ILOCOS NORTE | Kapurpurawan Rock Sunset

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I recall a message years back from an old friend telling me about a place in Ilocos Norte that resembles something straight out of the Star Wars universe. She said it was like Tatooine, only everything’s frozen.

I’ve been to Ilocos countless times already but I can’t believe I still haven’t seen this George Lucas induced landscape yet.

On my latest trip north, Kapurpurawan Rock finally made it into the itinerary. The plan was to shoot the iconic landscape for the sunset. Only problem was, it had been raining on and off all day and it would be a miracle if the sun showed itself at all.

It seemed our luck was about to turn though. The sky showed hints of blue as we started to descend the stone steps that lead to the shore where the nature-sculpted rock of Kapurpurawan is located.

I have zero knowledge about this place except for what I’ve been seeing on the Internet and I didn’t know that the formation was still a walk away from the outpost where the parking lot was.

The shoreline was vast and I was having a hard time choosing where to head. On my left, huge crashing waves that I bet would look good on pictures and on my right, the Kapurpurawan Rock formation. I knew the sun would be setting within the hour and meandering about would probably leave me scrambling towards the rock for a sunset frame. With the ground condition, I can seriously get hurt, so rock formation it was.

There was almost path marked by little flags towards the Kapurpurawan Rock but it was very rough. The ground is made of sharp coral stones that submerge in water during high tide. I treaded carefully, wearing only slippers, but still managed to trip and get nicked a few times.

I saw a few tourists sauntering towards the formation on horses which can be rented on the outpost, but I felt it would be better if I just walk. I can just imagine how hard it might be to take a photo while galloping on the uneven ground.
After uncountable photo stops, I finally made it to the Kapurpurawan Rock. The formation is cream white and is accented by a ridge looking like an eroded Egyptian Sphinx. It looked as beautiful as I imagined it to be. Unfortunately, the formation is now off limits to visitors due to the delicate nature of the rock.

Kapurpurawan, probably made of limestones and sandstones, is carved into a frozen desert through centuries of wind erosion. Just imagine if the wind can carve the rock, what can thousands of rubber soles do to the formation? I bet the place would be reduced to nothing in just a few decades.

Barbed wires are set in place around the formation that hinders people from climbing up. The barricades however were so haphazardly done it distracts from the beauty of the place.

What I think would be better is for the local government to pour a bit of money into the place and set up a wooden walkway that would extend from the outpost all the way to the formations. That way, visitors can still get a close up view of Kapurpurawan without disturbing its delicate surface.

I saw a walkway being introduced to the place but it is entirely made of concrete. It may be the easiest and most economical way to introduce tourists to the place but it’s a totally bad idea in my opinion. Not only does it look ugly but it leaves a permanent mark on the site. The people of Ilocos Norte has to think long-term in preserving this unique landscape.

It is curious to note that although the famous formation had been cordoned off, the back area is still open to visitors. I followed the trail and came to a scene as beautiful as the famous formation. It does look like a frozen dessert that isn’t too far from the landscapes of Star Wars.
Off the horizon, huge waves crash endless on a vast field of coral rocks. And as I carefully climbed down to get a closer look, the drama started above.

Even with the setting sun blocked by thick clouds, the heavens turned from warm orange to pink magentas. The rough landscapes of Kapurpurawan were bathed in very warm light that seemed totally unreal. I looked at the horizon and to make things weirder, saw green lights behind the clouds.

Green sunset. Am I dreaming or am I really seeing an emerald sky behind the thick pink clouds. My lens was too wide and it only captured a very tiny portion of the phenomenon. 

Below is a 100% crop of the photo above for closer inspection. Check out the yellow green highlights on the right frame of the photo, it was even more pronounced when seen in real life.
Now this is getting totally unreal. The wind was howling and the waves were still crashing relentlessly over the jagged shoreline. I was the only one left in the area and I’m seeing colors that are not supposed to be in the sky.

Taking a few parting shots, I nervously packed up and carefully headed up the Kapurpurawan again. There was absolutely no one else in sight.

The curtains started to close across the sky and the heavens started to dim. Searching the craggy shore, I saw my companions wave from afar. Breathing a sigh of relief, I slowed down and savored the incoming twilight.

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Address: Brgy. Saoit, Burgos, Ilocos Norte
Entrance Fee: Free
Horse Rental Fee: Php50.00 One Way

GPS Coordinates: 18.538465,120.653452
View Location on Google Maps: Click Here

You Might Also Like


  1. wow lucky you! emerald skies? wow!

  2. ah ito pala yung sinasabi mo na maulan? Ito ba yung nadatnan nyo a day before tayo nagpazamboanga? Ganda nga eh. Hindi ko yan napuntahan nung nagilocos ako..

  3. katakot naman yung last part.. Pag mag isa na lang ako naiihi You really only travel solo sir?

  4. i'm so glad to visit your blog after months of corporate imprisonment LOL. your photos never fail to amaze. i've seen other takes on Kapurpurawan but yours are way better. i agree that a wooden walkway would be better. if cemented walkway kasi baka magmukhang mga cheap resort sa Laguna at Rizal.

  5. by the way I've transferred blog home already to Turista Trails >>

  6. ganda ng mga pics ... is it really worth it to visit the place . I will be visiting ilocos next week and am taking notes of places to see.

  7. Gustong gusto ko na rin mag Ilocos. At pangarap ko makakuha ng kahit isang rock + sea shots with the foggy effect. Hehe :D

  8. Nakakainis naman to. Nakakainssecure tuloy magkuha ng kahit casual photos. :P

    Nice photos, I wasn't able to go there at all. It was closed off and it was *right after* a very big storm. Love your photos tlaga. :)

  9. Anny
    Yes, just like what we saw in Panglao :)

    Yup yan nga Chino :)

    Haha minsan nakaka stress din mag landscape shoot mag isa. I travel both with company and solo :)

    Turista Trails
    I agree, sayang lang sinimulan na nila yung concrete walkway

    Yes, you should visit this place! :)

    Elal Jane Lasola
    Elal, bili ka na ng ND filter :)

    Eileen Campos
    Haha ano ba, kayang kaya mo rin yan :)