When we talk about the Philippines, the first image that comes to our mind it’s their paradisiacal islands with white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters full of colourful fish, right? It’s not far from the truth, and they are definitely one of the most beautiful in the world. But the reasons for including the Philippines in your bucket-list are endless.
Even being one of the most westernized countries in Asia, the Philippines has a cultural miscellany that sometimes goes unnoticed by its visitors. Despite the strong Spanish and American influence, some indigenous cultures survived the various colonizations periods lived by the country. Igorots in Sagada are known for their death rituals, Ifugao from Cordillera keeps present the millenary agricultural system initiated 2000 years ago and reminded us of the history of their ancestors (the merciless Headhunters), and Siquijor who retains the mysticism of the dreaded island of witches.
With more than 200 volcanoes scattered around the country, the Philippines has some of them with unique characteristics. Mount Mayon is one of the most active, deadly and imposing volcanoes in the world, and is distinguished by its cone perfect symmetry, offering a majestic scenario that should be seen at least once in life.
Close to the capital, Taal volcano is one of the smallest in the world and is formed by an unparalleled geological complex – it has a small islet, in the centre of a lake, developed inside the main crater of an island, inside another lake composed by the volcano’s caldera. This is undoubtedly one of the most unique landscapes in the country.
Trekkings and Mountains
Trekking in nature or climbing mountains it´s becoming one of the most looked for experiences in recent years. With over 2000 years, walking in the picturesque rice terraces that form an open-air amphitheatre in the small village of Batad (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is one of the experiences not to be missed. Near Manila, travellers can climb Mount Pinatubo where, as a result of the second most destructive eruption in history, a breathtaking natural scenario has formed, making it one of the most popular trekking sites. For the less active, there are sets of apiculate and conical hills scattered throughout the country that can be easily reached, such as the famous chocolate hills of Bohol or the rustic green hills in Camalig.
Rivers and Caves
Palawan island is home to one of the seven new natural wonders of the world – Puerto Princesa Underground River. With 24km and flowing into the sea, this complex underground water system has a fragile ecosystem and unique geological formations, being the largest navigable underground river in the world. In Sagada, you can explore the Sumaging Cave, which is one of the deepest caves in the Philippines and is characterized by incredible limestone formations. On the island of Samar, you can find the second biggest complex caves in Asia with one of the largest underground chambers in the world that serves as a habitat for several species (bats, crabs, snakes and tarantulas for example).
Diving and Marine Life
Situated at the top of the Coral Triangle and with a vast and rich underwater life, the Philippines becomes a perfect place for divers. Tubbataha reef is one of the most protected and intact marine sanctuaries and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized as one of the best diving sites on Earth for its clean waters and vast marine biodiversity – with 600 different fish species (including 13 species of shark) and 360 species of coral. For snorkelling fans, one of the must-do experiences that will become one of the most memorable in your life, os swimming with the docile whale sharks in their natural habitat. But this is an experience that must be conscientious about guaranteeing a sustainable activity, with Donsol and Pintuyan being two of the most recommended places to do it. For turtle lovers, the country has 5 of the 7 sea turtles species in the world, and one of the best places to find them is on the small Apo Island.
Hospitality, Festivals and Gastronomy
Diplomacy, curiosity, friendliness and genuine hospitality: these are some of the main characteristics of the Filipino people. Also, their joy and sense of festivity are reflected with a diversity of festivals throughout the year, organized with colourful parades, street parties and music.
The gastronomy even isn’t one of the most famous, has its origins in numerous external influences and has distinct characteristics, with chef Anthony Bourdain predicting that one of the country’s main dishes (pork Sisig) would quickly conquer the world.
Lagoons and Waterfalls
If there is one thing that’s not lacking in the whole country and we never get tired of, it’s fascinating waterfalls. Kawasan Falls is the most famous waterfalls being formed by various levels of turquoise blue water streams, and it’s highly recommended for those looking for adventure, to experience canyoning between the river and these waterfalls. If you’re looking for serenity, you should get lost in the middle of the trails or ask local people for “secret” waterfalls – they’re all over the country, and Siquijor Island is one fascinating place to find them.
Stunning Beaches and Islands
Finally, and scattered all over the country, the main reason that leads travellers to explore the Philippines are its paradisiacal islands and white sandy beaches bathed by crystal bright turquoise blue waters. One of the best regions where you will find this magical fusion is in El Nido, with their outstanding island hopping to Bacuit Bay or the less explored Linapacan islands. Winding through rocky cliffs set in the sea and exploring deserted islands filled with abundant marine life with various colours and shapes is one of the experiences that should feature on any traveller’s Bucket-list. Another place where tropical climate, gorgeous beaches bathed by warm waters and good vibe combine a relaxing cocktail is Siargao, whose great waves and reef bottom put it at the top of any surfer’s lists.
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