The Philippines is a country blessed with natural wonders which attract people to visit time and again. Every island has beautiful spots that appeal to each visitor and places that make you want to call it home.
For vacationers who are contemplating visiting the country for the first time, here is a list of the top 10 attractions in the Philippines.
Subterranean River National Park
The Subterranean River National Park in Puerto Princesa, Palawan was declared as one of the 7 Wonders of the World and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The underground Cabayugan River is located in the mountain ranges of St. Paul, about 81 kilometers north of Puerto Princesa City.
Rare mineral deposits have been found inside the cave and near-extinct mammals thrive in the forest surrounding the area. The entire park is being managed by the city government of Puerto Princesa. Since the Underground River is the #1 of the top 10 attractions in the Philippines, expect plenty of other visitors. We highly recommend that you arrange your tour months in advance.
The conical hills reach the height of 30 to 120 meters and turn chocolate brown (hence the name) during summer. The mounds numbering as many as 1,776 are believed to be coral deposits that have grown out of the surface after being submerged in seawater for centuries.
The Chocolate Hills were partially damaged by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that hit Central Visayas in October 2013. Since the catastrophe, locals and volunteers have restored this top attraction in the Philippines.
Local legends speak of a broken-hearted giant Agono who fell in love with a native girl named Aluya. Because the giant’s love was unrequited, his gigantic tears fell to the ground, hardened, and turned into these enchanting hills. This natural wonder is best seen at a vantage point from the viewing deck of the Chocolate Hills Complex in Carmen.
The Mayon Volcano is famous for its near-perfect cone that draws thousands of visitors every year. Mt. Mayon is an active volcano that has many records of a cataclysmic eruption that killed many people living at the slopes of the peak. As such, you would think people will stay away but on the contrary, more people come during eruptions just to witness it.
During the summer months of March to May, you can see a clear view of the peak without the clouds capping its tip. It is approximately 8 hours by bus from Manila to Legaspi, Albay where the volcano sits in its entire splendor.
Rice Terraces of the Cordillera Mountain Range
The Rice Terraces of the Cordillera Mountain Range are clusters of rice paddies carved out of the mountainsides. The terraced plots were painstakingly hand-crafted more than 2,000 years ago by the forefathers of the Ifugao tribe.
Located approximately 5,000 feet above sea level, these paddies are naturally irrigated by waters coming from the watersheds in the upper slopes. Because it is a man-made wonder, this site is a reminder of the Filipino’s ingenuity and resilience in adapting to nature’s frivolities.
To date, the rice terraces are still in use although certain portions have been eroded by the changing weather conditions and neglect. Proclaimed by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites, it draws many visitors every year.
Mt Apo is a potentially active peak located between the provinces of Cotabato and Davao del Sur and Davao City. It has an elevation of 2, 954 meters and is the highest mountain in the Philippines.
Mt Apo has no clear historical records of seismic eruptions. Because of this, its challenging trails and ecological diversity continue to tempt local and foreign climbers. Climbing Mt Apo can be an exhilarating experience, the 2-3 days hike starting from the Agko Hot Springs and across several craggy slopes is not for the faint-hearted and the weak-kneed. Local guides can take you up for a minimal fee. To make sure that you have the best time, pack the proper mountain climbing gear. You need tents, enough water and provisions, appropriate clothing and footwear, and lots of stamina to successfully climb Mt. Apo.
White Beach on Boracay Island
Boracay Island is a seemingly endless stretch of fine white sand with crystal clear waters located some 300 kilometers south of Manila. The 7 kilometers-long isle of white sandy beaches is a favorite summer getaway for local celebrities and foreign tourists. As a result, White Beach is one of the top holiday attractions in the world and it remains to be the most visited among the top 10 attractions in the Philippines in this list. The finest hotels and resorts in the Philippines call Boracay island home.
The surrounding reefs are perfect diving spots. You can hire professional diving instructors if you wish to explore the depths of the ocean. The climate is very tropical thus; the sun is scorchingly hot during summer and the pristine white sands can be blinding. You can reach White Beach via a 10-minute boat ride from Caticlan where daily flights from Manila are available.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan is a protected marine sanctuary in the middle of the Sulu Sea comprising three atoll reefs, the North and South Atolls, and the Jessie Beazley Reefs measuring about 22 kilometers long. The park sits 150 kilometers southeast of Puerto Princesa City, reachable only by boat. The park protects almost 1,000 hectares of prime underwater habitats that are home to the most extensive collection of rare and endangered marine species.
Diving enthusiasts all over the world explore the vast reefs and enjoy the underwater panorama in vivid colors. Recognized by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites, Tubbathaha Reefs attracts divers in huge volume during the months of March until June where the sea is calm, skies are clear and the sun is at its brightest, illuminating the depth of up to 45 meters.
Vigan Heritage Village
Vigan Heritage Village is located in Vigan City, the capital and the provincial seat of Ilocos Sur. “It’s like a blast from the past” is what most visitors say of Vigan Heritage Village. The predominantly Spanish and Chinese architecture of the town has endured; surviving the destruction during World War II. The famous cobblestones paving the streets of the town and the 16th-century façade of the edifices are popular tourist attractions.
Tour the town in a “kalesa” a horse-drawn carriage. Adding to the authentic old-world vibe, the kalesa dominates as the only mode of transportation allowed in the area. Taste its incomparable “Empanada” (local bread filled with potato and meat) while scouring the antique shops along the street and bring home mementos of your visit.
The Philippines’s smallest volcano is located in Tagaytay, about 50 kilometers from Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. Taal is a complex volcano with a history of violent eruptions in the past. In the middle of the crater lake is Volcano Island, the smallest volcanic crater in the world. Locals call Taal “an island in a lake in an island in a lake”.
Taal erupted catastrophically since the pre-Spanish era, leaving thousands of lives lost and properties damaged. Today, Taal rewards its visitors with magnificent views from Tagaytay Ridge and other viewpoints around the province. A resort at the ridge offers cable car rides, zip lines,s and horseback riding.
Divine Mercy Shrine
Divine Mercy Shrine stands majestically on top of the Divine Mercy Hill overlooking Macajalar Bay. It sits in the newly chartered city of El Salvador, about 30 minutes away from Cagayan de Oro City. The shrine is a 50-foot concrete statue of the Divine Mercy, standing like a lighthouse guiding fishermen in the Bay. It is becoming one of the top attractions in Mindanao.
Its gradual construction began in 2000 through aid from devout Catholics all over the world. Donors heeded the visions of devotees to build His Church of Mercy in the city of El Salvador. According to testimonies, the spring behind the statue has healing powers. Because of its reputation, the shrine has become a mecca for visitors seeking miracles.