The Pearl of the Orient, the name certainly befits a country that has become a beautiful mish-mash of culture, cuisine, and tropical destinations. In all its 7,000+ islands, there’s a neverending list of things to discover and to experience in the stunning archipelago that is the Philippines.
In all of its quirks and whimsies, the Philippines, much like its neighbors in Asia, has quite a rich history. Colonized by the Spaniards for over three centuries, and then briefly by the Americans, and then the Japanese, the country has waded through so much inequality and nightmarish scenarios before it could fully become independent. Yet, amidst all the horrors that the foreigners have brought to its islands, the Filipinos have managed to weather all the things that lady luck has thrown their way. Now, they can walk freely in their countries and fully enjoy all of the things that their beautiful country has to offer…and now, you can too.
If you’re planning to visit the Philippines any time soon, then at least make it a lengthy stay. Between the world-famous hospitality of the natives, the breathtaking lagoons, and the mouthwatering dishes, the Philippines is truly a gem that is worth exploring. We’ve rounded up some of the top destinations from the thousands of islands that you can choose from–read more about our top picks in the list below.
All equally stunning in their own right, the only logical way we can formulate this list is to start from the very top of the archipelago. At the tip of the northernmost province of the Philippines lies the most idyllic set of islands, the Batanes Islands. Different from the rest of the country, this destination, with its stone houses and a wide expanse of greenery, will make you think that you’re in New Zealand, rather than in a tropical island such as the Philippines. It’s also the least populated province in the whole country.
Ifugao Rice Terraces
One of UNESCO’s declared world heritage sites, the Ifugao rice terraces is truly a destination that you shouldn’t miss when you visit the Philippines. Take in the beautiful sights and marvel at the lush rice paddies as you hike through a hanging bridge all the way to the top of the terraces.
On the other side is a well-preserved testament of European influence in the country. Much like a 16th-century town, Vigan will take you way back. Its cobbled streets and old houses will make you feel as if you’ve stepped through a time barrier to a time when the Philippines was a well-known stopover for traders in the East and the West. In case you’re wondering, this too has been declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
Want more historic evidence of bygone times? Corregidor Island served as one of the main strongholds during World War II. Found just off the coast of Manila Bay, Corregidor soil has been a witness to the bloodshed in a war among the Japanese, the Americans, and the Filipinos. Some say that this island is heavily haunted, so if you have an appetite for the bizarre, you might prefer to explore its tunnels at night.
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
If you’re in the country, you might as well pay a visit to one of the 7 Wonders of the World: the underground river in Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Go on a paddleboat tour and discover one of nature’s gifts to mankind. Afterward, you can go island hopping and explore the surrounding beaches too. You’ll never run out of things to do in Puerto Princesa.
The Chocolate Hills in Bohol
The island of Bohol is more than just home to some of the country’s best white sand beaches, but it’s also home to a UNESCO-protected site called the Chocolate Hills. Just so we’re clear on giving you the right impression: the sprawling hills in Carmen, Bohol aren’t exactly made out of rich chocolate goodness. Rather, all 1,200 of its hills resemble chocolate during the dry season. From high above in an elevated man-made view deck, it truly is a marvel to witness. Plus, you can make a side trip to see the Tarsiers, tiny primates with large eyes.
Interested in the mystique and the world of the occult? Siquijor, or what the Spanish once called Isla del Fuego or Island of Fire, beckons travelers with its blue waters and sandy beaches. But more than lounging on the sand, the island is the perfect hunting ground for potions and amulets too. If you ask the locals, they can bring you to healers on the island who will be glad to cast a spell for you in exchange for a small fee.
What was once a quiet and unassuming place has now become the hub of tourism in its region. Siargao has a laidback vibe to it that attracts a specific type of people, the yoga-loving and surfer type of visitors to be exact. Of course, it still does not discriminate so if you would rather kick back and watch as surfers ride the waves, you can do that too.
If you want to venture down south and explore the sandy beaches that Davao has to offer, then you don’t want to miss out on a visit to Samal Island. This is the perfect place to just enjoy the beach or cool off in one of the waterfalls on the island. It’s simply a stone’s throw away from one of the safest and cleanest metropolitan areas of the country too.
Despite its testy military climate, Sulu boasts of the best beaches and cuisine. More heavily influenced by their Muslim neighbors, this southernmost part of the Philippines has architecture and culture that proves to have quite a stark difference to that of the rest of the country. Still, it has some of the best diving sites and the most awe-inspiring mosques that one can ever see. Despite its ill-reputation as a hotspot for the country’s rebels, Sulu is definitely a must-see destination.