How to spend one month in the Phillippines
Last year, my big travel highlight was spending a few weeks in the beautiful Philippines… and we predict that the popularity of this stunning Asian destination is set to rise. Asia is popular with independent travellers the world over for a number of reasons: the food, the culture, the paradise beaches – check out my 10 reasons to go backpacking in South East Asia if you need a little more convincing!
I particularly love the fact that travelling in Asia feels like one big adventure from the minute you arrive. You can travel around on a budget with ease and take your pick of experiences. Whether you want to discover incredible jungle interiors, climb volcanoes, discover pristine beaches or attend a pumping beach party, it’s all out there in Asia, just waiting for you to grab it! And you can find all this and more in the Philippines.
An archipelago of over 7,000 islands, the Philippines has always stood a bit separate from the other Asian destinations as it is just that bit further to get to and can involve quite a bit of flying around (luckily you can get some super cheap flights on local airlines such as Air Asia, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines which can cut your travel time drastically – be prepared for some propeller planes, any nervous fliers out there!). As a result, getting around in the Philippines can take a little bit of extra planning – particularly when you have a limited time budget. So, to make that planning a tad easier, here are a few suggestions for how to spend one month in the Philippines…
Arrive in Manila – 1 day
Manila is a big, sprawling, overcrowded Asian city that’s world’s away from the natural beauty you may have been expecting. But it’s the gateway into this beautiful country and you never know what you might discover. There are some rather swish hotels, particularly around the Makati district, where you can recover from your jet-lag without breaking the bank; plus the Intramuros district with its historical Spanish architecture is worth a wander. Other than that, Manila is mostly a city of shopping malls – however, some of the food courts in these centres are actually pretty incredible. Check out Hole in the Wall, the food court floor at Century City Mall. It has awesome interior decor and so many tasty options, you’ll want to eat everything insight. We had our last meal in the Philippines here, before flying home, and felt like we had died and gone to food heaven.
Boracay – 4 days
Time to hotfoot it out of the city and get thee to Boracay, the most famous tourist island in the Philippines for bit of much-deserved R&R. Boracay is a holiday island and popular amongst international and Asian tourists alike for its mind-blowing colours and beautiful beaches. Powdery white sands, tropical waters, cheap rum cocktails and happy-go-lucky vibes – Boracay boasts all the ingredients you need to luxuriate in the perfect happy holiday bubble while you get acclimatised. Yes, it can get busy (avoid local holiday season if possible) but venture to Station 3 on White Beach where you can get better budget picks of accommodation – there’s plenty of space here on the beach for all and it has the best swimming in my opinion. Highlights include exploring the beaches; the fish market at D’Mall; paraw sunset sailing; and happy hours that go on for seven hours.
Palawan – 7 days
I loved Palawan so much! What an incredible island this was and there simply wasn’t enough time to explore it all. Spend a couple of days in Puerto Princesa if you want to take advantage of day trips to the famous subterranean river in Sabang and island-hopping glorious beaches in the picturesque Honda Bay. Then hop on the bus and head north to El Nido, a backpackers haven at the gateway to the natural beauty of Bacuit Bay. With towering karsts and secret beaches, take one of the four famous tours to see sights such as hidden lagoons or simply try a little negotiation with local boat owners and put together your own personal tour of snorkelling spots away from the tourist trail. El Nido is a rough and ready little town with plenty of places to eat and drink. As well as Bacuit Bay there are some other stunning beaches within a short trike ride – check out Las Cabanas, I honestly think it might be the best beach in the Philippines! A clean sweep of pure white sand, fringed with coconut trees – I wrote a post about it because I loved it so much. When I visited there was just one beach bar there, but I can’t imagine that development will be too far behind… catch it while you can.
Island hopping around Cebu and Bohol – 7 days
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have the time to make it onto these parts, but with a little longer to spare, you can bet they would have come next on my list. The big attractions for independent travellers visiting this part of the Philippines are the island-hopping opportunities around Cebu and Bohol. Experience authentic island life in the Camotes Islands with their shimmering seas, exquisite beaches and the gorgeous Panganuron Falls, or get beneath the waves and indulge in some world-class snorkelling and diving around the tiny Malapascua Island. Here you can discover tropical beaches minus the crowds, such as those at Bantayan Island, or pamper yourself in five star luxury at the all-inclusive resorts found on Mactan island.
Then it’s on to Bohol, the island famed for its intriguing, perfectly sculpted Chocolate Hills and super-cute, bug-eyed tarsiers. With adventure sports, rice paddies, white sand beaches and coral reefs, I can’t see how anyone could get bored on Bohol.
Siargao – 5 days
The furthest afield but renowned for its natural beauty, excellent surf and tranquil beaches, Siargao sits happily at the opposite end of the scale to the mass tourism and higher prices of Boracay whilst still offering an irresistible paradise getaway. General Luna is the lively main town with a variety of places to stay, eat and drink, but it isn’t hard to get away from it all and find a quiet beach to call your own. Rent a scooter and explore the waterfalls, rice fields and villages of the island; hire a boat and tour the nearby Naked, Daku and Guyam Islands; or hop in a kayak and check out the Sohoton Caves.
The Cordilleras – 5 days
Bid the beaches farewell and head north of Manila to Luzon to experience a different side to the Philippines. This is where you will find the misty landscapes of the highlands with plenty of mountains, caves and beautiful rice terraces to satisfy anyone who loves a good trek. The Banaue Rice Terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage site worth writing home about; the Sagada caves offer a variety of spelunking opportunities (not so much my bag – I’ve seen The Descent); and you can visit the mountain tribes and get to know their colourful culture.
Back to Manila to bid the Phiippines farewell!
Of course, it’s impossible to cram everything about this country into one month and I can guarantee you will want to spend longer in some of these destinations – this is the minimum time I would recommend in each destination, plus you want to give yourself a bit of time for travelling between destinations. Just writing this has made me want to go back ASAP – so I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have to add to this list! Let us know what you discover and if you too discover that it really is more fun in the Philippines.
All pics by Alex except the Chocolate Hills from Pixabay. This article originally appeared on travelettes.net.