The Philippines is defined by its emerald rice fields, teeming megacities, graffiti-splashed jeepneys, smouldering volcanoes, bug- eyed tarsiers, fuzzy water buffalo and smiling, happy- go-lucky people.
Cultural Quirks The Philippines is a land apart from mainland Southeast Asia – not only geographically but also spiritually and culturally. The country’s overwhelming Catholicism, the result of 350 years of Spanish rule, is its most obvious enigma. Vestiges of the Spanish era include exuberant town fiestas (festivals) like Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan, unique Spanish-Filipino colonial architecture, and exquisite, centuries-old stone churches lording over bustling town plazas. Malls, fast-food chains and widespread spoken English betray the influence of Spain’s colonial successor, the Americans. Yet despite these outside influences, the country remains very much its own unique entity.
The people are, simply, Filipinos – and proud of it. Welcoming, warm and relentlessly upbeat, it is they who captivate and ultimately ensnare visitors.
Island Life The Philippines consists of more than 7000 islands, and at certain times of the year it will feel like you have them all to yourself. The typical island boasts a jungle-clad, mountainous interior and a sandy coastline flanked by aquamarine waters and the requisite coral reef. But you’ll find plenty of variations on this theme, from marooned slicks of sand in the middle of the ocean to sprawling, overpopulated mega-islands like Luzon and Mindanao.
Beach bums and divers should head straight to the Visayas, where island-hopping opportunities abound and the perfect beach takes many forms. More adventurous travellers can pitch a tent on a deserted stretch of coastline and play solo Survivor for a few days.
Accessible Adventures The Philippines isn’t just about finding an isolated beach and getting catatonic. From trekking in the mountains of North Luzon, to getting airborne on a kite board in Boracay, to spelunking in the cave systems of Samar, the Philippines can capably raise any adrenaline junkie’s pulse. Much of the action in the Philippines naturally takes place in and around the water. Kitesurfing and windsurfing are big in Boracay and in Daet, Bicol. While surfers are just catching on to the tasty waves that form on both coasts at certain times of the year, divers have long been enamoured of the country’s underwater charms. You need only know how to snorkel to go fin deep with the gentle butanding (whale sharks) in Southeast Luzon.
Freshwater pursuits include rafting, kayaking and wakeboarding. On terra firma, the rice terraces around Banaue are most popular for trekking, but there are peaks – including many volcanoes – to be bagged across Luzon, the Visayas, Mindoro and Mindanao.
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Best places to stay in the Philippines
Philippines travel guide
Swim with whale sharks, scale smouldering volcanoes, explore desert islands, wander around ancient rice terraces, submerge at world-class dive sites and visit remote hill tribes in the Philippines – Southeast Asia’s undiscovered gem.
Crucifixion Re-Enactment: a guide to Good Friday in the Philippines
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World War II sights in the Philippines
Island-hopping in the Philippines
Philippines - Manila (Chapter)
The ‘Pearl of the Orient’ reveals itself to those resolute enough to pry. Discover Manila’s tender soul among the leafy courtyards and cobbled streets of Intramuros, or in the generosity of the city’s 11 million residents.
Masskara Festival: a guide to the Philippines' festival of smiles
Happy Halloween by Joshua Santino. Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY 2.0) Location: Bacolod, Negros Occidental, Philippines Dates: weekend nearest 19 October Level of participation: 3 – smile with the masked masses MassKara’s name is a fusion of the English word for ‘many people’ and cara, the Spanish word for face...
The top surf spots in the Philippines
Philippines - North Luzon (Chapter)
North Luzon has machete-toting hill tribes who are quick to smile and quicker to share their rice wine; surfers racing waves onto sunny beaches; Spanish colonial cities; and the lonely, fortress-flecked edge of the archipelago.
Manila Old and New: Sightseeing Tour Including Intramuros and Fort Santiago
Immerse yourself in Manila’s past and present as you travel by comfortable air-conditioned vehicle through the City of Makati and on to Old Manila. Step back in time as you stroll through ancient ruins in historic Intramuros, where you’ll visit UNESCO World Heritage-listed San Agustin Church and Fort Santiago.
Northern Philippines Adventure
With over 6,000 islands contained within its borders, the Philippines is one of the largest archipelagos in the world. While we can’t possibly show you all of them in just eight days, this journey through the country’s northern half will feel more than comprehensive enough.
Island adventures in the Philippines
The Philippines are justifiably known for their beaches, but the country isn't just about finding an isolated patch of sand and sinking into a sun-kissed stupor. The 7000-plus islands of the Philippines offer an array of more adventurous pursuits that can raise any adrenaline junkie's pulse...
Philippines - Palawan (Chapter)
Nothing defines Palawan more than its waters. With seascapes the equal of any in Southeast Asia, and wildlife, both terrestrial and aquatic, the Philippines’ most sparsely populated region is also the most beguiling.