The Philippines is an ideal travel destination for those who want to experience the best beaches in the world! And that’s probably what the Philippines is greatly known for. But with over 7,107 islands wherein 2,000 are inhabited, the country offers unlimited access to its rich history, a colorful variety of cultures and traditions, and stunning places to explore.
Because of the Philippines’ history, being colonized by the Spaniards, Americans, and Japanese, and having great Malay and Chinese influences, the Philippines has become a melting pot of cultures. It has taken parts of these influences to create a beautiful culture of its own. That is why, when you visit the Philippines, you’ll find that each place has its own version, its own kind of mix and renditions of those cultures.
That is why, in this blog, we’ll let you in on the 12 best cities and towns to visit in the Philippines to experience exquisite and unique cultures and heritages as well as nature and environment!
Located in the beautiful province of Pangasinan, Alaminos City is where you’ll find the famous Hundred Islands National Park. These islands have become popular because each of the 124 islands in the area has this mushroom-like shape that looks otherworldly and at the same time, impressive!
One of the popular things to do here in Alaminos City is to go island-hopping to these islands. You’ll get to explore the smallest up to the biggest islands peacefully nestled here. The marine life is also stunning in Alaminos which means that you can go snorkeling too! You can also go kayaking around the hundred islands or go camping under the beautiful night sky!
The local life is lively here in Alaminos City and that liveliness resonates through their food. While you’re there, you can also try out their famous ‘Longganisa’ which is a type of pork sausage made with a special blend of spices that are oh-so-delicious!
Want to get a glimpse of the most perfectly-shaped volcano in the world? You’ll need to go on a trip to the municipality of Daraga in Albay!
Daraga is located on the foothills of Mt. Mayon which is known to be the most perfectly-shaped volcano in the world. But besides the volcano, this is where you’ll also find the Cagsawa Ruins. These ruins are what remains of the 16th-century Franciscan Church that was unfortunately wrecked by Mayon’s strongest eruption back in February 1814. The eruption buried the town of Cagsawa and killed over 1,200 people.
Today, the bell tower stands tall over the vibrant green land, the perfect place to revel in the beauty of the Mayon Volcano in the background. Despite its tragic history, the people of Daraga take pride in the beauty of their municipality and its iconic natural landform through the Cagsawa Festival, celebrated in the whole month of February!
Tagaytay is another city that offers you a view of yet another stunning volcano, the Taal. This city is an hour away from Manila which makes it quite easy to access if you’re in for a quick trip!
The best part about Tagaytay is that it is the quickest escape from the hot and humid weather of Manila since it is elevated about 2,000 feet above sea level. The cool weather is perfect weather to roam around the nature-dominated city with a variety of activities to do like ziplining, horseback riding, cycling, or simply going on a picnic.
The city is quite peaceful, to say the least, and it will definitely bring you the tranquility that you’ll crave, especially when you end up spending your time in a busy city like Manila. If you want to know more about all the best things you can do in Tagaytay, check out our Tagaytay blog!
Nope, Lake Sebu is not a lake despite its name. It’s actually a municipality in South Cotabato, Mindanao.
Lake Sebu is home to the proud indigenous tribes, the T’bolis, Manobos, and Tirurays! It covers more than 40,000 hectares of land filled with immensely beautiful mountains, lakes, and lush forests! One of the best things you’ll ever see in Lake Sebu is the beautiful Lotus Garden which actually blooms pink tropical water lilies, not lotuses! Still, they’re quite beautiful especially when all of the flowers are in full bloom!
The natural wonders in Lake Sebu are absolutely stunning and boast seven waterfalls and three lakes among lush foliage. You’ll also find the most immersive cultural museums that feature the history and heritage of the indigenous people that have been living here for thousands of years. You’ll get to meet the wonderful T’boli people and also learn about the intricately woven sacred cloth, the T’nalak.
The Mindanao islands were untouched by the atrocities of the Spanish colonization, therefore the places here, like Lake Sebu, are the best places to go to see what the Philippines really looked like before!
To be fair, Bohol offers stunning natural wonders all over its island that are worth visiting however, we’ve chosen Panglao Island as the best municipality in Bohol simply because of its popularity.
The island of Panglao has become a haven for foreign tourists because of its pristine white sand beaches and teeming marine life! It’s the best place to go to if you are looking to enjoy the island life but with fewer people. Think of it like the Boracay of the South! The waters here are crystal clear especially during the months of April to June when there is less rain. There are also a lot of places to stay from cheaper hostels to 5-star resorts!
The beaches are so beautiful and cool during the day but the fun doesn’t stop there. Restaurants and bars come to life at night, offering you acoustic live bands, awesome parties, fire shows, and everything in between! It also has a lot of scuba diving sites that you can explore and caves that you can discover!
The airport is conveniently located here too and the port isn’t that far away from the island. Plus, if you want to go on a tour around the main island of Bohol, there are a ton of travel agencies that offer just that!
Take a trip to the colonial Philippines when you go to Vigan! This city is considered to be the most well-preserved historical town in the whole country and is perfect for history buffs like you!
You’ll find the cobbled streets, horse-drawn carriages, and Spanish-style buildings absolutely enchanting and it will feel like you’ve been taken back into the past where the mestizos and the mestizas used to live. But this town isn’t just the spitting image of its Spanish roots, it will also show you how much the Chinese have influenced the culture of this town too.
Officially a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the City of Vigan is definitely a memorable one with its rich history and heritage still intact. It will spark your curiosity but at the same time, it is a laidback town that is surely worth your visit.
The Queen City of the South, Cebu City, is another historical city that you might want to consider visiting. This was where Catholicism started and made the Cebuano faith very strong.
Cebu City is also a modern city with energetic business districts housing local and multinational corporations. This is where you’ll find all the luxurious establishments, high-end shopping malls, fancy restaurants, and upscale residential homes in the Visayas Region. This modernity has perfectly merged with the city’s rich history and undying faith.
Every year, the grandest festival in the country, called Sinulog Festival, is held on the streets of Cebu City. From December to the end of January, you’ll get to experience how much the Cebuanos love and celebrate this festival. And on the last week of January, a street dancing competition takes place with different street performing teams coming together from different cities and municipalities of Cebu and the surrounding provinces!
Cebu City is simply vibrant and energetic and a great jumping-off point to other popular travel destinations on the island of Cebu! To know more about the best things to do in Cebu City and the Province, check out our blog about Cebu!
Another City in the Negros region that is worth visiting is Silay, also known as the ‘Paris of Negros’! Just like in Vigan, you’ll find well-preserved heritage homes that date back to the Spanish colonial period.
Silay City was the heart of the sugar industry in the 19th century wherein grand sugar mansions were built as proofs of the town’s Golden Age. Today, these mansions still stand for us to revel at! Perhaps these are the reason why the city of Silay is so stunning because the architectural style used is so different from what we see in other cities today.
This city is best to visit during the Charter Day celebration which is held annually. The streets become colorful and you will also be able to witness the most-awaited street dancing competition! After visiting this city, you can also visit the beautiful City of Bacolod which is located 15 kilometers away!
It’s not very often that we’ll find authentic tribal tattoo artists in the Philippines. However, Buscalan Village offers an experience you’ll never find in other places in the Philippines—- Traditional tattoos!
This landlocked village up in the mountains of Kalinga is home to the oldest living traditional tattoo artist in the Philippines, Apo Whang Od. You may have heard her name or have seen her in many different features on television, websites, and print media. She’s 100 years old and has been etching tattoos on the bodies of warriors and tourists all her life.
The difference between her traditional tattoo method from our modern tattoos is the indigent materials she uses which are charcoal and water which she mixes and taps into the skin using a thorn from a calamansi or pomelo tree. In her prime, she used to give intricate tattoos that symbolize a person’s desires or good luck, but because of her age, she now only gives her ‘signature’ as a tattoo which is the iconic three dots. You can then get another set of tattoos from her grandchildren.
Hiking up to Buscalan is lengthy and exhausting as some would say, but the sceneries of the forests lining the mountain and the one-of-a-kind experience you’ll get at the end of the trip are ones that will be etched to your skin forever, literally!
If you plan on going to Baguio and still have a lot of time after your trip there, one place you could visit is the town of Sagada.
The landscapes in Sagada are phenomenal and it is as chilly as the Baguio too because of its elevation which is 5,300 feet above sea level! This town is great for hiking and trekking because there is so much to see other than the forests. When you book a tour to Sagada, you’ll also get to visit Banaue which is where you’ll find the stunning 2,000-year-old rice terraces.
Are you into something weird or spooky? No worries because in Sagada’s ancient culture, people often hung the coffins of their beloved ones who passed away on the side of the limestone cliffs. These coffins are still there and they are an oddly amusing sight! These resting sites are sacred though, so you have to remember to always be respectful.
Sagada is also one of the places where you’ll find fruits and vegetables that are not often seen in the lowlands and the foods here are a must-try too! Don’t forget to get a hot cup of their coffee or take a sip of their special tea made from leaves only found in their mountain as you take a bite of their famous Lemon Pie!
The Philippines is a beautiful country with rich history, culture, and traditions. Because of these, each city or municipality has developed its own unique blend of heritage that is worth discovering. This list does not even encompass all of the wonders of the country and there surely are more to add in the future.
The Philippines is a relatively affordable country to travel to with all of the things you can do in it. We’ve discussed the cost of travel in the Philippines in our blogs and you can check it out for reference.
So, come and visit the Philippines because as they say, ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines!’.
Which city in the Philippines do you think is the best? We’ve got more travel articles about the Philippines in our blog and you can also check out our blogs about the best travel destinations in Southeast Asia and the world. You can check them out!