With over 7,000 tropical islands to choose from, the Philippines affords travelers some of the best beach holiday options in the world. But this archipelagic nation in Southeast Asia is also renowned for an amazingly varied interior landscape of smoldering volcanic mountains, dense verdant forests, emerald rice fields, and hundreds of pristine lakes and lagoons. Coupling a 500-year-old cultural heritage with a globally significant level of biodiversity, the country is indeed one of the most enticing tourism destinations on the planet.
Intrigued? Click through this gallery for 30 reasons why you should start planning your Philippines vacation now.
The largest island of the province of Palawan has often been cited by travel pundits as the most beautiful island in the world for its abundant wildlife, jungle-clad mountains, and remote powder-white beaches. The entire length of the island forms a mountain range, its forests and grasslands home to many endemic species of birds and animals.
The marine habitat around the island of Apo, in Negros Oriental province, is a popular dive site and snorkeling destination. The island is home to over 650 documented species of fish and other marine creatures, including the protected sea turtle.
Siargao Island is moored among numerous other islands and islets and lies within the province of Surigao del Norte. Siargao is renowned for its watersports options, perhaps most famously Cloud 9, one of the top surfing spots in the Philippines.
Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary
Located on the island of Bohol, the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary is effectively a forested area dedicated to the protection of the tarsier, a ridiculously cute and small nocturnal primate with big, round eyes. These tiny creatures (one of the world’s smallest primates), are shy, delicate, and emotionally sensitive. Visitors to the sanctuary are therefore asked to lower their voices and move slowly and carefully.
Resembling ripples of emerald-colored velvet, the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras include the Batad rice terraces (pictured) and the Bangaan rice terraces, both found in Banaue in the province of Ifugao. These terraces are believed to have been hand-carved into the mountains 2,000 years ago to plant rice, and are the main tourist sites in the region.
Aim to be in Mambajao in Camiguin province through October for the riotously colorful Lanzones Festival, a four-day celebration in honor of the lanzones tree and its fruit.
Coron Island lies within the Calamian Islands group in northern Palawan. Its clear azure waters provide underwater visibility extending up to 24 m (80 ft), which attracts divers from all over the world keen to explore the Second World War wrecks the destination is famous for. Ecotourism thrives on Coron, its lakes and lagoons among some of the cleanest in Southeast Asia.
The delightful city of Vigan, the capital of the province of Ilocos Sur, should be explored at leisure. Fusing colonial Spanish architecture with that of native Philippine and Oriental building designs and construction, the destination’s streets, plazas, and heritage buildings are a pleasure to discover.
Incredibly, this wondrous waterfall was only discovered in 2010. Asik-Asik means “sprinkle sprinkle” in the local Hiligaynon language, though after heavy rain the waters can turn into a cascade. The previously hidden waterfall is located near the village of Sitio Dulao, in the mountainous Alamada region of Cotabato province.
Oslob on Cebu Island is renowned for its whale sharks. A good spot for sightings is Sogod Bay, and the best time of the year is from November through May, when these gentle giants migrate through the area. While observing whale sharks from boats on the water’s surface is perfectly acceptable (pictured), resist the temptation to swim with them. The whale shark is a protected species and it is illegal to harass them.