Country guides Asia
The Philippines Travel Guide
The Philippines archipelago is one of Southeast Asia's less explored tourist jewels. Visitors will find plenty to see and do in the gorgeous island chain, from lazing on palm-fringed beaches to world-class scuba diving and snorkelling sites. They will also encounter a wealth of great cultural attractions.
Visitors generally fall into two categories: package-tour holidaymakers, visiting one of the country's excellent beach resorts (found in Bohol, Boracay or Puerto Galera); and independent adventure travellers, keen on criss-crossing the archipelago in search of excitement.
Whichever way visitors decide to experience the Philippines, they'll come across several tourist sights and activities they simply can't afford to miss. The capital, Manila, is a chaotic yet compelling city, with plenty to keep travellers occupied. Intramuros, the historic walled enclave full of Spanish-colonial architecture, and Binondo, one of the oldest and most vibrant Chinatowns in the world are among the many wonderful places on offer.
Regarding natural wonders, the Philippines abounds with unforgettable excursions, such as the marvellous Chocolate Hills of Bohol, and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (one of the New 7 Wonders of the World). Nature-lovers will delight in the country's lush, captivating landscapes.
Best time to visit the Philippines
The Philippines has a tropical climate characterised by distinct dry and rainy seasons. Weather-wise, the best time to visit is between November and April. However, this is also peak tourist season, meaning flight and accommodation prices will be higher.
What to see in the Philippines
-Fort San Pedro offers some fascinating insights into Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines.
-The Chocolate Hill, a vast plain consisting of between 1200 and 1800 conical hills formed from grass-covered limestone.
-The Taal Volcano is a must-see natural attraction, and is accessed from the holiday hotspot of Tagaytay City.
-The enclave of Intramuros, Manila's oldest district. Visitors will be amazed by the thick walls and rich history surrounding Fort Santiago.
What to do in the Philippines
-A trip to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, located on the island of Palawan, is a must for visitors to the Philippines.
-Visitors can explore the archipelago's incredible coral reefs and rich marine life by going diving at world-class sites in Boracay, Cebu, or Palawan.
-Tourists can go shopping in Binondo, Manila's Chinatown, before eating in one of the district's famous converted movie theatre restaurants.
-Numerous island hopping tours are available in the Philippines.
Getting to the Philippines
Cheap flights to the Philippines are easy to find from American and European destinations, although the only direct flight from the US to Manila is from San Francisco. Tourists who plan to visit the central or southern Filipino islands (such as Palawan, Bohol, Boracay and Mindanao) should think about purchasing an 'open jaw' ticket, which will see them fly into Manila and then out of Cebu.
Dusk by F. Sionil Jose, Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn, and Cebu by Peter Bacho.
Lechon (whole-roasted suckling pig), puchero (beef prepared with banana and tomato), kare-kare (oxtail cooked in peanut sauce) and adobo (chicken, pork or squid stewed in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves), or try balut: the national delicacy.
Tanduay Rum, mixed with fresh fruit juice.
What to buy
Hand-woven bags, baskets and mats, embroidered shirts and skirts, hammocks and bamboo flutes.
What to pack
Visitors should pack sunscreen and lightweight clothing, as well as a small, ideally waterproof, backpack that can hold items such as bottled water, toilet paper, insect repellent and antibacterial hand-soap while they're on day excursions.
What's on in the Philippines
The Sinulog Festival takes place on the third Sunday of every January, and celebrates one of the country's most famous historic relics: the Santo Nino de Cebu. Celebrations last for the first three weeks in January, culminating with the big dance parade. Travellers should also visit the island of Marinduque for the 200-year-old Moriones Festival (April), where locals recreate the story of Saint Longinus. Cebu's Fete de la Musique (June) is another fantastic event, which features 150 bands playing on seven different stages. The annual 'Black Nazarene' procession takes place in the second week of January, when devotees follow the Christ statue through Manila (usually the Quiapo District). They believe the statue will protect them from harm and bring health, wealth and happiness in the coming year.
Did you know?
-The Filipino flag is the only flag in the world that is flown upside-down during times of war.
-About 350 to 400 million text messages are sent every day in the Philippines, which is more than the US and Europe put together.
-The Philippines has more than 200 volcanoes, although many are not active.
A final word
An archipelago blessed with great weather and astounding natural scenery, the Philippines is emerging as a great destination for snorkelling and diving enthusiasts, as well as an all-action stop on the southeast Asian backpacking circuit.