Travel Guide: Lussok Cave and Underground River
Luna, Apayao, Philippines — Somewhere between the mountains and the sea of the great Cordillera Administrative Region are quaint quiet towns—little treasure finds tucked hidden in its vast expanse, like Luna in the province of Apayao.
Looking back, it has been more than a decade since the last time I set foot in the province. I was surprised to see a lot of positive developments and the roads are much better than other provinces in Luzon and despite being one of the lesser-known tourist destinations in the region.
To me, it was an impressive feat on how local officials have been pushing their tourism promotion efforts in order to help the livelihood of its local community.
A landlocked area in the Philippines that borders Cagayan to the north and east, Abra and Ilocos Norte to the west, and Kalinga to the south, Apayao is naturally traversed by rivers and is home to a number of natural attractions frequented mostly by local backpackers. It is considered Cordillera’s last nature frontier because its people still maintain their peaceful coexistence with the natural environment.
Nestled in its northernmost part of Apayao is the municipality of Luna, where the Lussok Cave and Underground River is emerging as an eco-tourism hotspot.
Our Media group and the rest of the Grand North Luzon Caravan participants have just visited the St. Philomene Church in the town of Alcala in the northern province of Cagayan, and our next stop was strategically the nearby municipality of Luna in Apayao. It was almost sundown when we arrived in the area and we proceeded to Lussok Cave Visitors Center for a late lunch and activity orientation.
Upon arrival at the area, we were welcomed by the Provincial Tourism Officer, Ms. Rebecca Mamba, and Apayao Board Member Ms. Kyle Bulut. We were also welcomed by the cultural group of the Provincial Government of Apayao who performed their traditional dance [taddo’] and even invited some of us to dance with them.
Unknown to most of us, their performance is just the beginning of a one-of-a-kind journey we were about to take part of.
About Lussok Underground River and Crystal Cave
On the rocky slope of Barangay Dagupan, one will find this multi-chamber cave with centuries-old stalactites and stalagmites embedded with crystals that dance and shine with the tiniest reflection of light, thus its other name, the Crystal Caves.
TRIVIA: Lussok means a hole in the Ilocano language. The cave was named as such due to a whole that provides light inside the cave.
Accessible through an underground river system, you can navigate your way through the calm, placid river and onto the picturesque maze via boat without outriggers (or katig).
The cave is a 20-minute drive away from Marag Valley. From the visitor’s center, a short walk leads to the river cruise jump-off point. The tour starts with a brief 200-meter boat ride on the enchanting azure waters.
During the 10-15 minute river cruise, we were in awe to see lush vegetation, crystal clear waters and the overall serenity of the place. Glimmering limestone formations reflect the light seeping through the formation welcomed us just before we reached the mouth of the cave.
Inside you will see various formations of stalactites and stalagmites much like the ones in Puerto Princesa in Palawan. There are formations depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary, vegetables, fruits and faces that were all pointed out to us by our trained boatmen guides.
For thrill-seekers, you can also go on a one-hour guided spelunking activity up to its vertical cave.
Fees and Operating Hours
Located in Brgy. Dagupan in Luna, the Lussok Cave, and Underground River is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fee is set at 120 Php/head, and the parking fee is Php25. It is also required to hire an accredited tour guide for safety.
Best time to visit Apayao
The rainy season in Apayao starts from the month of June until November, although most tourist attractions are still open during this season. If you want to make the most out of your trip, the most ideal months to explore the province is between the months of March and May when the weather is dry.
About Luna, Apayao
Luna is a second class municipality in the province of Apayao in the Cordillera Administrative Region. Its former name was Macatel, which was then changed to Luna by the town’s founding father, the Ilocano explorer Antonino Barroga from Dingras, Ilocos Norte.
How to get to Luna, Apayao
The fastest way to get to Apayao is to book a flight with PAL or CEB to Tuguegarao City or Laoag City. The trip will take about an hour. From any of the abovementioned airports, there are vans and jeepneys bound for Luna, Apayao.
The most economical way, however, is to take a bus from Manila bound to Apayao. Here are the bus lines/terminal that currently offers Manila-Aapayao routes:
- Rivera Transit Terminal in Mayon St, Quezon City
- RCJ Bus Line Inc. in 1558 España, Sampaloc, Manila
- North Star in Shorthorn St, Bago Bantay, Quezon City,
- Florida Bus Terminal in Espana, Manila
Getting around Luna, Apayao
Getting around is a bit trickier because public transportation is limited. However, you can hire tricycle drivers to drive you around the area, or you can hire a private vehicle from accredited vehicle rental shops in the city or in the nearby towns.
- Arrive early to enjoy all the activities as the visitor center closes at 4pm.
- Help maintain the facilities by buying souvenirs at the visitor’s center.
- Show your appreciation by giving gratuities to the local boatmen and tour guides.
- Visit the hanging bridge to see the river from a different angle.
- Provincial Tourism Office of Apayao / Rebecca T. Mamba 0927-2417343 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Luna Municipal Tourism Office / Terence Grande – 0921-4653657
This tour is part of the 2020 Grand North Luzon Fun Caravan, organized by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) in Partnership with Tourism Promotions Board, the Department of Tourism and various LGU’s of Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Quirino, Isabela, Cagayan Valley, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Abra, and Apayao.
For inquiries on how to join the upcoming caravans, call PHILTOA at +632 8812 4513 or +63 932 847 4735 or visit Facebook.com/PhilippineTourOperatorsAssociation/.