Traveller's Guide To Luzon, Philippines

Woman on a tour in Palawan, Philippines
Woman on a tour in Palawan, Philippines | © Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock
Photo of Ronica Valdeavilla
Writer27 February 2018

Having a land area of 42,458 square miles, Luzon is not only considered the biggest main island but has also the greatest population among the three island groups of the Philippines. Apart from being the center of economic, social, and cultural development in the country, Luzon is also home to top natural wonders recognized around the globe.

Brief history and culture

The chief island’s name ‘Luzon’ was coined after the Tagalog word ‘kalusunan,’ which means northern part. According to historical accounts, the active involvement of the island in trade and economic development dates back to the 15th century. And because the main capital of the country, Manila, was also home to the seat of the government, it was witness to a number of battles during the Spanish colonial period and the World War II wherein it was captured by Imperial Japanese forces.

The main island is further subdivided into four major areas: Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, and the National Capital Region – all which are inhabited by a large number of Tagalogs, Ilocanos, and Bicolanos. Ilocanos dominate the Northernmost regions whereas the Tagalogs mostly reside within the National Capital Region and Southern Luzon. On the other hand, Bicolanos are found within the Southern Bicol peninsula. Major languages spoken within the island are Tagalog, Ilocano, Bicolano, Kapampangan and Pangasinense (usually spoken in Central Region). English and Filipino are also spoken by most inhabitants.

In terms of religious practices, majority of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics, Christians, and members of religious sects such as the Iglesia ni Cristo, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Aglipayan Church. The main island also leads the country in industry and agriculture as it has the major urban areas and cities and whereas other regions produce crops such as rice, corn, bananas and coconuts.

Natural features and climate

Luzon is bounded by the Philippine Sea (East), Sibuyan Sea (South), and the West Philippine Sea (West). It is roughly rectangular in shape and extends to the South and Southeast (where the Bicol peninsula is located). Apart from the main island, Luzon also includes the islands of Palawan, Mindoro, Catanduanes, Masbate, Marinduque and Polillo.

Prominent water forms are the Lingayen Gulf, Lamon Bay, Laguna de Bay, Taal Lake and Manila Bay. Predominantly characterised by plains and flat terrains, there are also mountainous ranges of Cordillera Central, Sierra Madre, and isolated volcanoes and mountains such as the Mt. Mayon and the highest peak of Luzon – Mt. Pulag.

While the Philippines has only two seasons, namely dry and wet season, it’s ideal to travel to Luzon in the summer months of March, April, and May.

Must-see destinations in Luzon

If you’re heading to Luzon any time soon, make sure you’ll get to visit one or two places from the list below:

Baguio City

Burnham Park Boating Lake | © Sir Mildred Pierce/Flickr

Also known as the ‘City of Pines,’ most tourists head to the Philippines’ pine-clad upland for its cold weather and lovely sceneries – making it a perfect romantic destination for honeymooners. Apart from its cool climate, Baguio City serves as a top vacation spot for local travellers because of its proximity to the country’s capital city Metro Manila. It’s also the gateway to other top destinations up north such as Sagada and the Banaue Rice Terraces. When in Baguio, it’s a must to go strawberry-picking, sightseeing, and enjoy Baguio’s delicious treats.

Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur | © Joelaldor/Wikimedia Commons

The City of Vigan in Ilocos Sur is considered as one of the oldest towns across the Philippines that is able to preserve the remnants of the Spanish Colonial Era in the country. Here you’ll see old, dark-wood mansions, cobblestone streets, and be able to ride on a horse-drawn calash (calesa). Another favourite destination in the northern part of Luzon, Vigan City is also close to other popular destinations such as the Paoay Sand Dunes, Bangui’s windmills, and Pagudpud.

Legazpi City, Albay

Mayon Volcano | © Puripat Lertpunyaroj / Shutterstock

Another must-see tourist destination in Luzon is Mt. Mayon, a volcano famous for its almost perfect conical shape. This stratovolcano, considered as the most active volcano in the country, is located in the province of Albay in the Bicol Region. Aside from visiting the region’s almost perfect cone-shaped volcano, tourists should also head over to Bicol Region to visit their wondrous beaches (Calaguas Island and Caramoan), try water sports, and get a taste of their popular dishes such as the Bicol Express, and Pili Ice Cream as well as spicy dishes they’re known for.

Tagaytay City

View of Taal Lake in Tagaytay, Vulcan Point | © Anna ART / Shutterstock

A favourite destination among families, Tagaytay City offers a bunch of leisure and outdoor activities at amusement park Sky Ranch and Tagaytay Picnic Grove Complex, to name a few. It’s only around 60 kilometres away from Manila yet it has become a popular vacation spot because of its cooler climate and outstanding sceneries – travellers can get a breathtaking view of Taal Volcano while having a sumptuous meal. The city is also home to art galleries, spa resorts, and bed & breakfast to give guests a refreshing treat while immersing themselves in nature.


Puerto Princesa Underground River | © Benson Kua/Flickr

Of course, the Philippines’ pride should not be missed on the list – the island of Palawan. Many people describe such as paradise because of its coves, razor-sharp limestone cliffs, turquoise-coloured waters, lagoons, and white sand beaches. When visiting Palawan, the top destinations are Puerto Princesa, El Nido, and Coron. While each destination brings a different travel experience for adventure-seekers, to describe each place as breathtaking or outstanding is not enough.

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