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Kiltepan Sunrise in Sagada: Eh, JUST SKIP IT.

Before this gets misconstrued, I’d like to make it clear that I love Sagada. Despite the long journey I had to endure while suffering from a mild ear infection and an upper respiratory tract infection, it was well worth the struggle. Located literally in a place called Mountain Province, Sagada lies on a valley at around 5,000 feet above sea level. The weather is cooler unlike the rest of the Philippines, and trust me when I say that this is a nature loving freak’s heaven. From lush and terraced rice paddies to beautiful pines in the streets, spectacular waterfalls and phenomenal caves, Sagada makes the perfect getaway from the hectic city life.


Sadly today, it’s becoming a big tourist attraction, and in a few years, who knows if it’ll still keep its virginal charm that most of us like to seek after. I think there was a local movie that came out in the past year that definitely attracted a lot of local travelers to head up in the mountains. Let’s blame that. But fortunately for me, when I went on my birthday this year, there weren’t too many people. I got there on a Sunday so most people would be leaving in the morning. However, my birthday sunrise on our first morning didn’t really pan out as I imagined it would be.

Girl, Unspotted - Kiltepan Sunrise, Sagada
It was all planned out that I’ll be watching the sunrise over the mountains on the morning I turn 28. I’ve seen the pictures and I’ve read the blogs. Kiltepan summit is the spot to be. It was the picture perfect sunrise I was after. With massive fluffy clouds blanketing the atmosphere as the sunlight slowly illuminates from within— how could one not want that. But of course, I considered the fact that there’s no guarantee of a sunrise or even the thick clouds I was mostly after. Either way, I had a good feeling about it and we went anyway.

Girl, Unspotted - Kiltepan Sunrise, Sagada
The next morning, we hopped on a van to take us to the summit. We left at 4:30, and although it wasn’t too far of a drive, it was a good call to leave early because by the time we reached the summit, it was already crowded. Apparently, this is most weekenders’ final stop just right before they head back to the city. I’m really not good with big crowds. I loathe having to come across big groups, because… it’s such a buzz kill. Call me spoiled, but my travels are very meaningful to me and sharing them with mostly inconsiderate others easily ruins the vibe. (READ: How To Survive Tourist Spots 101)

Yes, Kiltepan is a gorgeous spot. It has a beautiful view, and the sunrise is literally all-up-in-your-face breathtaking. Though there were no clouds that morning, it almost surpassed my expectation. I mean, this was my first sunrise over the mountains so it was definitely something else than what I’m used to. But then again, I snapped back to reality just as soon as I left it. It’s not even like I’m being a total snob about it, but let’s please be real. Traveling 12 hours (20 hours in transit) to share a beautiful sunrise with dozens of others just doesn’t cut it. The entire experiences loses its authentic touch. I can even try to be positive about it and say, hey, we all have the same desire to be captivated by the magic of our world, right. But no. It was just a complete buzz kill. On my birthday. (READ: Travelers vs. Tourists: An Honest Comparison)

See, I’d defend other touristy places in a heartbeat, like say, Boracay. I’d come back to the island over and over again and have no shame about it. I don’t mind the people because that’s how I know Boracay. Others see it differently, and quite the opposite actually, because they’re looking for paradise. (READ: The Ultimate Boracay Hack) And that’s exactly why I was disappointed in Kiltepan. Because I was expecting more than just a sunrise. I expected an ultimate experience.

Girl, Unspotted - Kiltepan Sunrise, Sagada

Sunrises are actually meaningful to me. I’m not a morning person. My entire life, I can probably count the sunrises I’ve witnessed with two hands. And some of those very rare occasions, I was on a plane or a bus. Any occasion that I voluntarily get out of bed that early in the morning, I treasure it. So forgive me when I claim that sharing a glorious sunrise while others are pushing and raising their cameras to block your view was just not the kind of birthday bliss I was craving. Top that off with loud murmurs, annoying ringtones, and overall tourist central activities, and well, it was just not worth waking up at 4am for. (READ: How To Be An Annoying Traveler)

Girl, Unspotted - Kiltepan Sunrise, Sagada

Have I known it would have been that chaotic, I would have skipped it. And with hindsight, meaning, knowing what I know now, I would advice you to skip it too, if it’s a hectic weekend (or a Monday), or a peak season in general. But you know what, the day after that, I found a much better alternative to Kiltepan. I mean come on, it’s Sagada. It’s a hikers central, so there’s gotta be a bunch of secret corners overlooking the sunrise. See, Kiltepan summit is easily accessible by a ride. It doesn’t require any physical effort, which is why it attracts more tourists. The next morning, we went on a hike to Marlboro Country, and there we witnessed the sublime sunrise I dreamed of. Yes, complete with abundant blankets of clouds I imagined as well. Best of all, it was quiet and secluded. I’ll write about that another time.

Girl, Unspotted - Kiltepan Sunrise, Sagada

When all is said and done, I may have just went on a wrong day, which is a rookie mistake. I’ve read the wrong blogs who failed to mention that behind the beautiful pictures, there’s an excessive amount of people clicking away and blocking other people’s view. And that is why I felt the need to let you know now that, no, the reality of Kiltepan sunrise isn’t like what you’ve seen in the pictures. But if you don’t mind the people and all you really want is a picture, then by all means, join the others. After all, going where everybody else does is how you really make the most of traveling, right? Rrrrrriiiight.

Girl, Unspotted - Kiltepan Sunrise, Sagada

Girl, Unspotted - Kiltepan Sunrise, Sagada

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21 thoughts on “Kiltepan Sunrise in Sagada: Eh, JUST SKIP IT.

  1. I totally get where you’re coming from. The pictures are beautiful, but the amazing thing about sunrises is that it’s the beginning of the day and should be quiet, authentic, unspoilt. It’s hard to get that when it’s become such a touristy, busy experience.

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  2. Sorry for that bummer for a start or a birth day. But look at the bright side of that lovely sunrise. It is truly a place many appreciate. No mistake about that. Maybe just learn to tune out of others, if that is possible!

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  3. Call it like it is. It sure was lovely, but there are many, many spots on earth for a sun rise that haven’t been overrun.

    If it makes you feel better, everyone thinks I’m crazy for saying I feel a bit “meh” about Ireland. I just don’t get the famed natural beauty. Sure, it’s pretty enough but…… I just feel like I’m missing something there. (Please don’t hate me!).

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  4. Sorry to hear that your birthday plan didn’t go as expected. I haven’t been to sagada, and I actually planned to see the sunrise there when I went to PH for a visit just last week. But due to the heat and the exhaustion brought about by the long travel (approx. 18 hours of flight), I decided to skip going to any tourist spot and just go to a hidden cave resort in Quezon province. It was fantastic, my family and I were the only people in that hidden gem. 😀
    But you’re still lucky, you’d been to Sagada, and saw the rice terraces as well. I just cannot blame the rest of the pop. to want to see the sunrise with you, after it appeared on tv and endorsed by celebrities and the media. I suggest you see the sunrise in Manila Bay, too. 🙂 Belated Happy Birthday, anyway! The best of life and love to you!

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  5. I respect your honesty here. You’re right, just because it’s the place to see a perfect sunrise, doesn’t mean it’s the perfect place to see a sunrise! I’m also not that happy in crowded places, but sometimes you have to try it to find out. But I’m sure you will help some others, like you and me, decide to give the Kiltepan sunrise a miss.

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  6. Yes. The crowds up there did sort of ruin the sunrise experience for me as well. I will not deny it was beautiful though. I will take note of that sunrise at Marlboro Country. We did not go there the last time, next time we will.

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  7. I have heritage-advocate friends who have been discouraging me to visit Sagada. The influx of tourists have affected the local community and they want to control the arrival of people. Now, I understand why. I think Sagada needs the previous peace it once enjoyed. I’ll give it time before I embark on a journey to Sagada.

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  8. I have nevet been to Sagada, but if I’ll go there it won’t be for sunrise for sure. There are lots of untouched spots here in the province where I live where sunrise can be witnessed without competing from other tourists. I feel you though, there are times when we want to capture something but could not get the chance because you can’t just say ‘excuse me’ to people who are also there for the same reason.

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  9. We’ve definitely had similar experiences and you’re right – it’s all about expectations – we’ve been places we ended up loving because we had little to no expectations and others we thought would be amazing and fell short. Glad you got a great view and sunrise but sorry it wasn’t the experience you were hoping for/expecting!

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  10. I bet it is worth the long hike. I love watching the sunrise too, its one of the best views the world can offer. Even if I’m not a morning person myself, it sure is enjoyable!

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  11. Sorry to see that your day didn’t start out well. I completely get what you mean about all the tourists ruining the moment for you. That’s why I like finding places off the beaten path, somewhere that no one knows about or goes to. Happy travels and here’s to another 28 years!

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  12. This place looks stunning but it is pretty crowded. Its hard when you want to enjoy a sunrise or just a view in quiet or with only a few people around and a coach full turns up. Machu Picchu was similar when we got down into the main bit but the trail was pretty quiet. I think you need to be really patient and savour the moments of bliss that you can!

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  13. it reminds me of going to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. There will always be hundreds of people to witness these amazing locations for sunsets. I understand that you became so annoyed though, it’s never fun being crammed in between tons of inconsiderate people. Patience is key here in order to enjoy what you can! Just gotta make the most of it!

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  14. I think when you go to Boracay, you expect people but when you go to the mountain, you expect fewer people and appreciate more the surrounding. I hope they get to control the influx to give visitor a better appreciation of the beauty of Sagada.

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  15. I have been to Sagada last month and Kiltepan sunrise and the sea of clouds is one I really want to see but during that day no sunrise but there are sea of clouds. I am happy to see it anyway, it is just that I don’t have picture alone because of the crowd but nonetheless I enjoyed it. I still encourage people to visit Sagada because for me it is really a beautiful place.

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