The Philippines sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire. This position allows for the formation of volcanoes especially at the junction between the Philippines and Eurasian tectonic plates. As a result, the Philippines is blessed with hundreds of active and dormant volcanoes.
But what are the most active volcanoes in the Philippines? According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), these are Mts. Mayon, Taal, Kanlaon, Bulusan, and Ragang. There are 20 active volcanoes in the Philippines, mostly located on Luzon island.
While the idea of a volcanic eruption seems daunting and scary, it is actually one of the best spectacles in nature. That is not to say it is not dangerous. As a matter of fact, there have been very destructive eruptions of volcanoes in the Philippines.
Here are the Philippines’ most active volcanoes:
Considered to be one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world because of its almost perfect conical shape, Mt. Mayon is also the most active volcano in the Philippines. It is located in the province of Albay in the Bicol region.
Mayon has erupted at least 47 times in the last 500 years, the one in 1814 being the most destructive. The eruption buried the town of Cagsawa, leaving over a thousand people dead. The church tower in most photos of Mt. Mayon is a reminder of the catastrophic event.
PHIVOLCS permanently monitors Mt. Mayon. Activities have been observed over the years, including a surprise eruption in 2013. This event killed 5 climbers and left 7 others injured. In 2018, the entire Albay province was placed under a state of calamity as ash, lava, and steam spewed from Mayon’s crater. In early 2020, a magma glow was observed on the volcano’s crater.
Despite and because of its activities, Mt. Mayon remains to be one of the most popular attractions in the Philippines.
Known as a volcano island inside a lake in a bigger volcano, Taal is definitely the most interesting volcano in the Philippines. It is also the deadliest. It is located in Batangas, just hours from Manila. Taal is a breathtaking attraction viewed from Tagaytay. Trekking along the volcano was also a popular activity.
Taal has erupted at least 34 times; its latest was in early 2020. The eruption from the main crater was so destructive that it affected the entire region, Metro Manila, parts of Central Luzon, and even as far as Pangasinan in Ilocos. The towns have since recovered from the effects of the eruption and only 39 people lost their lives because they refused to evacuate.
The eruption expelled most of the water out of the main crater’s lake but quickly reformed when the rainy season began. Taal volcano remains to be a beautiful natural attraction with plenty of hotels, cafes, and restaurants surrounding it.
The third most active volcano in the Philippines is Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Oriental. It has erupted at least 30 times but most of them have only been mild. It only spewed lava during its eruption in 1904.
There have been activities recorded for Mt. Kanlaon in recent years including volcanic earthquakes and mild eruptions involving ash columns and loud booming sounds. None of these eruptions were destructive.
Mt. Kanlaon is the highest point in the Visayas with an elevation of about 8000 feet above sea level. It is an extremely popular destination for mountain climbers and relaxation seekers. Hot springs around the volcano like the Mambucal, Bucalan, and Bungol are just a three-hour scenic drive from Bacolod City.
Mayon’s southern neighbor Mt. Bulusan is also an active volcano. It is located in Sorsogon, a coastal province in the southernmost tip of Luzon island.
Although it is the fourth most active volcano in the Philippines with at least 15 recorded eruptions, these have only been mild. Locals are used to ash explosions from the volcano which can last for years. Bulusan’s worst eruption involving lava flows and landslides lasted from 1918 to 1922.
Mt. Bulusan has four craters and several hot springs that draw tourists in. Hiking is also very popular as the trail provides commanding views of the sea and surrounding area. A sea of clouds also envelope the volcano on some days.
Mt. Ragang is the most active volcano on Mindanao island. It is located in Lanao del Sur in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. It is part of a string of volcanoes called the Central Mindanao Arc.
Not much is known of Mt. Ragang. PHIVOLCS recorded at least 8 eruptions, the last being in 1916. Seismologists from the Smithsonian Institution suspect that eruptions of its neighboring volcanoes actually emanated from Mt. Ragang.
Travel to this area in the Philippines is discouraged due to unrest and kidnappings. Having said that, Lanao is a beautiful province with amazing natural attractions like Lake Lanao, Iga-Bai Falls, Kanapnapan Falls, and Mabul Beach. Mt. Ragang’s trails are also home to interesting plant species including the world’s biggest flower.
Other Notable Active Volcanoes in the Philippines
This young volcano sits on Camiguin Island, a popular tourist destination just off the coast of Cagayan de Oro. Mt. Hibok-hibok is a small volcano with a base diameter of only 10 kilometers. It has 5 recorded eruptions, the most destructive of which happened between 1948 and 1953.
Camiguin is a great destination for all types of travelers. Its popular sand bar is the perfect place for working on your tan. Having four volcanoes also means the island has plenty of hot springs to relax in. Camiguin also has plenty of historic sites protected by the UNESCO, including a sunken cemetery which is an interesting dive spot. Fan of tropical fruits? Camiguin produces the sweetest lanzones in the country.
Mt. Pinatubo is perhaps the most famous volcano in the Philippines. Its 1991 eruption was so destructive that it displaced tens of thousands of Filipinos and affected the entire island of Luzon. The ash fell as far as the Indian Ocean after the eruption.
Pinatubo’s destruction is a testament to nature’s healing and its resulting beauty. Years after the eruption, the crater lake became one of the most breathtaking sights in the area. The surrounding lahar-laden plains have become popular with off-roaders and hikers. Nearby coasts became even more beautiful as vegetation came back to life.
It would an amazing experience to see a volcano erupt. I, for one, would like to witness an eruption especially if it involves lava flow. What a sight that would be! Having said that, I wouldn’t want to be caught in an ashfall.
How about you? Have you experienced a volcanic eruption firsthand? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.