A Daytour-Turned-Overnight-Trip to Mt. Pinatubo

Monday, November 27, 2017

mt pinatubo travel guide

Please take note of the Leave No Trace Principles before proceeding:
For quite some time, Dennis had been wanting to go to Mt. Pinatubo. When a group of travel blogger friends started making plans for a trip here, we were naturally interested. But after a series of Facebook Messenger conversations, the number of individuals who wanted to come dwindled. In the end, it was just me, Dennis, Potpot of Travel Trilogy, and Marcos of Detourista.

The initial plan was a daytrip, but Dennis and I arrived late. We found out the hard way that visitors were only allowed to go up the crater not later than 7AM on account of military exercises.
Determined not to let the day go to waste, we decided to go to a Lake Tambo Tour instead. So in we went to a 4x4, ready to brave the desert of Tarlac.

The ashen soil of Crow Valley whirled into clouds of dust as we sped past. It took us less than an hour to reach Lake Tambo. Here, we indulged and admired the landscape.
crow valley pinatubo

lake tambo diy guide

The prevailing color here was green. A spine of verdant hills rolled on both sides of the lake. Lake Tambo's placid surface shone with an emerald tinge, reflecting the surroundings. The place looked vibrant, full of life. A complete opposite of the road we had just taken.

After a round of pictures, we proceeded to our next destination: the Toblerone Hills.
toblerone hills pinatubo

celine reyes dennis murillo

This chain of peaks was so named because of its resemblance to the popular choco snack. It looked like a crudely rendered Toblerone – white-chocolate-flavored with specks of mint. We were told that there are months when the hills are devoid of any embellishments, making the resemblance to Toblerone even more pronounced. The day of our visit, moss mottled the jagged spikes, growing along its nooks and crannies. Even the surrounding land did not look as barren. It was still beautiful though. The landscape looked almost alien. It could almost pass for another planet.

Related Adventure: DIY Guide to Treasure Mountain

After we had our share of photos, we took one last sweeping look and headed to Sitio Yangil – an Aeta village. We had our late lunch here but we did not tarry.
aeta village pinatubo

We headed back to the town proper and checked into a lodge. Our minds set for tomorrow.

The next day, we had an early start. We were at the tourism office in Brgy. Sta. Juliana – the jump-off – a little past 6AM. After settling our fees, we once again rode a 4x4 and jostled for an hour across the desert. We then went on foot through a 7-kilometer open trail.

We spent three hours trudging under the sun, enduring bouts of miniature sandstorms. The path had hardly any inclines, but we were specially exhausted because of the heat. Fortunately, being sun-baked turned out to be worth it.

Related Adventure: Where to Stay in Tarlac

It was hard to believe that the scene before me was born from devastation. Mt. Pinatubo looked like something straight out of a fantasy. The crater lake, that day, was a gleaming sheet of green. The water sparkling under the high sun. Along its borders, the land peaked and dived. The tips tiered and peeking from behind another.

A beautiful disaster.
We took our time in this place. I even took a nap. By the time we made our way back, the sun was still raging and so I was grateful for the rest.

In Sta. Juliana, we had a snack of instant pancit canton and four liters of Coca Cola. We were all tired but we still managed to sneak in a foray to the Capas National Shrine – a memorial to the soldiers who perished during the Bataan Death March.
This trip was nothing like we planned, but it turned out to be as interesting and memorable as we'd hoped for.

Related Adventure: Where to Eat in Tarlac

There are Tarlac-bound buses in Cubao. Get on one and alight at the Capas Public Market. From here, take a jeepney or a tricycle to Brgy. Sta. Juliana where the tourism office is located. You may book a 4×4 vehicle here. Alternatively, you may also take buses bound for Baguio, Ilocos, or Pangasinan – these will pass by Capas.

To get back to the Public Market where there are buses to Cubao, you may rent a tricycle all the way to there. Or, you may take a tricycle to Patling where there are jeepneys bound for the market. You may also pass by the Capas National Shrine along the way.

(per person unless otherwise stated)
Bus Fare (Manila vv Capas) - Php174 x 2 = Php348
Tricycle Fare (Capas Public Market vv Tourism Office at Sta. Juliana) - Php300 x 2 = Php600, good for 4 pax
Tricycle Fare (Sta. Juliana to Patling) - Php20
Jeepney Fare (Patling to Capas Public Market) - Php30

Conservation Fee - Php300
4x4 Rental - Php1,500, good for 5 pax
Local Guide Fee - Php500, good for 5 pax
Conservation Fee - Php300.00
4×4 Rental - Php3,000.00, good for 5 pax
Local Guide Fee - Php500.00, good for 5 pax

- You must be at the tourism office in Sta. Juliana before 7AM if you wish to go up Mt. Pinatubo. If you arrive later, you will not be allowed to go up on account of military exercises
- For Lake Tambo tours, however, guests are allowed to go until 3PM for a daytour
- Bring lots of water and sun protection like a hat or an umbrella
- Put on some sunscreen!
- Bring food – there are makeshift stores along the way but the prices of goods are incredibly steep

Have you been to Mt. Pinatubo? How was your experience?

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