The Best Adventures in the Philippines
The Philippines is a country of over 7,000 different islands, giving this Southeast Asian nation a level of diversity that’s like nowhere else in the world. Even given an entire lifetime, it would be a challenge to experience all that these thousands of islands have to offer, so we put together this article to inspire you to take on the best adventures the country has to offer, and to see just why the Philippines has become such a hot travel destination.
Spend your days island hopping between white sand beaches and freshwater lagoons, immerse yourself amongst epic limestone karsts and beautiful landscapes in Palawan. Go hiking amongst ancient rice terraces high in the mountains of Luzon, or tackle some of the country’s most distinctive volcanic peaks, many of which are very much active.
Go underwater, to see some of the most world’s most colourful reefs and sunken shipwrecks, explore an underground river, or take on white water rapids in Mindanao. The Philippines is a country that has adventure after adventure waiting for you across its many islands, and here are the best of them:
With so many thousands of islands to explore, no trip to the Philippines is ever complete without at least one island hopping excursion. In fact, there are thousands of island hopping opportunities, and although you could argue that anyone travelling around the Philippines is in reality island hopping for their entire trip, there are a few spots that are absolute must-visits for those wanting a true adventure.
For island hopping lovers, the best place to visit is Palawan. Often called the ‘Last Frontier’ of the Philippines, this a wild and beautiful place, where islands are surrounded by limestone karsts and fringed by white sands. This is a real tropical experience, and if you want a laid back, island hopping vibe with nightlife to match, head to El Nido in the north of Palawan and get out on a boat. For a more laid back experience, that immerses you in equally stunning nature and amongst isolated islands and shipwrecks, head to Coron, one of the Philippines’ fastest growing tourism destinations.
Hiking rice terraces
The rice terraces of the Ifugao mountains in Luzon are one of the most incredible places to hike in the Philippines. Found up in the cool highlands, locals have over centuries crafted the steep hills and mountain sides into rice paddies, fed by mountain springs and tended to by generations of farmers. There are many of these unique rice terraces to be found, but the best of them all are found in Banaue and the Cordilleras, and form part of a wide UNESCO World Heritage Site that recognises the history behind the landscape. Mountain trails will take you from village to village, along the terraces and through the hills, for spectacular vistas and breathtaking scenery.
Beaches and sandbars
The Philippines is renowned for its many pristine beaches, and while unprecedented fame may have caused many popular destinations - Boracay being the most infamous - to suffer from over tourism, the country is learning from its errors and there are many, many beaches and sandbars left to be discovered. Palawan and Coron are two of the most popular spots in the Philippines, but it pays to get off the beaten track if you are searching for a raw, beach adventure. Camiguin Island in Northern Mindanao is home to White Island, a pure white sandbar that will leave you reeling in awe, while the island of Bohol, close to Cebu, is an excellent place to stay if you are looking for a resort-style, beach experience.
The underground river
Close to the city of Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan, can be found the Subterranean River National Park. This is an adventure not to be missed, as this underground river runs for 5 miles through the darkened caverns of beautiful limestone cliffs. The water is a colourful mix of bright blues and greens, and it’s possible to take a slow boat cruise underground, through the cave system and along the river.
Snorkelling and diving
The Philippines is one of the world’s premier snorkelling and diving destinations. There are opportunities to hit the water everywhere, and opportunities to swim with and discover the vast array of marine life that calls the water here home. Head to rural Malapascua to swim with the hundreds of gentle thresher sharks that congregate on the reefs, or visit Mindoro to experience the world class Apo Reef, where the diving is simply phenomenal.
White-water rafting might not be the first activity that comes to mind when you are planning a trip to the Philippines, but the relatively unknown destination of Cagayan de Oro, on the island of Mindanao is fast becoming well known to adrenaline-seekers across the country as one of Asia’s best rafting locations. The mighty Cagayan de Oro River rolls down from the mountains and towards the city, and along the way it offers perfect rafting at different sections for anyone from absolute novices to hardened white water rafters. The water is cool, the countryside is rustic and the experience is excellent.
The Chocolate Hills
The Chocolate Hills are Bohol’s most iconic tourist attraction. Found in the rugged interior of the island, the hills get their name from the fact that these distinctive, conical hills turn from a lush green colour to a muddy brown, chocolate colour with the seasons. It’s a spectacular sight to see, as for mile upon mile there is nothing but rolling chocolate hills stretching towards the horizon.
The Philippines is located in the hazardous Pacific Ring of Fire, and is home to countless volcanoes, both dormant and active. The land here is shaped by fire, and there are many volcanic peaks which the brave can hike and climb for an adventurous experience. Close to Manila is the Taal Volcano, just a day trip away from the city but an escape of wonderful proportions, where you can hike out around the crater’s edge and admire the shimmering water of the lake that has formed in the caldera. In Bicol, you can enjoy adventurous off-roading journeys that take you out to the Mayon Volcano, a huge, conical peak that dominates the skyline, while in central Luzon you can tackle the domineering Mount Pinatubo, where a huge lake high up in the mountains offers a stunning vista that shrouds the fact that there is a very active volcano under the surface.
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