The Philippines, a captivating island nation nestled in the Western Pacific, boasts an extensive coastline that ranks among the world’s longest, thanks to its archipelago of seven thousand tropical islands. These paradises are adorned with stunning coral reefs, offering exceptional diving experiences, a rich tapestry of wildlife including whale sharks and dugongs and lush mountainous rainforests to explore.
Warm and welcoming, the Filipino people add to the charm of this tropical haven. Access to the Philippines is effortless, with flights connecting to Manila or Cebu and convenient interisland travel options such as planes, cars, trains and ferries. Let’s explore the ten best places to visit in the Philippines:
Vigan: A Glimpse of Colonial Elegance
Wandering through the Crisologo St district of Vigan feels like stepping back in time. Cobblestone streets echo with the clip-clop of horse-drawn carts, flanked by dark-wood mansions that harken back to its colonial Spanish trading past. Today, tourism thrives, with museums housed in grand mansions, the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral and the vibrant Mestizo district.
Bohol: Tiny Primates and Chocolate Hills
Bohol, just a short hop from Cebu, offers a sanctuary for the diminutive tarsier, known for its big orange eyes and tiny fingers. The legendary Chocolate Hills, geological wonders created, according to folklore, by an angry giant, beckon non-divers to explore. For diving enthusiasts, Bohol serves as a gateway to marine reserves off Panglao and Pamilacan islands.
Manila: Dynamic Fusion of Old and New
As the capital of the Philippines, Manila is a bustling metropolis where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with contemporary culture. From gleaming skyscrapers to turn-of-the-century landmarks, the city offers a diverse tapestry of experiences. Its culinary scene reflects a fusion of Spanish, indigenous and Chinese influences, making dining an adventure. Throughout the year, Manila hosts nearly two dozen festivals, ensuring constant celebration.
Donsol: Encounter with Gentle Giants
Nestled in Sorsogon province, Donsol is a tranquil fishing village surrounded by pristine beaches, mesmerizing waterfalls and uncharted caves. It’s the premier destination in the Philippines to swim with whale sharks. These majestic creatures frequent Donsol Bay between November and June, with peak sightings from February to May.
Tagaytay: Volcanic Majesty and Serenity
Tagaytay is renowned for the majestic Taal volcano, featuring a combination of active and extinct craters. Lake Taal rests within the old Taal volcano crater, while the central island hosts the presently active volcano craters, emitting occasional steam. Tagaytay town, stretching along this ridge, offers a clean and laid-back atmosphere, making it a haven for food enthusiasts.
Cebu: Islands of Diverse Delights
Cebu, an island province with the bustling capital, Cebu City, is a treasure trove of urban vibrancy and natural beauty. The province comprises the main island and 167 surrounding islets. Cebu City mirrors Manila on a smaller scale and boasts Matcan Island, a premier dive site. Malapascua, a four-hour drive and boat ride away, is a renowned dive destination often considered the country’s best.
Mindoro: Pristine Enclaves and Island Adventures
Mindoro comprises two regions, Mindoro Oriental and Mindoro Occidental, separated by a lofty mountain range. Remote and untouched, the northern region is home to the indigenous Mangayan tribe. Sablayan in Mindoro Occidental serves as a gateway to Pangan Island and the unspoiled Apo Reef Marine Natural Park. Mindoro Oriental’s main attraction is Puerto Galera, a beach town with something for every traveler, from water sports to rainforest trekking.
Banaue: Terraces of Tranquility
Banaue’s mud-walled rice terraces, created over 2000 years ago, are a marvel of agricultural engineering. Nestled among these serene terraces are wood-carved rice guardians, reminiscent of tikis, believed to protect the crops. While tourism has transformed some towns, you can still find authentic rice farming communities for a genuine experience.
Boracay: Paradise Found
Boracay consistently ranks among the world’s top three beaches, thanks to its endless white sand shores, colorful outrigger sailboat, and luxurious resorts. The central part of White Beach buzzes with food, adventure, shopping and merriment. For those seeking seclusion, remote options are available, providing a more serene escape.
Palawan: Nature’s Masterpiece
Palawan, stretching from Mindoro to Borneo, is a treasure trove of natural wonders. Puerto Princesa, the provincial capital, boasts an underground river within vast karst formations. Coron Reefs on Busuanga Island lure divers with Japanese shipwrecks from World War II. El Nido, nestled between towering limestone cliffs and Bacuit Bay, is a stunning destination for adventurers.
The Philippines, with its captivating blend of natural beauty, vibrant culture and warm hospitality, beckons travelers to explore its diverse landscapes and rich heritage. Each of these ten destinations offers a unique experience, ensuring that the Philippines remains an unforgettable destination for all who visit.