Taal volcano is one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. A beauty that has probably been printed on millions of postcards, it is an icon of Philippine tourism. At plain sight, this volcano might look small, but looks can be deceiving, it is one of the most active in the country.
Taal Volcano sits on a ninety square-mile crater lake called Taal Lake, formed by volcanic activities hundreds of thousands of years ago. What’s interesting about this freshwater body is that it engulfs another smaller crater lake, Volcano Island. And within Volcano Island is another small island called Vulcan point. Vulcan point is considered one of the largest third order islands in the world.
On a biker’s point of view, knowledge of lakes like this becomes a motivation for future route planning. Any Manila-based cyclist would know, one of the popular bucket list item among the community is finishing the Laguna (Lake) Loop route, a 170-plus-kilometer road of pain and pleasure. Though it may not be an top choice because of its proximity, the Taal Lake Loop also offers a very unique experience of its own. And because less people are taking this route, it makes it even more interesting to ride.
Taal Loop was the next destination of our biking team. The ride started and ended in Lipa City, Batangas. Doing a clockwise route, we passed through the different towns of the province around the Taal Lake. The overall distance was around 115 kilometers with an elevation gain of 950 meters. And though it may be shorter than the Laguna Loop route, comparing their elevation-gain-per-kilometer ratio, the difference isn’t too dramatic, with Laguna Loop only having a slightly higher value.
Distance : 115.6 kms
Max Elevation : 959 m
Elevation Gain : 402 m
Moving Time : 08:05:18
*map and data by Strava
Taal Lake Sights and Scenes
Since most of our team members lives away from each other, we decided to go our own way and just meet up in Lipa City. Some hardcore members rode out the night before and biked all the way. While those who were caught with their day jobs and other appointments, me included, took the bus to Batangas early morning.
We reached Lipa at around 8 in the morning. After a few stretching and a dose of the famous Batangas Lomi for breakfast. We hopped on our saddles and headed to Cuenca.
The first few towns after Lipa don’t have a roadside view of the Taal Lake, mainly because the towering Mt. Maculot stands on the lake’s southern border.
After some short gradual Climb in Cuenca, the next twenty kilometer was almost all downhill so relatively, the day could still be considered easy for us. Aside from some minor mishaps, we were cruising accross the towns of Cuenca, Alitagtag and Sta. Cruz until we reached the town of Taal.
Taal Heritage Town – Kilometer 35
The town of Taal is one of the historical municipalities south of Metro Manila. Known for its old ancestral houses from the Spanish period, this place is reminiscent of the city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
Perhaps the most popular landmark of Taal is its old structure standing right at its heart, the Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours otherwise known as Taal Basilica. Known as the biggest catholic church in Asia, it is ninety-six meters long, forty-five meter wide and ninety-six meters tall.
The present structure is around a hundred and fifty years old due to relocations and reconstructions, but the Basilica itself has a long rich history dating back to the 1500s.
Taal is also known for its old houses, so we stayed in town for a little while and toured around some popular ancestral houses.
Kilometer 65 (Agoncillo to Laurel superclimb)
As we left Taal and head to Agoncillo, the road got greener and the ambiance of the countryside became more obvious. There were short good views of the lake at some points but the better ones were still ahead of us. Before reaching the town of Laurel, we were caught off guard by a roadblock.
Definitely the most difficult part of the Taal Loop route is this 800-meter climb between Agoncillo and Laurel. Though it may be short, but its 13% steepness grade would take the wind out of you.
After this tough climb, reward awaits. The roadside view transforms from good to great. The Taal Lake was now clearly on sight and we had a perfect view of its beauty.
Motorized vehicle are very rare, so the we pretty much owned the road.
As we reached Laurel, we could see the Tagaytay Ridge from not too distant, reminding us that we were already more than halfway our loop.
We were in Talisay at around four in the afternoon taking some breather. Here, we had an option to either climb to Tagaytay and bike all the way to Manila, or continue heading east to Tanauan where we were not sure if we could catch a bus back to Manila.
But with the goal of finishing the complete loop, we opted to go with the latter and hoped our luck still hadn’t ran out.
From Talisay, Lipa City is still almost 40 kilometers away and more than 90% of it is uphill.
As for almost all of our rides, night time has caught us once again. The sun has already set as we were climbing the long Tanauan slopes, wishfully thing there would be a bus able to accommodate us.
And yes, the god of bike touring has favored us once again. We arrived in Lipa past seven. After waiting for buses with big compartments, we were bound home bringing with us the new experience and stories about this amazing Taal Loop ride..
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