didn’t think it was all that ‘awesome’ when we found it. We found a little path near the Sagada weaving shop, which is worth popping into to check out the handwoven items for sale. The little path took us down a step valley into a rice field and after following the path farther, we crossed a creek into another rice field and finally made it to the little waterfall.
This was our little adventure to see the hanging coffins of Sagada. We got much more than we bargained for and we really enjoyed the Etag Festival, the coffins, and the waterfall wasn’t so bad once we found it. Overall, this is a great spot to visit in the Philippines and a great way to see the local mountain communities of Sagada. Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.