With its sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, colonial attractions and the world-famous hospitality of its people, the Philippines is becoming ever more popular as a holiday destination; and yet some of its best draw cards are not known about. Here are some of the best places to visit in the Philippines, ranging from the popular to the lesser known – none of which should be missed.
Stopping by the hive-like capital of Manila is a must. Pay a visit to the historic centre of Intramuros, the walled city created by the Spanish in the 16th century, guarded by the Fort Santiago citadel. Although much of the fort was damaged in the second world war, it’s now been restored to its original glory. San Agustin Church, a Unesco world heritage site and the oldest stone church in the country, is also close by.
Otherwise, wander the busy streets and watch jeepneys run from place to place – originally created from US military jeeps left after the second world war, the vehicles are now slightly more modernised – but all are creatively decorated, in a kitsch and individual style.
Could anything sound more appealing than a visit to chocolate hills? Sitting pretty on the island of Bohol, these hills – of which there are over 1,200 – are topped with grass that turns a shade of brown during the dry season. The two viewing platforms give an opportunity to see these hills, which roll toward the sea. Off the coast, dolphin and whale watching tours are available.
The world’s smallest primate, the Philippine tarsier, has become synonymous with the island of Bohol. As it becomes increasingly difficult to see tarsiers in the wild, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, which promotes their welfare, is worth a visit.
The island of Palawan is home to Puerto Princesa, known as the ‘greenest city in the Philiipines’. It’s the perfect starting point to explore nearby reefs and beaches; and the town itself features the elegant Immaculate Conception Cathedral, shaded in white and blue pastel.
However, the main attraction is the Subterranean River National Park, which features an 8-km long underground river – said to be the longest navigable underground river in the world. Take a tour downstream, through the spectacular limestone karst landscape and impressively large underground cave rooms. Spot bats and other fauna in this truly remarkable Unesco heritage site.
Finally, no trip to the Philippines is complete without a visit to one of the most stunning beaches in the world. White Beach on Boracay Island is a 4km stretch of white, sandy beach along shallow, crystal clear water, which is perfect for snorkelling or swimming. An iconic rocky outcrop called Willy’s Rock also draws local and international tourist alike. Plus, there are plenty of shops and restaurants close by if you need a break from the beach lifestyle.
Katie Parsons is the PR Manager at Cox & Kings.
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