Philippines travel guide, including map of the Philippines, top Philippines travel experiences, tips for travel in the Philippines, plus where to see rice terra
Demand a deserted tropical beach all to yourself? Done. Want rainforests, mountains, ancient tribal villages and terraced rice paddies? No problem. Won’t leave the house for anything less than world-class diving? Sorted.
Made up of more than 7,000 tropical islands, off-the-beaten-track Philippines is the second-largest archipelago in the world and has the answer to any travel diva’s most outlandish demands.
Most journeys start at the capital, Manila, on the main island of Luzon. This is the oldest city in the archipelago, with the historic centre usefully bounded by ancient city walls in the Intramuros area, with glimpsed sea-views from stone-built churches. The world's oldest Chinatown is found in Binondo, once-infamous Malate has descended into seediness while modern Manila's commercial centre of gravity has shifted a taxi-ride away to the Makati district.
There's plenty to see on Luzon itself. Highlights include the Unesco-registered rice terraces at Ifugao, Mount Pinatubo and the picture-poscard crater of Taal Volcano. There are also plenty of beach resorts catering for city-dwellers seeking escape but if a Bounty-advert paradise is what you're looking for it's back to the airport for an internal flight, or do as the locals do and head for a port.
Ferries reach out to the main island groups. Closest is Mindoro, with low-key beach-hut resorts lining endless beaches and a jungled interior hiding indigenous tribes, but it's also got some of the archipelago's best diving, with Apo Reef internationally renowned.
Palawan stretches out across the Sulu Sea and is famous for its exotic wildlife, descendants of escapees from a zoo project that foundered in the heat, but it's also home to the Bacuit Archipelago of small islands, paradise for millionaires and backpackers alike.
Most of the central islands are known as the Visayas. This is where you'll find the famous party beaches of Borocay, consistently voted the best in Asia, the country's second city, Cebu and the humped 'Chocolate Hills' of Bohol Island.
Finally, there's Mindanao, the second-largest island of the archipelago, including the island of Camiguin, where there are more volcanoes than towns, and Samal, with bat-filled caves and atmospheric dive wrecks.
Few direct flights from Europe have kept mass tourism at bay, but that can't last forever. The time to visit the Philippines is now.
Standards vary widely on the live-aboard boats that take divers to the more remote diving sites. Few vessels meet required safety standards so check very carefully that the boat you board is safe and seaworthy before you part with your cash.
October to April is the dry season: the best time to visit. Sunny and dry, with temperatures reaching 35°C-plus in March/April; the mountains can be 10°C cooler. This is peak season for diving as summer’s cyclonic conditions can affect visibility. Whale shark watching season at Donsol runs January-May. In May, Flores de Mayo fiestas are commonplace across the country. May to September is the wet season: humid and hot. Regular tropical downpours can cause road closures, but travel is still possible. Cyclones are a serious risk July-October.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) is 7km from Manila.
Private bus companies leave from stations in Manila or can be hailed from the highway between cities. In Manila many of the main tourist locations are linked by the underground Metro and Light Rail Transit. Ferries vary hugely in quality but most services around the southern Visayas from Cebu City are well maintained seacat-style vessels. Internal flights are good value.
Standards vary widely in the Philippines so always have a good look round before you take a room. ‘Hotel’ is an all-encompassing term in the Philippines, covering everything from shabby crashpads to 5-star luxury empires. Beach resorts range from one-room cottages to private atolls with on-site health spas. Campsites and hostels are few and far between and there is no official list of homestays. However, ask around if you get stuck in rural areas – there’s usually someone who’ll put you up for a few hundred pesos.
Filipino cuisine can seem a little lacklustre on first inspection, yet its unending variety of fresh fruits and salty sauces soon grow on you. Filipinos eat a lot of meat and fish; rice and noodles are the main staples. The national dish is fish, pork or chicken cooked adobo style – stewed in vinegar and garlic. In Manila try lechon (spit-roasted pig) and avoid balut (about-to-hatch duck embryo, boiled in its shell). Seafood is freshest at dampas – fish markets where you choose the catch and watch as it’s cooked there and then. Kinilaw is a raw fish ceviche (marinated in vinegar). Tropical fruits provide abundant blended fruit shakes such as buko (coconut juice). San Miguel is the national beer.
Mountain or volcano trekking is hazardous during the wet season because of landslides. Vaccinations for water-borne illnesses such as typhoid should be up to date and dengue fever can be a problem – speak to your GP or travel health clinic well before departure, and take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Malaria is a threat in certain locations, so seek advice on prophylaxis before travelling.
With its sugar-white beaches, azure waters and pristine coral gardens, the island of Cebu in the Philippines is the perfect tropical escape... More
It’s one of nature's most awe-inspiring sights: clouds of bats heading off to feed, silhouetted against colourful sunsets. From Zambia to Texas, here's where to witness this spectacle More
Combining cables, ladders, suspension bridges and precarious wooden walkways, via ferratas offer the most hair-raising and adrenaline-pumping ways across a mountain. Here are 10 of the most spectacular... More
Surf, sail and snorkel your way through some of the most beautiful corners of the planet on these amazing active aquatic adventures. Grab your swimming suit now... More
Shaped by natural forces over the millennia, these extraordinary rocks touch our souls and gently remind us of our place in the world More
From Vietnam to Sri Lanka, Borneo to Thailand, South-East Asia's National Parks have some of the world’s most fascinating wildlife, from orangutans and elephants to 'dragons'. Here are the must-see hotspots More
To celebrate 35 years of global adventures, Rough Guides’ travel experts tell us their 35 greatest travel experiences, from trekking in Colombia to meeting humpbacks in Norway More
South-East Asia packs in fuming mountains, iconic temples, electric cities and beautiful beaches. From Bali to Bangkok, here's how to get the most out of this diverse and wonderful region More
Chinatowns serve up mouthwatering street food, markets and shops, alongside statues of Christ, Buddha and Jimi Hendrix. From bustling Bangkok to vibrant Vancouver, here are five of the world's best More
The distinctive multi-story design of a pagoda always appears at one with its environment, whether that's a big city or a hidden mountain retreat. Designed to connect earth and heaven, here are our favourites More
From smashing plates on friends’ doors to jumping waves or stocking up on round things, these are 9 of the most fun and strange NYE celebrations from around the world More
Fancy feasting on something a little different this Christmas? Forget turkey and sprouts. Try these Christmas dinners from around the world instead More
From century-old eggs and maggot cheese to fermented shark, Adelina Storkaas gets her teeth stuck into 10 of the most bizarre national food dishes from around the world, guaranteed to linger on your tastebuds More
The Philippines' capital, Manila, has never enjoyed the saintliest of reputations, but amid the traffic chaos and commercialism lies an ambitious city rich in history and character, finds Mark Stratton More
Skip the beaches and bustle of the Philippines as we take a life-affirming journey through towering rice paddies, rumbling volcanoes and gravity-defying cemeteries in the rural outposts of Luzon. More
Seven places that have become synonymous with exceptional biodiversity and high rates of endemism, just like the real Galapagos Islands More
Packed with wild parks, natural wonders and ancient temples – it is amazing that South-East Asia has so few (just 37) UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We pick our favourites, plus some must-see sights yet to gain recognition. More
Forget crowded beaches and busy public pools – we highlight the best places to strip off and swim in the wild More
Head to the 7,107 beach-fringed, tourist-free isles of the Philippines for a glimpse of untouched South-East Asia More
Mmmm, grasshoppers. Sampling these stomach-churning foods might be one cultural experience too far... More
Hoping for love, luck or money in the new year? Make sure your wishes come true by following these simple, sometimes bizarre, traditions from around the world More
There are loads of lovely places to just flop on the sand – but where’s the fun in that? Here are the South-East Asian beaches that offer a bucket load of adventure More
Heading out to shake your booty this weekend? You might want to add one of these international dance moves to your repertoire... Or maybe not. More
Winter doesn't have to mean mulled wine and mistletoe. Give Christmas a miss this year at one of these far-flung festivals More
A whole new world awaits the traveller under the sea. Here's your guide to diving in and making the most of it... More
There are 57 places in the world called Washington. Which one will you decide to visit? More
With an archipelago so large, numerous and disparate, the Philippines is dizzyingly diverse. Beautiful beaches, tribal cultures and volcanic landscapes are waiting to be discovered. More
Five little-known beaches with everything you want from a tropical paradise... More
They were the cathedrals of colonial times, but sadly many of the world's grandest post offices have been destroyed or repurposed. Here are 7 that will still sell you stamps More
There are around 150 million tribal people living across the globe – but for how long? We look at the indigenous groups that are on the verge of extinction More
With news that Cebu Zoo in the Philippines is pressing its giant pythons into service as masseuses, we look at other strange spa treatments offered across the globe More
Still looking for a selection of this year's freshest trips? From Borneo to Ghana and all the places in between? Where will your Wanderlust take you in 2014? More
Bears, birds, fetlocks, volcanoes – October is the month to get wild on your trips More
Kara Santos travels to the foot of Mt. Pinatubo to experience a unique festival that celebrates the customs, rituals and food of the local indigenous people, the Aeta More
Carrying on his series of 'Top 10 places around the world', here are some of Alastair Humphrey's favourite spots in Asia More
Wanderlust blogger Alastair Humphreys shares his favourite coastlines. Warning: may provoke howls of outrage and oohs of contented agreement More
We've seen the islands now it's time to dive in: 12 aquatic adventures to get the heart thumping More
Diving coral-encrusted shipwrecks, navigating underground rivers, swimmming through goo - discover what lies beneath Palawan, the Philippine's wild west island More
Live volcanos, world heritage rice paddies and Luzon's colonial past captured Katherine Tanko's attention in the Philippines More
Wanderlust subscribers now receive a free £50 voucher valid on trips from a great selection of top tour operators
And the best bit is, this isn't a one-off offer, you get one every time you renew as well!
The £50 discount can be redeemed against one trip booking with one of our tour operator partners, by the expiry date printed on the voucher. The £50 can even be redeemed on top of any discounts our partners are already offering, ensuring Wanderlust subscribers get the best deal possible.
Simply quote your unique voucher code when booking to claim the discount. This offer is only available to Wanderlust subscribers.
UK subscribers automatically receive the voucher each year. Overseas subscribers receive it upon request.
Visayas, a collection of islands in the heart of the Philippines, home to some of the most visited sites in the country. This tour is the perfect introduction to southern Visayas, combining histori...