Road trip after lockdown? TPLEX opens gateway to northern Luzon tourism destinations

If you’re planning an escapade after the pandemic, you’re not alone. When the lockdowns happened, land, air and sea transportation were shutdown — and with it came along all our travel plans. As quarantine levels were eased, we can finally embark on long-awaited adventures in faraway places, alongside friends and family.

For those who intend to travel, experts agree that traveling by car is a safer option to avoid COVID-19 transmission. And because air travel schedules are still far from ideal, wanderlusters from all over are raring to head back to the great outdoors, by land of course.

As the government opens the final segment of TPLEX from Pozorrubio, Pangasinan to Rosario, La Union on July 15, tourism destinations in northern Luzon can now be reached faster and more fun. A fully completed TPLEX will reduce travel time from Tarlac to La Union from 3.5 hours, down to just an hour. Meanwhile, journeys to Baguio can be done in less than three hours when taken via TPLEX Pozorrubio exit. If you still haven’t decided where to go, give these local destinations a try:


Just 130km north of Manila is the province of Tarlac. Whether its food, history or leisure, a short drive is all it takes to see what this province has to offer. The wide green spaces at the convent of Monasterio de Tarlac gathers many believers atop this small mountain to attend mass and enjoy the view from the top. Built in 1909, the Tarlac provincial capitol in San Vicente is a historical spot for those who enjoy sights of government buildings. The seemingly poignant Mt. Damas in Camiling presents an arduous challenge for hikers and trekkers, with the majestic rewards of Ubod Falls shortly after conquering the summit. For thrill seekers and nature lovers, cross the lahar fields aboard a 4×4 and quickly make your way to the pristine crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo.

La Union

Mention La Union in any conversation and people are bound to conjure images of the sun, sea, sand, and of course surfers! But there’s more to this province than the surfing town of San Juan. Other splendid sites include the Tangadan Falls, a turquoise waterfall located in San Gabriel. Either swim or jump your way to the deeper waters or enjoy a slow ride aboard the bamboo raft. For those looking for delicious grub after swimming, head to the town of Urbiztondo, where a crowd of millenials and hipster swear by the gastronomic delights in this vibrant, Instagram-worthy food scene. The local beach and roadside bars offers a mix of Mexican food, American/Western grub, laid back restobars and even affordable meals for the budget conscious. Before heading back, drop by San Fernando and take a quick stroll at a picturesque temple on top a hill, the Ma-Cho Temple.


Known for their prized milkfish, Pangasinan is also home to more than a hundred small islands and islets in the Lingayen Gulf, the world-famous Hundred Islands. At the eastern part of the province, in Natividad town, the Sky Plaza is a public park and view deck known for panoramic views of neighboring areas. Those seeking a romantic sunset can opt to visit the long stretches of white sand and crystal clear waters of Patar Beach, dubbed by travelers as the “Boracay of Pangasinan.” If yellow is your favorite color, check out the first-ever Sunflower Maze in the Philippines by Allied Botanical Corporation at Brgy Lichauco in the town of Tayug. If you fancy extreme sports, visit the Balungao Hilltop Adventure Resort where there is a variety of activities like the zipline experience, all-terrain vehicle driving, bungee trampoline, hiking or trail walking, trust fall, and mountain biking.

The TPLEX will eventually ease traffic and improve interconnectivity between the major north Luzon destinations. And now that it is fully completed, take a quick break from the hustle of the metro and drive your way to adventure.

(Photo courtesy of Dmitri Valencia)

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