Located just eight hours away from the east coast of Australia, yet still largely undiscovered, the Philippines remains one of the most underrated destinations in the world. This stunning archipelago has it all – from an array of tropical islands, award-winning beaches and world-renowned dive sites, to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, breathtaking landscapes and an abundance of local wildlife, the Philippines caters to a diverse range of travellers.
Whether you’re a honeymooning couple, an adventure traveller, culture-vulture or budget-conscious backpacker, the Philippines is sure to offer you an amazing holiday experience. Here are the top 10 must-sees and dos in the Philippines to inspire your ultimate itinerary.
1. Beach it up in Boracay
Officially named ‘Best Island in the World’ by Conde Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2016, this stunning island boasts palm-fringed, white sandy beaches, dazzling blue waters and incredible sunsets. On the west coast, you’ll find beaches, bars and restaurants, while the windy east coast is ideal for water sports at Bulabong Beach. Head up to the observation deck on Mount Luho for spectacular views over the island, or explore offshore for shipwrecks and coral reefs teeming with marine life.
2. Eat, play and stay in style Manila
The capital city of the Philippines blends historic Spanish influence with new urban developments, offering visitors a variety of places to eat, stay and play. The new Okada Manila resort boasts an idyllic oceanfront setting, 993 luxury suites and villas, more than 21 dining options, great shopping, and world class entertainment including a club and casino.
3. Be a culture vulture in Vigan
Established in the 16th century, Vigan is located on the west coast of Luzon island and is one of the oldest towns in the Philippines. Authentically preserved as a Spanish colonial town in Asia, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and reflects the fusion of Asian and Spanish architecture, offering a unique culture and townscape of cobblestone streets, rustic mansions, horse-drawn carriages and food stalls.
4. Relax and rejuvenate in Lipa City
The largest city in the province of Batangas (which has three cities in total), the City of Lipa is also known as Little Rome of the Philippines thanks to its many religious houses and churches. A popular spot is the Farm at San Benito, which promotes wellness and detoxification through a holistic approach. Here, you can choose a program that best suits your needs, including healthy meals, spa treatments and exercise options, while staying in a private villa and enjoying exceptional service.
5. See the rice paddies of the Philippine Cordilleras
Carved into the Cordillera Mountains in Luzon by the Ifugao tribe more than 2,000 years ago, these rice terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage ‘cultural’ site. These beautiful terraces are a living cultural landscape of immense beauty and have been passed on from generation to generation within the Ifugao community, which has resided here for thousands of years. They consist of five clusters of the most intact and impressive terraces, located in four municipalities within the mountain range and are a true vision to behold.
6. Marvel at The Chocolate Hills
Located in the Bohol province of the country’s Central Visayas region, this collection of approximately 1,776 hills, spread over an area of more than 50 square kilometres. They range in various shades of green but turn a rich chocolate brown colour in the dry season, which starts in late November and ends in May. The best time to view this scenic landscape is in April and May.
7. Hike up Mount Pinatubo
After lying dormant for nearly 500 years, this well-known volcano in the Philippines erupted in 1991. Although the volcano is still active today, it is very closely monitored and trekking is a safe activity, popular amongst tourists and locals alike. Trek up to the crater with a local guide and see its incredible, 2.7-kilometre-wide crystal clear lake, then enjoy a spa treatment using volcanic ash at Pinatubo Spa Town.
8. Go natural in Palawan
Comprising of more than 2,000 islands, Palawan is world renowned for its spectacular beaches. Located in the west of the province is the lesser known attraction of Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a biodiverse area spanning over 22 hectares, featuring limestone landscapes and an underground river which emerges directly into the sea. There is also an array of luxurious resorts, such as Ariara Resort, a private luxury island located in the northern Calamian Islands.
9. Get adventurous in Coron
Also located in the Palawan islands, Coron offers travellers a range of attractions and experiences to enjoy. Highlights include island hopping, exploring shipwrecks from iconic dive spots, swimming and snorkelling through lakes and lagoons, relaxing in hot springs, swimming with baby sharks in the marine sanctuary, and embarking on an African-style safari in a huge game preserve.
10. Taste traditional cuisine in Tiaong
This tranquil municipality lies in the deep coconut region of Quezon. Visit the Villa Escudero, an 800-hectare working coconut plantation, and enjoy a truly unique dining experience at the Labasin Waterfalls Restaurant. Set at the base of a waterfall, follow the stepping stones to get to the bamboo tables and dine on traditional Filipino cuisine while soaking your feet in the shallow water as it cascades down. tourismphilippines.com.au