18 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Philippines
For more than a decade, the Philippines has enjoyed the same stability and the promise of a stronger, more vibrant future that other emerging markets have enjoyed. The country has made great strides, and improvements in a wide range of economic indicators, including a vibrant tourism sector, well-developed logistics, and economic reforms that have promoted a growing middle class.
The country, an archipelago of 7,000 islands and 300 major islands in the Pacific Ocean, is truly one of the next frontier markets. Explore its unique and diverse destinations on this extensive excursion through the heart of Asia.
The Philippines is surrounded by some of the world's richest marine ecosystems, and one of its top experiences is diving or snorkeling to see the colorful reefs teeming with exotic marine life, coral, and shipwrecks.
Visit the "Land of Fireflies" by night, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular choice for first-time travelers because of its convenience and affordability. There's also a unique treasure trove of things to do in the islands, including visiting one of the "Island Eats" for incredible street food from local markets.
Whether you are exploring the country for the first time or are an experienced globetrotter, this is a country that needs to be experienced. This guided tour to the Philippines will take you to its most alluring destinations, including some lesser-visited areas, and allow you to immerse yourself in its colorful culture and arts.
Cavite is the capital of the province of Cavite, in the north of Luzon. Formerly called Las Piñas, the town is the heart of modern Cavite, just east of the Pasig River. The capital has a grid plan, with long streets branching off into one another and houses on both sides. The capital city has a notable history as a staunch trade hub of the Japanese during the Second World War. Today it still carries the history of that period, but it is mostly a modern town with a mostly Catholic population. The provincial capitol is the Pasig River. Cross it on the suspension footbridge (from the old side) or ferry (from the new side). Some of the country's best golf courses are located in Cavite. When visiting Cavite, make sure to visit the Cavite Botanical Garden. It's the only such garden in the country. A wonderful place for both flora and fauna lovers.
Banaue Rice Terraces
The best known feature of the Philippines' Banaue Rice Terraces is the Kuya Rice Terraces. The terraces are accessible only by foot or by longhouse and they are best seen at sunrise or sunset. Surrounding them are the marvels of the kuya village: one-story longhouses, typically of six or more bahay kubo (cluster of houses) built close together. Banaue is known for its Sunday Market, which features knotted mats, pottery, and other local crafts and textiles, as well as a colorfully dressed rice market. The rice terraces are a quiet place for reflection.
Boracay is an uninhabited island off the southernmost tip of the Visayas region of the Philippines. It's home to several World Heritage Sites including the charming island of Malapascua, and is famous for its diverse flora and fauna. Despite the island's lack of inhabitants, Boracay is a bustling hub of activities that include diving, swimming, and scuba-diving on the world's third longest coral wall and gentle, clear-blue waters, snorkeling, as well as great surfing. Boracay is the perfect island for families, couples, and those in search of a romantic getaway. If you've got a car and are in for some fun, consider driving to the Mamsan Hill Resort, a quaint island resort on Malapascua that overlooks the beautiful island of Samar, where you can take a picnic to enjoy while relaxing in an oversized swing, or boat back to Boracay.
Makati, the financial center of the Philippines, can boast a skyline dotted with modern skyscrapers and one of Asia's biggest shopping malls. This is home to Manila's most important religious sites: the National Shrine of the Black Nazarene and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, both of which date from the early 19th century. Makati's colonial past is found mostly in the form of restored buildings, like the newly refurbished Governor's Palace or the Makati Museum, the most significant museum in the city. Like most of the country's major cities, Makati suffers from air pollution and traffic congestion. A short drive out of town lies the White Beach, a series of clean sandy beaches, including the area's most popular one, Tantangan, which faces the Cavite Strait.
Ostensibly a conglomeration of several separate islands, Manila is home to nearly ten million people. Despite this massive growth, the city is remarkably cosmopolitan and livable. The dominant cultures are American and Spanish, giving the city a distinctive feel, especially in the center and along the Pasig River. The primary attractions are the Manila Bay and the oldest part of the city, San Miguel de Mayumo, dating back to the 1580s. San Miguel de Mayumo can be reached by taking a ferry from the Villar Park dock. Also of interest is the Manila Cathedral, part of the former Spanish colonial period, and also used as the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Though tourist numbers are down a bit from earlier years, the city remains one of the country's top travel destinations. It is a short flight or a leisurely boat ride from most major international airports, including Clark, Mactan, and Ninoy Aquino.
Read more 👉 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Manila
Batanes is the largest and westernmost province in the Philippines. Here, three volcanic islands are part of the main island, and Batan, the largest of these, is the home to a number of unique archaeological sites, as well as some very dramatic surf. The first sites to visit on the easternmost island of Batan are the Balao Point Complex, with the oldest and best-preserved remains in the Philippines; Nakpil Point, considered to be the site of the first village on Batan; and Calayan, the site of the only lahar or pyroclastic flow in the Philippines, which struck in 1260. From here you can travel by boat to some of the island's interior villages, as well as the museum in Balao. The most interesting one of these is that in Paguia, which preserves the remains of four lahar-built houses, believed to have been built around AD 1000.
Subic Bay is a secluded beachfront city located at the far eastern end of the Luzon peninsula. The eastern entrance of Subic Bay has a 15-meter-wide channel through which vessels can reach the main Pacific Ocean. A number of world-class marine protected areas and also pristine offshore islands make up the bay's stunning marine environment. Scuba diving is a favorite activity in Subic Bay as the area boasts more than 20 dive sites. Wreck diving is also popular here, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the region's nautical history. Popular dive sites include the White Cloud and Tres Marias wrecks, located in an area with a rich history of military installations. Travelers who want to visit Subic Bay's picturesque settlements can easily visit from Manila by taking the Kaloanglian, Econg Express, or Felipe Hizon Stations.
The City of Quiapo is famous for being home to the historic and UNESCO-listed Quiapo Church, which is believed to be the country's first constructed and fully integrated church and was built during the Spanish colonial period. Built on the plaza formerly used as the site of Spanish martyrdom and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the church consists of a large gilt and limestone structure with a giant neo-classical rotunda, and an array of smaller annexes and adjoining cloisters. In addition to visiting the Quiapo Church, you can visit and wander around the Antipolo Cathedral, a modern church with opulent architecture, as well as the Basilica Minor of St. Cajetan, one of the oldest churches in the country and the place where the first mass in the Philippines was said. The country's capital, Manila, can be reached by plane and rail. From Manila, take a train to Cainta or go to Quezon City to catch an airport-to-city train.
San Agustin Church, Intramuros
San Agustin Church (or better known as Iglesia de San Agustin) was originally built as a simple small convent in 1593. After 150 years of neglect, it was restored in the 1950s and served as the convent of the Augustinian convent, the first religious order established in the Philippines. In 1898, it was used as a military hospital during the Spanish American War. It was named the Royal City Intramuros in 1899 and gained historical status in 1959. In 1949, it became a national monument and was listed as one of the historic sites in the country. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1975. Today, the San Agustin Church is still the main church of Intramuros and is the third largest church in Asia. Aside from being a national monument, it also provides religious education classes for those who are interested. The San Agustin Church can be visited on a guided tour. Photography is strictly prohibited. It is open from 10am to 3pm on weekdays and 10am to 11am on Saturday and Sunday. There are a lot of museums in the area. Be sure to visit the Provincial Museum, Museum of Manila, and Fort Santiago.
Intramuros, Old Manila
Built as a defence fortress during Spanish colonial times, Intramuros is a World Heritage site and the heart and soul of the old Spanish capital. It houses many of Manila's iconic buildings, including the San Fernando Cathedral, Manila's oldest church, and the Banco de Oro with its sprawling Art Deco structure, and a number of the city's cultural attractions, including the Museo de Intramuros and Museo Rufino Tamayo.
Volcanic activity in the Philippines began in 1952, when Mount Guiab Volcano erupted. Within a few years, the volcano had expanded considerably, resulting in the formation of a wide caldera. Ten years later, the volcano underwent a major eruption and laid waste to the beautiful hilly mountain region. Between 1960 and 1972, the mountain was involved in four caldera-forming eruptions. The last eruption was on June 15, 1991. After the eruptions, the crater and all but a few hundred metres of the volcano's mountain range was destroyed, leaving a crater some 15 to 20 km in diameter. Some parts of the mountain are open for viewing, allowing visitors to see all the changes in the crater. The restored hotel rooms are basic, but provide a more authentic experience of the mountain.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
Located 50 kilometers south of the provincial capital, Puerto Princesa, Subterranean River National Park (more commonly known as Subterranean River National Park) is an eco-tourist attraction the likes of which you won't find anywhere else. Covering 38 square kilometers, the park is home to one of the world's most magnificent series of limestone caves and underground rivers. Most people who visit Subterranean River National Park enter at the main entrance, on the road to Mariveles, known as the Candelaria Cave. This scenic gateway leads to a narrow, 500-meter-long, 19-meter-high tunnel carved by nature over the course of millions of years. Another highlight of this wonderful park is the Crystal River, a freshwater river with an amazing array of stalactites and stalagmites. The most popular caving experience in the park is the Corcovado Cave, also known as Mackerel Point. More than 12 kilometers long and part of a small network of caves and underground rivers called the Subterranean River system, this cave is considered the best in the country for natural wonders and amazing sights. Beyond the Subterranean River National Park are some of the lesser-known but equally amazing sights in the region. The Ubat Cave is a 500-meter-long limestone cave at the foot of the active Mount Ubat volcano, which opened to tourists a few years ago. The Jiminian Cave, a limestone mountain formation in Butuan City, is popular for its huge stalactite and stalagmite, which were discovered in 1984.
Cebu is the largest city in the central Visayas region, but due to its size, it has fewer restaurants and bars than other Southeast Asian cities. Most of the action is confined to the banks of Cebu's famous white sand beach at Malapascua Island. The local sport is diving, although the more popular activity is snorkeling. A host of activities can be done in the water as it's a large, protected bay, including:
Read more 👉 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Cebu City
Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the third-largest and the main international gateway to the Philippines. It is located in Parañaque in metropolitan Manila, and is named after oppositionist and former president Ninoy Aquino. Built in 1987, NAIA is designed to handle a population of up to five million, which has contributed to the low-lying park-like setting, where heavy and tall buildings do not take away from the beautiful vistas. Facilities include a choice of restaurants and entertainment centers, 24-hour prayer rooms, and a clinic.
After an adventure-filled search for sea monsters, there was peace and prosperity on this island. Mactan Island's chief, Lapu-Lapu, was stymied by the greedy Spanish conquistadors, and he famously fought them off with rocks. However, he was eventually captured and his head displayed on a pike outside the town of Cebu. When Magellan landed on the island in 1521, the first Spanish settlement on the archipelago, he found it had been abandoned. His description, "las islas de Pulo [Pulo]" (the Islands of the Crab), is credited with sparking the Spanish conquest of the Philippines. Today, the Spanish Cebu Province is known for its picturesque city of Mactan, where an intriguing archeological site, Lapu-Lapu's grave, can be visited. The island is most easily reached by boat from Cebu City and a steep walk to the town center from the pier. Visitors can spend the night in the island's handful of guesthouses. When not in a guesthouse, most people visit the local market where a number of souvenirs, including shell and coconut products, can be found.
Baguio is an adventure junkie's paradise. The heights of Luzon's tallest peak, Mt. Pinatubo, mean great hiking trails and unmatched views of the many picturesque lakes and mountains. This is an unspoiled nature experience, with Baguio an example of a great urban environment. Although the city itself may be relatively small, a number of the surrounding towns are surprisingly large and popular destinations in their own right. Highlights of a visit to the town include a walk up to the various peaks of the boroughs, such as Mt. Malitapiko (Cavite), the highest peak in the province. The Lantana Lake Circuit offers great views of the different hills surrounding Baguio. The terraced hills of the Urdaneta and Lacubi ranges are favorites for Sunday market visitors, as are the cobblestone streets and boutiques of Binondo and nearby historic centers. For hiking enthusiasts, Mt. Pinatubo offers some of the best views of the region, along with scuba diving to enjoy and the popular hiking trail to Mt. San Cristobal. The airport, some 12 km out of the center of town, is reached by bus and taxis, while a taxi ride from the center of the city should cost around P100.
Mount Makiling, Laguna
Mt. Makiling (1095 m) is the highest peak in the Philippines and stands at the center of the 1,972-km2 Laguna de Bay, a large lake filled with crystal clear water in the southwest of the country. Other lakes within the area include the much smaller Laguna de la Paz and Laguna de Tanguis. The first visitors came to the mountains in the 16th century and saw the peak as the source of the waters of nearby Lake Calaca, a large fresh water lake. They named it after the Kingdom of Calacan, that is, the country of the lake.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
It may be hard to believe when you first see this unique landscape and a magnet for divers from all over the world, but these incredibly clear waters are actually above an ancient coral reef that rises from the Philippine seabed. The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park protects the entire area, and while visitors can snorkel or dive just off the northern tip of Palawan, Tubbataha is best known as a dive destination. The various exhibits, presentations, and activities at the park's visitor center in Palawan have a touch of whimsy that will appeal to divers. Programs include reef diving, a scuba adventure, a live reef tank, a butterfly garden, and interactive displays with live and animated animals. The dives themselves cover more than 20 sites, including Tubbataha, La Guia, Tablas, and the Broken Corner. Tubbataha is a great dive site, thanks to its amazing corals and remarkable bio-diversity. The highlight is the wall of beautiful coral of the Golden Horn, which is covered in soft corals, sponges, and sea fans, and has a surprising amount of fish life. Other dive sites include the Red Bream, and a beautiful tubular formation called a Tiger Shark.