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While Manila has heaps to offer travelers of every stripe, the temptation to explore further afield and escape the city – even just for a day – has always been strong. Thankfully, you don’t need to venture far for a change of scenery. Whether you’re interested in a historic excursion, a bit of nature therapy, or an artsy adventure, make the most of your time with these handpicked day trips from Manila.
Corregidor, a tadpole-shaped island only a short ferry ride from Manila Bay, is one of the best historical attractions in the whole of the Philippines. The island was the scene of bitter fighting between the Americans and Japanese during the Second World War. When Manila was attacked, American forces withdrew to Corregidor, and held the area for as long as they could. Today, it is peaceful and verdant. There’s an excellent tour of the museums, barracks, and fortifications by tram car and a stop for lunch at an atmospheric old hotel overlooking the green landscape.
Long loved by divers in the capital for its colorful marine life, Anilao is just a two-hour drive from Manila. Expect some of the ride to be on bumpy, narrow roads. When you get to Anilao, though, it’s a breath of fresh air. There isn’t much in the way of swimming beaches, but there are charming little islands offshore where you can picnic and snorkel. One-day beginner courses are available, and a smattering of resorts and dive centers ferry experienced divers to remarkable sites by boat.
Probably one of the most pleasant cities in the Philippines, Tagaytay is a 60-minute drive from the busy capital – but feels a world away. Beautiful flower gardens, intimate B&Bs, and inviting coffee houses are the norm here. Filipinos love coming to Tagaytay for its cool weather and inspiring views of Taal Lake and the small, but active, Taal Volcano. If you’re the adventurous type, you can hike to the crater, do stand-up paddleboarding on the lake, or go horse riding. When you start to feel peckish, be sure to stop at Sonja’s Garden or Antonio’s, two of the town’s most buzzed-about restaurants.
A nature escape situated a few hours from Manila, Laguna is known for its lush vegetation and therapeutic hot springs. Hidden Valley Springs is one of the top resorts in the area, and home to six natural mineral pools that call for long, soothing dips. The ancient trees, exotic orchids, and unspoiled greenery in all directions make you feel as though you’re enveloped by nature. The valley, actually a 300-ft (90-metre) crater, is cradled between two mountains, and its mineral waters are said to have healing properties.
Art lovers can escape the grit of the city in the hills of Antipolo with a day trip to the Pinto Art Museum. Housed in Spanish-style buildings, the gallery is set in a vast garden, peppered with enchanting sculptures, and worth a wander. Inside, you’ll find light, airy spaces, brimming with modern artwork by up-and-coming Filipino talent.
Mount Pinatubo’s earth-shaking eruption in 1991 completely transformed the surrounding landscape. Today, trekkers come to enjoy the fairly leisurely, 90-minute hike to the Pinatubo Crater and its emerald lake. For those who prefer a little excitement, there are 4×4 off-road experiences to be had, and you can also go boating on the lake. Don’t leave Pampanga without sampling the province’s famous dishes – it’s one of the most highly regarded provinces for foodies in the Philippines.