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The best places to visit in the Philippines are widely distributed among its three main islands: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. More than 7,000 smaller islands make up the country, so you can just imagine the number of beaches, dive sites and marine ecosystems that can be found here!
The beauty of the Philippines doesn’t end in its waters. The country is also home to various mountain ranges, unusual hills, towering cliffs and underground caves. In fact, some of these tourist spots are officially recognized by UNESCO to be important sites.
All nature talks aside, the Philippines has more and more to offer. It has rich history, great food and hospitable people. Travelling to the Philippines means being ready for extreme sports, exotic delicacies and breathtaking sceneries.
Combine all these characteristics and you have a world-class tourist destination that I proudly call my home.
- Here are my top picks of the best places to visit in the Philippines:
- Best places to visit in Luzon
- Best places to visit in Visayas
- Best places to visit in Mindanao
Here are my top picks of the best places to visit in the Philippines:
Best places to visit in Luzon
Ask anyone who has been to Batanes, and they will surely say that it is arguably the most beautiful place in the Philippines. Located at the northernmost part of the country, this travel destination is for the one who’s willing to disregard the loud calls of the more famous tourist spots and settle for a serene and nature-centered vacation.
To enjoy the most out of Batanes, visit during the dry season. Head to North Batan and do a little ode to ‘Sound of Music’ in the rolling hills of Vayang. It offers the best views of the mountains, the islands and the West Philippine Sea.
Take a trip to Sabtang and see the famous stone houses of Batanes that stood for over a hundred years now. Rent a bike and pay a visit to the Honesty Coffee Shop, an unmanned variety store that banks on your honesty for payment.
Visiting the Philippines would most likely entail that you enter through Manila, the country’s capital city. However, it deserves to be more than just a gateway to your tropical destinations. Manila has several cities that are home to equally interesting heritage sites and activities. It is the main hub of the country and one of the best places to visit in the Philippines.
All the best world-renowned hotel chains that are in the Philippines are but a short ride away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. From your accommodation of choice, you can choose the route which you intend to pursue.
Interested about Philippine history? Go on a walking tour at the historic Intramuros. Travelling for food? Take a Binondo Asian food crawl. Shopping your heart out? Manila is known to have some of the largest malls in the whole world.
“What should I not miss in the Philippines?” It’s a question asked quite frequently by travellers coming to this part of Southeast Asia. One of the places that do not fail to make it to the list is Banaue in Ifugao Province. Primarily, it is because it is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Banaue Rice Terraces.
Go on a guided trek and marvel at the natural terraces carved into the mountains by the indigenous people 2000 years ago. Many believe that no other huge machineries were utilized to etch these terraces other than the bare hands of the ancestors.
Once you see the grandiose beauty and intricacy of the rice terraces, you will surely be in awe.
Island hopping IS El Nido, Palawan. It has gained such a strong reputation to the beach-loving community that no further advertisement needs to be done for the town to attract more people. El Nido is a protected area in the Philippines and considered as one of the best places to visit in the Philippines. The pictures, the stories and the repeated visits are enough to make others curious about the beauty that is El Nido.
Imagine having a group of 45 islands and islets as your playground, characterized by towering cliffs and marvelous marine life. Once you board that tour boat, you will see just how pristine the environment is. Enter through small lagoons and secret beaches that never fail to amaze.
Dive deep into the waters to discover an equally beautiful world filled with exotic fish, coral reefs and other life forms. Enjoy swimming in the turquoise blue waters that are consistently clear whichever island you go.
Best places to visit in Visayas
Kalanggaman Island, Leyte
One of the best places to visit in the Philippines is Kalanggaman Island in Leyte. “Langgam” in Leyte’s local dialect translates to the word bird, which is the shape of the island itself, hence the name. It has long been enjoyed by local travellers as one of the undiscovered beautiful places in the Philippines – until social media and word of mouth couldn’t contain such wondrous beauty.
It is easy to judge Kalanggaman as another white sand beach destination which is quite common in the country. However, once you see what is underneath its clear waters, you will understand why this island in Leyte has captured the hearts of many.
Hire a boat and let your local guide take you to the best spots to snorkel and dive in the area. Kalanggaman Island is a great place to relax and be one with nature.
I don’t know where to start – especially if I only have a few sentences to spare for Cebu. This province, regarded as the “Queen City of the South“, is definitely one of the best places to visit in the Philippines. Not only is Cebu booming economically, but it also boasts of natural wonders and historic landmarks that are enough to fill a month-long itinerary – or two!
Cebu is where you will find the Magellan’s Cross and the Mactan Shrine, two significant symbols in the Philippine history of discovery and colonization. In the same historically-rich tourist spot, you’ll find dozens of white sand beaches, trekkable hills, whale shark habitats and towering waterfalls.
Given the thriving surroundings of Cebu, adventure tourism is a big thing in the whole province. Think canyoneering, stand up paddling, scuba diving and skywalking a la James Bond!
Ever seen a postcard from or of the Philippines that show brown-colored grassy hills? This widely-photographed tourist destination is located in Bohol and has helped put the province in various lists of the top destinations in the Philippines.
I am talking about the Chocolate Hills, a group of small landforms that is most probably unique to the Philippines. When the dry season comes to an end, you will see the green hills turn into chocolate brown. When you see hundreds of these, it is truly a sight to behold.
Bohol is also known for another thing: its resident tarsiers that are considered as endangered nowadays. This small primate has eyes so big they almost occupy its whole face! Utmost care and research is being done for the welfare of these animals.
If you have been to Boracay, Aklan years ago and have found it irresistibly beautiful, we can’t wait for you to check out how it is nowadays. With the influx of tourism in the area, not much had been done to sustain the beauty that made Boracay and the Philippines known worldwide – until the local government stepped in and reclaimed the area. It is once again gained the local’s recommendation as one of the best places to visit in the Philippines.
Gone are the days of mindless partying, beachfront disrespecting and overcommercializing of the island. Today, Boracay is more gorgeous than ever, with its white sandy beach free from obstructions, its vast waters safer and clearer, and the businesses compliant of regulations.
Sunset in Boracay on a catamaran, with a drink on hand and your loved one beside you – sounds like the best date to me!
Best places to visit in Mindanao
Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte
Surigao del Norte is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines, and thanks to the recent boom in tourism in Siargao Island, the province is now frequented by residents and foreigners alike. One thing unites them all: surfing.
Siargao Island is a haven for surfers. It has long been known to have great waves, with the elusive Cloud 9 swells always the talk of the town.
However, it was only a few years ago that Siargao has made it to the bucket list of almost everyone. It is rightfully earned, because more people should know how truly world-class this destination is or could become.
Aside from surfing, one of the popular things to do while in Siargao Island is island hopping. Let a local guide take you to Naked Island, Daku Island and Guyam Island. During one of your days there, rent a motorbike and drive to worthwhile spots such as the Magpupungko Rock Pools.
Davao is known to be one of the safe places to visit in the Philippines, although it can be generalized that the country is safe to explore.
One of the main tourist attractions in Davao is Mount Apo, one of the highest mountains in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. To reach the peak of the mountain, most organizers allot two days of trekking. If you are able-bodied, this is a great experience to partake.
While in the vicinity, try something exotic: Civet coffee. This type of coffee – if I can be literal with you – is “cat poop.” To get such a unique and iconic blend, civet cats eat the coffee cherries, digest them and excrete them to produce expensive coffee beans.
I hope that inspired you to choose your prefered island to visit in my home country. With more than seven thousand islands to choose from, I’m pretty sure you can find the perfect tropical heaven in the Philippines. No wonder why we are called the “Pearl of the Orient“.