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5 reasons you’ll love the Philippines

Pacific Island paradise

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Incredibly beautiful, with stunning landscape to explore, fascinating history and intriguing wildlife – it’s time to put the Philippines on your travel wish-list. With so much to see, I recommend island-hopping as the Philippines is packed with little gems. Here are 5 top experiences you should place on your travel wish-list.

1. Puerto Princesa River Underground River System - Palawan

Palawan underground river tour caves

For a real adventure, Puerto Princesa River Underground River in Palawan is a thrilling journey into a natural world that might not be that natural to you. Imagine drifting serenely through a hushed, subterranean realm on your own David Attenborough adventure, past underground waterfalls and rock formations fashioned over eons from the constant flow of water, eyes peeled in the semi-darkness for the mysteriously wildlife that occupies these secretive waters until you emerge directly onto the coastline. Donning life jackets and hard hats, you’ll peer above to spot bats, discovering ancient fossils in including 20 million year old manatees, where your torchlight picks out crystals glinting in the cave walls. Containing both fresh and brackish water and winding in and out of limestone karst landscapes fringed by mangrove forests, this is journey  that will have you on tenterhooks as you travel through a unique landscape that not many people ever get to glimpse.

2. San Agustin Church and Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila

Intramuros, Manila

Manila, the capital of the Philippines has seen successive waves of invaders, each leaving their own intriguing mark behind for you to discover. Exploring the cobble streets of the walled city of Intramuros is highly recommended for culture vultures and history buffs and a walking tour through this district offers a snapshot of Manila through the ages. Here you’ll come across Fort Santiago, a citadel first built by Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi in 1571. Another example of Spanish colonial architecture from this period is San Agustin. It was originally constructed by Augustinian Friars with the use of nipa and bamboo, a commonly used technique in South East Asia. Although the old building succumbed to fire and the resulting stone replacement was very nearly raised to the ground during the Second World War, it remains a focal point of the this UNESCO World Heritage Site and an essential piece of the jigsaw of your amazing tour of the Philippines.

3. Banaue Rice Terraces – Ifugao Luzon

Banaue Rice Terraces, Ifugao, Luzon

Some the finest examples of rice terraces can be found in the Philippines.  Landscape photography enthusiasts will be well aware of the Banaue Rice Terraces that were carved from the mountains of Ifugao, dating back nearly two millennia. A walking tour of the area is a tricky proposition and not for the faint-hearted, weaving your way and up and along the slender paths that hug the contours of this bucolic alpine district. However, the heart-stopping views that greet you as your ascend higher are a rare and privileged sight, and an invitation not to be easily turned down. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these rare examples of ancient agricultural practices life are what makes island-hopping through the Philippines an absolute must-do.

4. Tarsiers – not the world’s cutest creature?

Tarsiers of Bohol

Tarsiers – yes, those captivating little critters smaller than the palm of your hand, have been drawing gasps from visitors to the island of Bohol for some time now. These little leaping primates are found in very few places in the world, and are near enough impossible to spot in the wild – if it weren’t for their eyes reflecting the light from your torches at night. And what a stare they have, perfected over 45 million years of existence, those glowing orbs are extremely useful when you’re a nocturnal species. Tarsiers also have the handy knack of being about to rotate their necks a full 180 degrees – just like an owl. The extra-long Tarsus bones in their feet help them cling on to branches and also gives them their name too. You can discover this and other interesting facts when you pop along to the Tarsier Sanctuary on Bohol. Here, they will inform you that their looks flatter to deceive. Tarsiers are one of the few primates to have a solely carnivorous diet – in other words, if you’re a small bird, gecko or juicy insect, these tiny cuties are the deadliest of night time hunters. Food for thought, eh?  

5. The Chocolate Hills of Bohol

Chocolate Hills of Bohol

There’s another reason to visit Bohol. The breathtaking and distinctive landscape. No matter how long you gaze out across the Chocolate Hills, you still can’t grasp what it is you are seeing. So-called because of the brown shade the vegetation changes to during summer months, this rolling terrain of haycock hills really do show the diverse natures of the Philippines and that it isn’t all about beautiful beaches and tropical lagoons. Home to over 600 species of birds keep your binoculars handy to spot herons, cuckoos, woodpeckers and barn owls. Or, if you’re keen on marine life, the graceful whale shark calls the Bohol coastline waters home. If the scenery and wildlife of Bohol doesn’t get you, the local food will. Eat local and you won’t go far wrong. Try the signature dish, adobo, chicken or pork marinated in soy, vinegar and garlic. Sipping on a chilled fruit juice as the sun sets, you’ll appreciate that life doesn’t get much better than a holiday on the island of Bohol.

Where to stay

Discovery Shores Boracay

Discovery Shores Boracay

Luxury is not about size, but quality of experience, warm hospitality amid beautiful surroundings. This is perfectly demonstrated by this hideaway boutique resort situated on White Bay in Boracay. Part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World Collection, this all-suite hotel fuses stylish interiors with an unsurpassed levels of service from the Butler service on the beach to their extensive menu of both Filipino and international cuisine. Discovery Shores was also recently voted Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Hotels and is home to some of the finest restaurants on Boracay. Well, everyone needs a nice place to lay back and dream of all those amazing adventures in the Philippines.

Diving in Palawan

If I haven’t yet convinced you that these amazing islands should top your travel wish-list then visit our Philippines pages for more inspiration. 

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