In preparation for my upcoming Philippines trip, I’ve been doing some reading up and shortlisted the activities that caught my attention. It is not possible to see everything the Philippines has to offer in one trip – and I don’t even suggest that you try. What follows is a selective taste of the country’s highlights: idyllic beaches, spectacular hikes, historic churches and fascinating wildlife.
1) Boracay Beach. Enriching white beach on picture-postcard Boracay Island is one of the country’s major tourist draws.
2) Ati-Atihan Festival. At this lively festival in Kalibo, on Panay Island, held annually in honour of Santo Nino (Infant Jesus), everyone wears indigenous dress and learns tribal dances.
3) El Nido
. The strikingly beautiful limestone islands around El Nido in Palawan offer exceptional exploring and adventure.
4) Rice terraces
. The mind-boggling rice terraces around Banaue stand as one of Asia’s greatest sights, and offer superb trekking.
. Nothing neats a tall glass of this icy Filipino treat on a hot day, a concoction of syrups, beans, fruit and ice cream.
. Wonderfully preserved slice of colonial Spain, with cobblestone streets, gorgeous Baroque architecture and horse-drawn carriages.
7) Swiming with whale sharks
. Swimming alongside a giant but gentle whale shark off the coast of Sorsogan, in southern Luzon, is an unforgettable experience.
8) Coron Island by bangka
. Tour the jagged, gasp-inducing coast of Coron Island by bangka, taking in hidden coves, secret beaches and two pristine mountain lakes fed by springs.
9) Chocolate Hills
. Soak up the bizarre landscape of Bohol’s iconic Chocolate Hills, conical brown-green mounds said to be the calcified tears of a broken-hearted giant.
10) San Agustin Church This elegantly weathered Spanish pile in the heart of old Manila is the oldest stone church in the archipelago Lopez de Legazip.
11) Surfing at Siargau
. Avid surfers will find several locations where they can catch some decent waves, but Siargau, off the tip on Mindanao is one of the best.
12) Apo Reef Marine Natural Park. The gin-clear waters Apo Reed, off the west coast of Mindoro, are a scuba diver’s paradise.
13) Puerto Galera. Only a few hours from the bustle of Manila, scenic Puerto Galera is a great palce to relax, be pampered, as well as learn to dive.
14) Underground River. Accessible only by boat, one of the longest subterrain rivers in the wold has eerie stalactites, vast caverns and hidden chambers.
15) Mount Mayon
. The almost perfectly symmetrical cone of volcanic Mount Mayon, near Legaspi, makes for a challenging but thrilling climb.
. Admire these tiny primates with the enormous, sorrowful eyes at their protected sanctuary in Bohol.
17) Mount Pinatubo
. The lower slopes of Mount Pinatubo feature canyons formed after the massive 1991 eruption, while the crater is filled by a pristine mountain lake.
. During WWII this tiny island in Manilla Bay was the scene of bitter fighting between the Allies and the Japanese.