With more than 7,000 islands, 300 years partially under Spanish rule, and 19 official languages, the Philippines is all about diversity. Travelers looking for the best of this sun-kissed archipelago will be rewarded with a vast variety of sights, experiences, and encounters. Here are 20 must-see attractions in the Philippines.
Chocolate Hills, Bohol
The ride to Carmen winds through picturesque rice fields and beneath tall mahogany forests to reach this dream-like landscape, which is dotted with small, curiously shaped hills.
Siete Pecados, Coron
Heaven for snorkelers, this coral garden just outside Coron Town in Palawan will thrill you with its colors, marine life, and spectacular beauty – right beneath the surface.
Loboc River, Bohol
One of the cleanest rivers in the country, the Loboc River is loved for its calm, green water. Experience it with a lunchtime cruise, a morning of paddle-boarding, or a firefly-watching excursion.
Batad Rice Terraces, Banaue
One of the most breathtaking sights in all of Luzon, these ancient carved-stone rice terraces cover the sides of an amphitheater-like valley, high in the remote Cordilleras Central mountain range.
A reminder of the hard-fought battles of the Second World War, Corregidor is now a peaceful resting ground and memorial site, with plenty of interesting historical markers and soothing sea views to offer day-trippers.
Cloud 9, Siargao
The number-one surf spot in the Philippines, Cloud 9 serves up dependable barrels, but it’s also the site of some gorgeous sunsets. A narrow, 656ft-long pier gets you closer to the action.
Twin Lagoons, Coron
These thermal lagoons on Coron Island are hidden behind sheer limestone walls. Once inside, the water is cool and brilliant, and cliffs all around will leave you breathless.
Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte
Winner of the Philippines’ own “Battle of the Sands”, Calaguas is a much-loved remote island. Mahabang Buhangin Beach, in particular, has little development and boasts some of the most pristine shores in the archipelago.
Honda Bay, Palawan
The islands of Honda Bay are easy to access from Puerto Princesa, yet offer some of the best island-hopping in all of Palawan. Be prepared for shoals of colorful fish, sublime sand, and beachy buffets.
Las Cabanas Beach, El Nido
Perhaps the best swimming beach on mainland Palawan, Las Cabanas Beach is postcard-perfect. It’s easy to spend a whole day relaxing in front of the glistening water, waiting for one of El Nido’s magical sunsets.
The walled, medieval fort city of Intramuros in Manila was first built by Spanish colonizers. It was largely destroyed in the Second World War, but many structures have been faithfully rebuilt. The San Agustin Church, in particular, is one of the Philippines’ finest historical treasures.
Underground River, Palawan
The second-longest navigable underground river in the world, this waterway winds five miles (eight kilometers) beneath the Saint Paul mountains in Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Visitors will be amazed by the size of the caverns, and the huge stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over the centuries.
Big Lagoon, El Nido
One of El Nido’s most photogenic wonders, the Big Lagoon is a passage between two limestone islets. White sand is just below the surface, and the water deepens and glows as you cruise through.
Camiña Balay Nga Bato, Iloilo
This ancestral house is a treasure trove for culture seekers. The “House by the River”, Camina Balay nga Bato is a perfect example of Spanish-Filipino architecture and rich Illonggo heritage.
Mayon Volcano, Albay
The most active volcano in the Philippines, and surely the most perfectly cone-shaped volcano in the world, Mount Mayon draws shutterbugs and adventure seekers from all over.
White Beach, Boracay
Still one of the Philippines’ finest beaches, White Beach has long inspired travelers with its soft, powdery sand and unbelievably blue waves.
Dicasalarin Cove, Baler
A hidden cove in Baler, known only to a few, Dicasalarin is a gentle cove guarded by a futuristic, white lighthouse. The pebbly beach faces the open water of the Pacific Ocean and is an ideal spot for picnicking.
Hanging coffins, Sagada
Part of the burial culture of the Philippines’ northern tribes, the hanging coffins of Sagada are made from hollowed pine logs. These coffins were reserved for special members of the community and suspended from sheer mountain cliffs.
Tubbataha Reef, Sulu Sea
Accessible only for about three months out of the year, the UNESCO-protected Tubbataha Reef is the pinnacle of scuba diving sites in the Philippines, and highly regarded for its diverse marine life and untouched coral reefs.
Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Crisologo Street in the UNESCO-listed city of Vigan is home to more than 180 well-preserved Spanish colonial houses. Architecture is just one of Vigan’s charms, as the atmosphere of the entire town transports you back in time to a different era of the Philippines.