A Beautiful Disaster – that’s how they describe Mt. Pinatubo. From its disastrous eruption on June 15, 1991 which considered to be the world’s second largest eruption of the 20th century, until how it stands beautifully in the Municipality of Botolan in the Province of Zambales today. It even became more famous after being featured in the blockbuster movie of our country’s most famous loveteam Kathniel, Crazy Beautiful You.
This active stratovolcano has been a dormant volcano for the past 400 years before its 1991 eruption that affects not only our country, but also our nearby Asian countries forming the now most visited site on the area, the stunning turquoise to emerald colored Mt. Pinatubo crater lake. The place is so dreamy that you would never know how many lives it took and how many families it left homeless.
How To Get There?
You can either jumped off on Capas, Tarlac or on Botolan, Zambales in order to get to the actual crater lake. In our case, we opted to choose the Capas trail.
You may ride a bus from Cubao or Pasay going to Capas, Tarlac (these are buses bound to Baguio, Urdaneta or Dagupan). From Capas (Mcdonalds Capas Junction), ride a tricycle that will take you directly to Capas Tourist Information in Brgy. Sta. Juliana, Capas. You may register your visit there and they’ll help you out arranging a 4×4 ride for your group.
Book a Tour
For your convenience, you may also want to book a joiner/exclusive tour with a travel and tour agencies. We booked our tour from LFC Travel and Tours for Php 2,800 per pax. Please take note that prices may change without prior notice and may vary depending on your pick-up location (they offer pick-ups across Metro Manila and Pampanga). This package already includes your van transportation, 4×4 ride (ratio 1:4), entrance fee, conservation fee, tour guide/coordinator fee and a bag tag. Definitely worth the convenience you can get.
Start of our Journey
We were picked-up from our pick-up location at around 1:00 AM and reached Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas at around 4:00 AM. We had some breakfast first and logged our registration at around 5:00 AM. After a short briefing from the coordinator and settling everything from the registration, we started our 4×4 adventure at around 5:45 AM.
The 1.5 hour 4×4 ride is already an exciting experience everyone should look forward on this trip. It is such an experience passing through jarring dirt roads full of volcanic debris, beautiful landscapes and rivers while seeing the sun slowly rising along the way. The ride may be bumpy but my heart is so full with the scenes right in front of me and excited with the stunner waiting for me on the top. You’ll pass through what they call “Toblerone Hills” and may have the chance to take photos with it.
After a 1.5-hour ride, you’ll be reaching the jump point where trekking starts. Please note that the distance of the trek may vary depending on the season/weather. For some cases, you may only trek for about 5 km but there are cases that you have to trek for about 7 km when 4×4 rides can’t pass through rough river trails.
Trekking to the Crater Lake
We started our trek at around 7:30 in the morning. The trek consists of a lot of river crossing, walking through volcanic debris and rocky terrains. Mt. Pinatubo is a minor climb with 2/9 difficulty making it a perfect mountain for any beginner. The trail is mostly flat and easy, the easiest trek I’ve ever had (so far). The only challenge you may take is the last ascent going to the actual crater but they already established stairs going up there so nothing to really worry about.
There are few stores along the way owned by the Aeta settlers in the area where you can buy your refreshments. Also, don’t forget to greet and talk with the Aeta kids you’ll meet along the way. There are a lot of them on the trail, who shares big smiles on their faces while greeting every tourist passing by with enthusiasm. You can really feel their excitement to meet people, so if you have extra goodies why not share it to the kids. For sure, they’ll be the happiest!
We reached the crater lake marker after 1 hour and 20 minutes, and we were stunned by the beauty the crater lake holds. The scene was so picturesque that a photo I seen online can’t justify how stunning it is compared on seeing it with my bare eyes, real time. The charming panorama is so relaxing to look at, completely different on how it enraged and released volcanic plums few decades back. The lake itself is fascinating on its blue to emerald color with the caldera’s walls full of lushes as its contrast.
You can get down with their established stairs to get near on the actual crater lake. It is another 5 to 10-minute trek depending on your pace. I suggest to don’t miss the chance of getting near the actual lake for the experience. You already made you way to this stunner, why not make the most of it right? You may touch the water on the lake but swimming is strictly prohibited.
They renewed the view deck area into a park where tourists can take a rest and eat while appreciating the majestic scenery. There are few food stalls available that sell snacks but be mindful that prices are way higher than usual. It’s understandable in the other hand, as locals invest so much effort and money just to bring these goods up there. We decided to reward ourselves with a cup of pancit canton and cold soda. A 100-peso pancit canton and a 100-peso coke tastes more delicious after a worthy climb with a worthy view!
It took us another 1 hour and 20 minutes to go down to the jump point where our 4×4 parked. Overall, it’s is an experience worth every penny, sweat and tread.
Things to know before going:
- Bring masks or anything that can cover your nose since the trail is so dusty especially on the 4×4 ride.
- Make sure to apply sunblock or bring a hat to protect you from the scorching heat of the sun. The trail might be too hot when you go down.
- The time allocated by Capas Tourism Office and Philippine Air Force for tourists is between 5AM to 10AM. So, make sure to be early on the tourism office to avoid the cut off time.
- Cut off time may change without prior notice so better to visit and contact Capas Tourism Office Facebook page for more updated details.