The Philippines offer a paradise like no other. Glimmering white beaches, majestic mountains, wonderfully quirky nature, rich aquatic life and a hybrid of cultures come together to form 7000 enchanting tropical islands that are just waiting to be explored
Manila, the capital, is the obvious first stop when visiting the Philippines because most flights arrive into it. The cityscape is immensely hot and can appear a bit mad on arrival but as you begin exploring you’ll see it has so much to offer. The chaos is part of the fun. The city’s culture is overflowing, as the modern style of some districts is mixed among areas more traditional. An exciting mix of Malay, Spanish, American, Chinese and Arabic influences can be spotted throughout the city as its past still resonates in present life. Manila has a certain charm due to it being one of the Asian cities that’s less traveled. Due to its rapidly developing state, the traffic and poverty is often off-putting, but if you join those who do wish to explore Manila, you’ll fall in love with it just as they have.
Dive into the culture by visiting the National Museum of the Filipino People, which houses an interesting and varied collection. The different floors of this neoclassical building explores the origins of the islands, archaeological treasures, the maritime trade and an ethnographic exhibit showing the cultural heritage of the people. For a more modern view of the culture, head to the Culture Centre of the Philippines, featuring modern art galleries with constantly changing exhibits, as well as theatres and musical arenas.
Makati, the Philippine’s main business and shopping district provides some cooler and more airy relief from the hustle and bustle of other districts. Here you’ll see ultra-modern high rises, bright lights and big malls hosting upmarket restaurants. More traditional neighbourhoods are Guadalupe and Poblacion, which offer laid-back bars, street food and kind locals. The Spanish past of Manila is most evidently seen in Intramuros, the 16th century heart of the city. Make sure to see Fort Santiago’s museum park and the beautiful San Agustin Church. The historic feel of this district is unbeatable and you really get the sense of Manila’s past as the ‘Pearl of the Orient.’
Boracay is famous for its beauty. If that’s not enough to get you to visit then here’s some more enticing insights into this fabulous island. The white beach of Boracay is 4km of soft, gleaming white sand that appears too good to be true. Because of its popularity, crowds have increased but this has an advantage because as whilst Boracay’s beauty remains, its nightlife has ignited.
Following a day boat-watching the vibrant sails that glide through the turquoise waters from your spot on the beach, watch the sunset with a tropical cocktail. Live music will soon erupt and firedancers will demand your attention. The beach parties continue until the early hours and then the day in paradise begins again. The most peaceful beach can be found in the north, Diniwid Beach, and here you can feel a sense of the backpackers’ paradise from years ago.
Palawan’s striking image is created by the dramatic limestone cliffs rising from the beautiful lagoons. The dreamy sand beaches are in abundance here so relaxing is easy, but take time to delve into the untouched landscape because the wildlife is fascinating. To jump into the wilderness its best to have a Bangka, a native wooden bamboo boat with a little engine.
Join a tour, or even better rent a boat for yourself. Admire the views from your position as captain before getting wet in Siete Peccados for its mesmerising aquatic life that’s perfect for snorkelling. Another option is at the Twin Lagoons on Coron Island. When there’s a low tide you can swim through a tunnel into the other lagoon, surrounded by limestone cliffs that create stunning shadows. End the day with a barbeque- fresh fish from the market can be grilled up and enjoyed on the calm dusk waters.
Bohol is most commonly known for the bug-eyed primates named the tarsiers. These cute animals are one of the world’s smallest primates standing at less than six inches high. Their huge eyes attract many visitors to the island and the best place to see them is at the sanctuary in Corella as the tarsiers are endangered and extremely shy in nature.
Another image conjured up by the name Bohol are the striking Chocolate Hills numbering up to 1,200. The mounds of limestone are incredibly unique, varying in height to create an aesthetically unusual but truly stunning landscape. Head up the viewing deck and soak up the wonderful chocolate mounds.
Connected by bridge to Bohol are the Panglao Islands offering some world-class snorkelling and diving opportunities. Off the pristine glistening beaches on the shore, you can see a magical world of aquatic life on one of the diving tours. Turtles, Jack Fishes, Barracudas, trumpetfish, parrotfish, bat-fishes and much more can be seen here.
Heading away from the glimmering seas and in towards the lush green mountains of Banaue is a good way to continue a trip round the Philippines. The mud-walled rice terraces make for a wonderful natural landscape for exploring. They are Unesco World Heritage listed for their beauty, introduced by the Chinese over 2000 years ago.
Remoted villages allow for the best entrance into the rice terraces as it gives you the chance to escape the crowds and feel the complete calm of the natural surroundings. They are certainly one of the wonders of the world. Be careful if you’re planning to hike without a guide, follow the signed paths and don’t venture off track too far as the area is vast and confusing.
For soaking up the sun whilst island hopping, try a pair of the double bridge sunglasses we have on our site. This modern style is band on trend this summer season.
Which island will you be heading to start your adventure in the Philippines? Let us know in the comments below.
(cover photo courtesy of palawanislandphilippines.com)