2015 is the year to visit the Philippines! Book your tickets now before everyone does. The Philippines is becoming the next big travel destination in South East Asia…
2014 is almost over, and I was thinking this week what could be my last blog post for this year. Something about Christmas? Uhm… No. I’m just not that into Santa to write about it. How about what I’m gonna do on New Years Eve? Who cares? (OK – I’m Hong Kong right now. Now you know.)
A week ago I went through my +50,000 images from the Philippines. Once again I realized that there are so many amazing places to visit in the Philippines. Many of these photos I’ve never shared. And sharing is caring, right? These photos are far too beautiful to be just on my hard disk…
And there was my idea: A bucket list for 2015 – 20 Images that will showcase the beauty of the Philippines. Actually I was thinking of 50 images first, but this websites loads to slow so let’s cut it to 20. Trust me, I had enough material to make it a 100 images.
This blog post is dedicated to my friends and readers, I’m writing this for you, and for those who recently cancelled their tickets to the Philippines because of recent events.
WHERE IS THE PHILIPPINES? AND HOW DO I GET THERE?
It’s actually funny, I get that question quite often. I’m pretty good when it comes to geography in Asia, but if you’d ask me where is Slovenia – I wouldn’t be able to pin it on a map (yes, I’m European. And yes, that’s embarrassing.)
The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7000 islands, located in Southeast Asia in the Western Pacific Ocean between Borneo (Malaysia) in the South and Taiwan in the North. Well, just check the map above.
The good news is that there are cheap flights to Manila from all over Asia, so stop with excuses! Check the low-cost airlines AirAsia, Jetstar and CebuPacific. Thanks to Philippine Airlines, there are now direct flights from Europe, Australia and the US. My favorite website to find cheap flights to the Philippines is Skyscanner.
Let’s get this started. Without further ado, here is my list of all the fantastic things to do and places to visit in the Philippines in 2015!
01 | PERFECT BEACHES
The beaches are without a doubt one of the most convincing reasons why you should visit the Philippines in 2015. With a coastline of more than 36,000 km you can expect some of the most beautiful and picturesque beaches in the world.
Here are some of my favorite beaches in the Philippines, click on the links to see an image of that beach:
02 | COLORFUL FESTIVALS
Get a glimpse of Philippines’ culture: Colorful costumes, painted bodies and crazy dance performances – you can’t leave the Philippines without seeing one of their cultural or indigenous fiestas!
Mark your calendars, here are the most popular festivals in the Philippines for 2015:
- Ati-Atihan, Kalibo (Jan)
- Feast of the black Nazarene, Manila (Jan)
- Sinulog, Cebu City (Jan)
- Dinagyang, Iloilo (Jan)
- Moriones, Marinduque (Mar/Apr)
- World Costume, Vigan (Apr)
- Sandugo, Bohol (Jul)
- Kadayawan, Davao (Aug)
- Masskara, Bacolod (Oct)
The list of fiestas is endless, each city has its own parade. Here’s a list of all festivals in the Philippines.
03 | THE BEAUTY OF PALAWAN WILL LEAVE YOU SPEECHLESS
If you’re looking for paradise you can’t miss this place: El Nido at the northern end of Palawan was definitely the most picturesque place I have visited in the Philippines! Beaches, lagoons and an underwater life that will amaze you. The archipelago of El Nido is absolutely stunning! If they ever get 24/7 electricity and a decent internet connection in Palawan, I’m so gonna move there and never come back.
How to get there: There are daily flights from Manila, Cebu or Iloilo to Puerto Princesa. From Puerto Princesa Airport you can catch a minibus to El Nido (5-6 hours). I wrote a detailed blog post about El Nido in Palawan – about things to do and places to stay. If you plan to visit Palawan, you might find this post helpful: Unspoiled Paradise on Earth – The Archipelago of El Nido.
04 | THE RICE TERRACES OF BANAUE
The two thousand years old Rice Terraces in Banaue are often referred as the 8th wonder of the world. For an unforgettable trekking experience I suggest you to take a hike through the rice paddies. The scenery is out of this world, absolutely breathtaking!!
How to get there: Take one of the daily buses from Manila to Banaue. It’s a long 6 hours scenic bus ride from Manila up to the mountains, but when you reach Banaue, you know it was totally worth the trip!
05 | THE HANGING COFFINS IN SAGADA
If you make it to Banaue (above), don’t go back without visiting Sagada! There are many things to do in Sagada, like exploring caves or swimming in waterfalls. I found one thing in particular that caught my attention: Hanging coffins, tied and nailed to a cliff!
I asked some locals about this funeral practice and they told me that old people do not like to be buried in the ground. Also, the higher they would tie the coffin on the cliff, the closer they’ll come to the sky…
How to get there: Daily buses from Manila via Baguio or Banaue. If you’re coming from Banaue, just hop on a jeepney to Sagada (2-3 hours).
06 | SNORKEL WITH THE GIANT SEA TURTLES IN APO ISLAND
The underwater life in Apo Island is extraordinary and one of the world’s best marine sanctuaries. The island is surrounded by colorful corals, hundreds species of fish and giant sea tortoises. I had a wonderful snorkel experience there, swimming with 5-10 turtles. It’s truly fascinating to watch them swimming and eating, they’re incredibly gorgeous creatures.
How to get there: Apo Island is a tiny volcanic island, located in Negros. The nearest airport is Dumaguete. From there take a bus or jeepney to Malatapay where the boats leave for Apo Island. Alternatively book an organized trip to Apo Island. Many hotels in Dumaguete will arrange the transportation for you. I did the latter one and stayed in Dauin (near Dumaguete). You can read my blog post here.
07 | COLORFUL SUNSETS
I have seen the most gorgeous sunsets in the Philippines. The combination of the sea, the mountains and the reflections on the water leads to spectacular sunsets in all colors – from yellow, orange to red, pink and purple. Expect to see the best sunsets from the islands. No day goes by without seeing another phenomenal sunset.
My blogger friend Melo wrote a blog post about the Best Sunset Spots in the Philippines, check it out. It’s colorful.
Photo: This one is taken in Boracay.
08 + 09 | THE CHOCOLATE HILLS AND THE TARSIERS IN BOHOL
Bohol is one of the most visited places in the Philippines because it offers a variety of activities and sights to discover. The magnificent Chocolate Hills and the cute little tarsiers (photo below) are definitely the things I enjoyed the most.
How to get there: Fly directly to Tagbilaran, the airport in Bohol Island or fly to Cebu and take a boat to Bohol (2hrs).
PS: I wrote a blog post called Falling in Love with a Wonderland called Bohol.
10 | KAYANGAN LAKE IN CORON – THE CLEANEST LAKE IN ASIA
The crystal-clear turquoise waters of Kayangan Lake are absolutely surreal. The volcanic lake is nestled between two limestone mountains, the panorama views are just out of this world. An amazing place to go swimming or snorkeling, the water is fresh, clean and warm. I spotted loads of shrimps and needle fish in the water.
How to get there: Take a direct flight from Manila to Busuanga/Coron. From there it’s 30 minutes by boat. Kayangan Lake is the number one attraction in Coron – the easiest is to book an organized trip through one of the hotels or tour agencies.
11 | MAYON VOLCANO IN LEGAZPI
No other volcano in the Philippines is as breathtaking as this one: The majestic Mount Mayon rising to over 2,400 meter is known as the most symmetrical volcano in the world. You’ll be overwhelmed by its beauty, but you have to be cautious because Mount Mayon is a devil in disguise. The perfectly cone-shaped mountain is the most active volcano in the Philippines, having erupted about 50 times since 1615 and killing many people.
Watch this volcano from a distance, you’ll get a great view from Albay town, especially in the morning.
How to get there: From Manila it’s 12 hours by bus. If you can afford it, fly directly to Legazpi.
12 | 7107 ISLANDS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
The Philippines is one of the largest archipelagos on this planet, with more than 7100 islands! Flying across the Philippines is very affordable thanks to Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia, offering airfares for less than US$15. Make sure to get a window seat as the view over the archipelago is spectacular!
13 | SMOKEY MOUNTAIN, THE SLUMS OF MANILA
That’s probably not your typical idea of sightseeing, but I want to urge you to visit one of the biggest slums in Tondo, Manila. The poorest of the poor are struggling every day to make a living by picking up garbage. It was truly moving to connect with these people and learn about their lifes. These kids can bear more difficulties in life than we can ever imagine…
I spent an entire day with the kids of Smokey Mountain and I would love to share my story with you:
14 | SWIM IN A WATERFALL
Tired of salty water and white sandy beaches? Nothing can beat a refreshing day, swimming in the turquoise waters of a majestic waterfall.
The Philippines is home to a number of waterfalls, often found in a lush natural surrounding such as a rain forest. Here are some of the best waterfalls I’ve visited in the Philippines:
15 | GET CLOSE TO THE WHALE SHARKS
An encounter with a ten meter long whale shark is undoubtedly an experience you won’t forget for the rest of your life! My heart skipped a beat when I spotted them next to me, these animals are amazing!!
There are several places in the Philippines where you can spot them, one is Oslob, the other one is Donsol. I also heard some people swam with whale sharks in Palawan.
On a side note, the Philippines is probably the cheapest place on earth where you can swim with these giant beautiful creatures, so don’t miss this extraordinary experience! Here is our incredible video Swimming with the Whale Sharks.
16 | GO SURFING
The Philippines has a couple of excellent surf spots – No matter if you love wind surfing, kite surfing or just riding the waves – you’ll surely have a blast!
Boracay is a great place to learn kite surfing, wind surfing, wake or skim boarding. If you just want to purely surf, head straight to Siargao which is ranked by CNN as #08 of the best surf spot in the world.
How to get there: Only Cebu Pacific Air flies to Siargao via Cebu. It’s a bit a hassle to get there but totally worth it, even if you’re not a surfer.
17 | STAY BEACHFRONT FOR LESS THAN $10/NIGHT
Did I mention already that the Philippines are a relatively cheap country to travel? There are still so many places where you’ll barely meet other tourists and everything is still very affordable.
You see that tree house in the photo on the right? I stayed there for 300 Pesos a night. That’s less than US$7. The place is on an island called Siquijor. I can’t remember the name of the guesthouse, but I’m sure you’ll find plenty of places like this on islands off the beaten track…
18 | DON’T MISS BORACAY
When people talk about Boracay, they either love it or hate it. Boracay is Philippines’ most visited island and definitely one of those places I left a piece of my heart. I wrote two articles about this amazing place, and still I can’t stop talking about it. Three words: Boracay is magical.
If you’re thinking of skipping Boracay because someone said the island isn’t great, ignore them. I mean how could you miss a place that’s several times named as the most beautiful beach in the world? Are you nuts? Don’t miss it. Go there and make your own picture!
How to get there: Boracay has two airports, Caticlan (15 minutes away) and Kalibo (2 hours away). For flights, check Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and AirAsia. At both airports there are shuttle vans waiting for you in front of the arrival hall to bring your straight to the island.
If you’re heading to Boracay, check out my viral posts about this island:
19 | FRESH, FRESHER, SEA FOOD
The sea is nowhere far from any place in the Philippines, you can expect a feast when it comes to seafood.
Fresh fish and seafood is everywhere on the menu, from expensive fancy resorts to the cheap seafood shacks. Try it! The Filipinos know very well how to prepare lobsters, squid and prawns to bring you the maximum seafood experience!
20 | THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES
I remember this one time, I was walking around in Camiguin Island. when an old woman waved to me from her terrace. She invited me over so I walked to her porch. We spent the whole afternoon chatting and showing pictures to each other. She even called her son and told him to get us fresh coconuts from their garden. I had to promise her to come back one day with my husband. (Well…. First I need to get married.)
Filipinos know how to turn strangers into friends. They’re kind, polite, but most of all they’re the friendliest people I’ve came across. Their optimism and cheerfulness are the reasons why I fell completely in love with Philippines.
Is there one thing I don’t like about the Philippines? Oh yes. I hate Karaoke. Dear Filipinos, please don’t ask me to sing…
THE FINAL CALL: ARE YOU READY FOR THE PHILIPPINES?
OK these were just 20 images, but let’s be honest: The Philippines is a melting pot with countless things to do. A lifetime won’t be enough to discover everything this country has to offer. Don’t miss out the fun because YES it is more fun in the Philippines!