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The gorgeous Philippines await! This archipelago of over seven thousand islands is the 4th-largest English-speaking country in the world, and a major global travel destination. You’ll feast your eyes on exquisite beauty—the beaches here are straight from picture postcards—as well as drink your fill of culture, history, and excitement! Prepare for world-class diving, phenomenal shopping, a fascinating review of museums/galleries, and breaktaking historic landmarks and World Heritage Sites. Whether your tastes run to heart-pounding active thrills or more sedate entertainment, you’ll find your heart’s desire in spades here.

The Philippines are distinct from other Asian destinations in a number of important ways. Hundreds of years of Spanish occupation and influence have colored the language, culture, and lifestyle here. Some Asian travellers complain of “temple fatigue.” Rest assured that the Philippines are a cure for what ails you, a vibrant and lively shot in the arm. 

One of the great national treasures of the Philippines is the astounding good nature and friendliness of the Filipino people. Their charm is legendary, and their smiles are contagious. They adore singing and dancing, and will conjure any excuse to celebrate! Whether you are tearing up the mike at a karaoke bar, downing your fifth or sixth delicious meal of the day (they love to eat here!), or sipping a beer at a beach bar, do be sure to with with the locals. Not only are you likely to get the very best insider recommendations on where to go and what to do, but you just might make a friend for life. 

Philippines Top Attractions

Manila

The capital of the Philippines is a global city, an enormous metro alive with a dense population, a patchwork quilt of cultural influences, and abundant attractions of all kinds. Still heavily colored by the long-term Spanish occupation, Manila is still a city of glass-and-metal skyscrapers that very much looks to the future. Here you’ll find the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, a scenic open square that was once Imelda Marcos’ City by the Bay, the engrossing Intramuros, the great meeting place of Rizal Park, and any number of picturesque Spanish colonial churches. Metro Manila is widely acknowledged as the home of some of Asia’s best shopping. Understand that Filipinos—and especially the ladies here—take shopping very seriously! Expect a whirlwind of malls, exclusive boutiques, and private shops offering a variety of wares beyond anything you could ever imagine! Tout the old quarters of the city, partake of amazing food, and throw yourself into the local festivals and celebrations… this is the heart of Filipino culture, and there’s no better place to have fun.

Boracay

Voted repeatedly as the best island in the world and one of the best beaches, Boracay is a definite must-see for any traveler! Sun-kissed, powdery beaches and divinely translucent waters are a give, but Boracay offers so much more than the obvious. Active pursuits are all the rage here, so you’ll have your fill of diving, windsurfing, boating, and jetskiing! After a busy day breaking a sweat, cool down in the ocean and prepare for some grade-A nightlife! The selection of bars and restaurants is diverse and high-quality, and the music, dancing, and convivial spirit spills out onto the sidewalk! Of course, there’s always time to take a dip, level up your tan, or take a romantic stroll along the shore. Indulge yourself in a traditional Thai massage or visit the “Bat Cave,” a hotspot for the quirky, adorable winged mammals of the night. Most of the commercialized areas of Boracay are along White Beach, which is also one of the most popular spots.

Palawan

Longing for a bit of peace and quiet after the bustle of Manila or Cebu? Consider Palawan your one-way ticket to tranquility. Located in the heart of the Philippines’ most isolated region, Palawan is delightfully off the beaten path, and yet offers everything a visitors could want. Among those offerings? One of the great wonders of the natural world, the Palawan Underground River. Wending across five miles, this is the longest navigable underground river in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your tour of this unbelievable river will take you past mindblowing clusters of stalactites and stalagmites, and well as through one of the world’s largest cave: the cavernous Italian Chambers. Interestingly, Palawan has two World Heritage Sites. The second is Tubbataha Reef National Park, a marine protected area teeming with an astounding biodiversity of sealife.

Cebu

The second-largest city in the Philippines, Cebu is ripe with things to see and do. This was the site where Ferdinand Magellan discovered the country, and a number of landmarks still commemorate that period in history: Magellan’s Cross and the Magellan shrine, for example, along Fort San Pedro and the Basilica of Santo Nino. Here you can also find Colon Street, the oldest in the Philippines, on which you can find charming classical buildings and an outdoor market. Bike rides to the top of Mt. Busay—creatively just called “Tops”—are a vigorous way to stretch one’s legs, with the reward of a panoramic view of the city waiting at the top. Cebu is also famous for the annual Sinulog Festival, a celebration devoted to Jesus as a child that brings all the natives to the streets in bright costumes to sing and dance! Sinulog traditionally takes place in January.

Banaue

The rice terraces of Banaue are the city’s star attraction. Located in the Cordillera mountain range, Banaue is scenic and peaceful. The rice terraces, which have been designated a World Heritage Site, are an ancient feat of engineering originally created by the Ifugao people. They were carved from miles of hilly terrain and ingeniously irrigated by tapping mountain streams into channels flowing down the mountainside. Catch traditional native music performances in the city, rent a motorcycle (with sidecar!) for your own breathless tour of the Cordillera landscape, or purchase souvenirs of carved wood, which are the traditional handicraft of the area.

El Nido

The virgin beauty of El Nido is absolutely spectacular. So clear is the shimmering turquoise water, so white is the sand, so defined is the contrast between green hills and blue sky, that pictures taken here tend to look like they have been digitally enhanced. It’s no trick of the camera: things really are just that gorgeous here. You’ll have the adventure of a lifetime exploring the terrain: take to a bangka boat to poke around lagoons and secluded caves, go wakeboarding, or take a snorkel and dive beneath the tranquil surface to explore a mind-blowing sub-aquatic world. Rent a motorbike or kayak to drink up the sights solo, or join a boat tour for a comprehensive peek at everything El Nido has to offer. Swim in the balmy water, or bask under the sun. Enjoy your time on this enchanted island, one of the closest things to paradise that Earth has to offer.

Quick Facts

Capital: Manila
Primary Airports: Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB), Francisco Bangoy International Airport (DVO)
Government: Republic
Currency: Philippine peso
Population: 96,710,000 (2012 est.)
Language: English, Filipino
Electricity: 220V/60Hz (American plug)
Time Zone: UTC +8
Philippines
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