For a country that boasts thousands of white sand, paradise islands, excellent diving, wonderful surfing, and some outstanding natural beauties, the Philippines is a relatively undiscovered country for tourists. The vast network of islands is your destination for quiet relaxation, vibrant parties, underwater fun, and much much more.
While hundreds of thousands of more tourists visit the highlights of Thailand, the Philippines really has much to offer and deserves to increase its visitor numbers. The busiest months for travel in the Philippines are December and January, but you can visit the country at any time of the year. But how do you decide where to go? Which of the 7,000 islands and more will you pick? Here are a few suggestions to start your Philippines travel planning.
1) Chocolate Hills, Bohol
On Bohol Island, you’ll find the weird and compelling landscape of the Chocolate Hills. These are over 1,500 small hills and mounds that were formed when coral was deposited onto the landscape thousands of years ago. Try to spot the tiny tarsier monkeys that call the area home.
2) Apo Reef, Mindoro
The Apo Reef is a great dive spot and features an atoll reef that is famous for sharks, rays, and turtles. The best place to stay is Pandan Island and the reef can be accessed from here via a three-hour boat trip. You can get here by flying from Manila to Mindoro and taking a ferry to Pandan Island.
Find your surfing paradise at Siargao. The Philippines is famous for its surfing and this is one of the best places in the country to come. The Cloud 9 reef break is well-known among local surfers and international visitors. Consequently, the place is buzzing when the waves are up, and virtually deserted when there is no surf. You can hire an instructor by the day or sign up for a surfing vacation package.
4) White Beach, Boracay
Boracay is the island where you know you will find lively bars, parties, music, and great restaurants. It is the place to come when you want to have some fun. And the white sand beach of, predictably names, White Beach is surely one of the best in the whole country, if not Asia. Another great beach on the island is Bulabog. You’ll find several different areas on the island, the area around Station One is known for the higher end resorts, where the parties and bars are at Station Two, and in Station Three you’ll find budget accommodation.
5) Banaue, North Luzon
On North Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage site called the rice terraces. These are aged over 2,000 years and the landscape is unforgettable. Wander through the mountains, see the high ravines and visit some of the tribes that call the region home. You can take a trek with an organized group, complete with guide, to villages and waterfalls. In Batad you can find some good quality, economical guest houses where you can stay with a view of the rice terraces. You get here by taking a bus from Manila, which may take up to nine hours.
6) Camiguin Island
Camiguin Island is largely untouched by the trappings of modern tourism and therefore is an excellent place to get away from it all. It is a tiny island but there is a grand total of seven volcanoes as well as a lagoon, waterfalls, diving, and hot and cold springs.
7) Cambugahay Falls, Siquijor
Cambugahay Falls in Siquijor is the place to go if you want to visit a traditional healer or witch doctor. This is an age-old practice that is revered in the country, and you can pay to visit healers in the mountains. This is also a great island for snorkeling and diving, as well as relaxing on the beach.
8) Batanes Islands
In the north of the Philippines are the Batanes Islands, a set of islands that feature a completely different climate from the rest of the country. It is cooler here and the landscape is hilly, with traditional tribes living a traditional life in the countryside.
9) El Nido, Palawan
El Nido is a small beach town surrounded by jungle that is largely unchanged since the days of Spanish colonization. One of the best things to do is explore the network of tiny islands by boat. You can get a boat door for around $25 for the day, and sail super-clear water that is made for snorkeling. Food highlights include abundant grilled seafood. There are a variety of accommodation options available from budget to more expensive right on the beach. To get here go to the island’s capital, Puerto Princesa, and take a bus to the town that takes around seven hours.
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Photo credits: Didier Baertschiger and paweesit via Flickr