Best time to walk the cobbled streets is probably in the 90 minutes before dawn when the poisonous fug from two stroke engines has subsided and you can appreciate its remarkable state of preservation without being deafened and jostled.
In pre-colonial times, Vigan was an important trading post for Chinese junks, trading gold beeswax and other products from the central Cordilleras for exotic Asian goods. Many Chinese traders settled in the mestizo district, marrying locals and starting new bloodlines.
Vigan was captured and settled by the Spanish in 1572, and grew to become a centre of Spanish political and religious power in the north of Luzon. In 1758 Vigan became the Seat of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia.
Interestingly the town was also a hotbed of anti-Spanish politics. Diego Silang was perhaps the most notable resistance leader, but was assassinated by his friends (on commission from the Spanish) in May 1763. Undeterred, Silang's wife, Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang, assumed leadership of the uprising but was later captured by the Spanish and publicly hanged in on September 20, 1763.
Local legend has it that Vigan got its name from a simple communication breakdown. A Spaniard walking along the Metizo River apparently met a local and asked which the city's name. Not understanding what he was being asked, but seeing that the Spaniard seemed to be pointing to a tree, replied "Bigaa Apo" (a giant Taro plant that was common in the area). It is from the word "Bigaa" that Vigan is said to have derived its name.
Vigan is a relatively small city with two hearts: the recreational and shopping area around the adjacent Plaza Salcedo and Plaza Burgos in the north, and the commercial centre around the public market in the south. The mestizo district is focused along Plaridel and Mena Crisologo Streets, running south from Plaza Burgos towards the cemetery.
There is a helpful and friendly provincial tourist information office south west of Plaza Burgos (next to Cafe Leona) that can dispense information on Vigan and the rest of Ilocos Sur. Banks with ATMs accepting foreign credit cards are located around the recreational and shopping areas and at Quezon Avenue, as are internet cafes with access that charge P20 per hour. Some restaurants offer Wi-Fi access.
By bus or car
It's seven to ten hours' drive along the scenic Ilocos Highway from Manila to Vigan. Partas Bus Co., Dominion Bus Lines, Viron Transit, and St. Joseph/Aniceto Transit have regular trips to Vigan. Bus lines like Philippine Rabbit Bus Line, Farinas Transit, Maria de Leon, Florida, and RCJ Transit have regular trips plying the Manila-Laoag route, which passes by Vigan.
Interisland Airlines  flies to Mindoro Airport , also known as Vigan Airport, the airport serving the general area of Vigan City. Alternately, you could go to Laoag's airport (1.5 hours by car), the Laoag International Airport. Philippine Airlines flies to from Laoag everyday of the week from Manila. Cebu Pacific flies daily from Manila.
A fun throwback to colonial days are the calesa horse-drawn carriages that still clip-clop through Vigan's streets. Rates for calesa rides should be the same as those for the many tricycles (P8-P10 within the city limits) that will undoubtedly by vying for your custom. But you could also hire a private calesa for around ₱150 per hour. Unless you're absolutely sure you have a tour guide that will give you in depth information about the sites you're visiting, A whole day calesa adventure for about ₱1000 (roughly 6-7 hours) would be advisable. You can take your time visiting the sites and not being rushed by a guide, as well as picking and choosing the areas you want to visit.
There are dozens of antique and souvenir shops dotted about the city, particularly on Crisologo and Plaridel Streets in the mestizo district. Although most of the antiques are only reproductions, you'll still enjoy browsing odd items, religious paraphernalia (look out for the toddler Jesus figurines) and some unique foods. You can also buy hand-rolled cigars, sold in packs of three.
You can buy native handwoven abel cloth at the Vigan Public Market, as well as delicacies like longganisa (native pork sausages) and bagnet (deep-fried crispy pork) at its Meat Section.
Eat and Drink
Popular snack stands along Plaza Burgos serve up a variety of local treats, among others, like:
Nobody should leave Vigan without tasting their empanada. It is a different concoction from the flour-based empanada that one usually knows.
Royal Bibingka is very popular at Tongson's Royal Bibingka, #8 Florentino St., Vigan City--just a street away from Plaza Burgos.
Also, one should have a try of the Vigan longganisa which is spicy unlike its Pampanga counterpart which is sweetish.
There is also a delicacy called tinubong, a sticky sweet rice cake that's sold in bamboo tubes, and you have to break the bamboo to eat the sticky sweet rice inside. They are usually sold in the Heritage Village in bundles of three to five.
Fried tasty corn (cornick) can also be bought in the various stalls. It comes plain or flavoured.
Native sugar is also made in surrounding towns and barangays of Vigan. However, they are in the form of tagapulot (molasses) and balikutsa (a very hard sugar concoction shaped into scrolls).
Also try the Basi, a local wine (native rum) made from sugarcane.
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It is possible to cross from Vigan (or anywhere in Ilocos) straight into the Mountain Province (Bontoc, Sagada) and Ifugao (Banaue), without returning south to Baguio. To reach the Cordillera, you can take the following route:
1. Take an early bus from Vigan to Tagudin (for example a Partas bus heading to Manila/Baguio) and tell the driver you want to get off at Bitalag (₱150).
2. Take a van from Bitalag to Cervantes, which leaves between 7-8am, sometimes 9am depending on how many people are travelling (₱150, 2 hours). The vans run roughly every three hours until 5pm, but this strongly depends on the number of people travelling. The route takes you through the Bessang Pass National Park and is very picturesque.
3. At Cervantes, take a tricycle to the bridge (₱40), then cross the hanging bridge on foot.
4. On the other side of the bridge, take a van going to Tadian at 1pm (45 minutes, P50) and continuing to Bauko (another 15 minutes, ₱70 in total).
5. In Bauko there are plenty of vans going to Bontoc (1 hour, ₱50). If you want to continue to Sagada (50 minutes, ₱45), tell the driver you want to get there and he will point you where the jeepneys to Sagada are parked.
You can easily make this trip in a day and you arrive before sunset in Sagada.