Stunning sunset vistas, serene turquoise waters, friendly locals — what more could you ask for when you’re in the Philippines? Nestled along the edge of the Pacific Ocean between China and Indonesia, the Philippines earns its nickname of “Pearl of the Orient Seas” through its sweeping, vivid green tropical landscapes and the easygoing, celebratory lifestyle at the root of Filipino culture.
On Luzon alone, the largest island in the archipelago, travelers would be overwhelmed by the many varied experiences it has to offer. Home to the capital of Manila, Luzon is the most populated of the islands. Whether you’re drawn by outdoor activities or would prefer to spend time roaming massive shopping malls and looking for the best entertainment scene. If you only have a couple days to spend in the country, Luzon is an ideal place to make the most out of your visit.
Driving down the road with rice fields and coconut trees on one side and a view of the dock and shoreline on the other gives you typical portrait of Philippine scenery. Legazpi is the center of many flourishing businesses, as well as popular eateries such as the Boklan Food Center, a local favorite known for its Chinese-Filipino style cuisine. Residents enjoy the spectacular beauty of natural wonders such as Hyop-Hyopan Cave and the iconic Mayon Volcano, which can be seen from all around the Bicol region. If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of her perfectly symmetrical shape. Beneath Mayon and nearby Legazpi are the Cagsawa Ruins, where the remains of a centuries-old church lay after a particularly violent and deadly eruption in 1814, claiming roughly 2,000 lives. While tamer than bigger cities like Davao or Manila, the majestic mountain landscape in the background complements the more populated, commercialized areas. Being in Legazpi makes you feel as if you’re in the best of different worlds.
2) Caramoan Island
Considering there are over 7,100 islands in the Philippines, it can be difficult to narrow down which islands stand out, but the island of Caramoan manages to do just that. Located in the eastern Bicol Region of Luzon on the tip of the Caramoan Peninsula, it’s a perfect destination for adventurers and nature-lovers. Getting to the island is also half of the fun, if you choose to go by sea. Once guests arrive at the dock, they’re transported by boats where they can marvel at the surrounding smaller islands and its miniature caves and limestone cliffs. The area is also ideal for activities such as kayaking, paddle-boarding, cliff-diving, and scuba-diving. If Mother Nature is kind, you can choose to go island hopping and check out the sandbars and markets along the smaller islands scattered around the mainland. Home to many hotels and resorts, such as Tugawe Cove Resort, where guests can find a steep, winding staircase engraved on the mountainside and a sweeping view of the beautiful gradience of the teal lagoon below.
If you’re looking for a more immersive cultural experience, a stroll in the city of Vigan should be a definite stop on your itinerary. Founded in the 16th century and located in the Ilocos Sur province, Vigan is distinguished for being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and serves as a crossroads of East and West culture, containing influences from Spain, China, and Europe. Walking through the cobblestone streets will give you many views of the old town, Spanish-colonial architecture that resonates throughout the city. There’s also another popular option of exploring the city for locals and tourists alike; horse-drawn carriages, known as calesas, give you a guided tour past street vendors through the bustling town plaza, stopping at historical landmarks such as the Bantay Bell Tower and Padre Burgos House. In addition to a relaxing ride, the coachmen are knowledgeable and will be more than happy to tell foreigners of the community’s vibrant history. Charming and picturesque, a visit to Vigan is a rewarding multicultural experience, seemingly transporting you centuries back into the past.
It’s a lake inside of a volcano located on a lake inside of an island, which is quite a sight. Boasting a unique geological phenomenon, Tagaytay draws much appeal due to the famed Taal Volcano, which is located inside Taal Lake. Tagaytay is known for its outdoor recreational activities, such as fishing, hiking, and zip-lining. The Sky Ranch amusement park is another popular attraction among visitors, who can enjoy one of the best scenic views of the lake from the tallest ferris wheel in the Philippines, the Sky Eye. Food enthusiasts will appreciate both the cuisine and ambience of Leslie’s Forest Garden Restaurant, which offers an Instagram-worthy open-air panoramic view of the crater lake below. Getting to Tagaytay can be a nightmare thanks to traffic congestion on its main road, so make sure to plan ahead and get there early in the day.
With its towering skyscrapers and never-ending infrastructure projects, the capital city of Manila is quickly working to establish and reinforce its title as the entertainment center of the Philippines. There are a plethora of things to do in this sprawling, developing city. Visitors can get a magnificent 360 degree view of the skyline from Cloud 9 Anipolo Hotel and Resort, which features a hanging bridge for thrill-seeking guests who want to challenge their vertigo (if you have the nerves). Once you hit the viewdeck and make your way down through the exit, you’re greeted with a small art gallery showcasing works made by Filipino artists. After you’ve conquered your fear of heights, head over to downtown and see the sunset at Manila Bay, which is near some of the largest shopping centers in the Philippines. The SM Mall of Asia, with more than 600 stores and 217 restaurants, as well as an arena, is the 11th largest mall in the world. Mega-casinos such as City of Dreams, Solaire, and Okada are luxurious playgrounds for the rich, as well as those looking to make their luck.