The Philippines is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations and for good reason. This nation consisting of more than 7000 islands has something for everyone. It has jungles for trekking, beaches for relaxing and a unique culture which is distinctly South-East Asian influenced by 350 years of Spanish colonialism. By Western standards it’s also very cheap and many reasonably priced airlines fly there regularly. Highlights of a visit include any of the five current UNESCO World Heritage sites in the archipelago.
Baroque Churches of the Philippines
This series of four churches built by the Spanish during their rule is a reflection of the European influence at the time: an Asian interpretation of the baroque style, adapted to the culture and climate of the islands. They are located throughout the Philippines; in Manila, Santa Maria, Paoay and Miag-ao. They are all well worth a visit and there are many more churches throughout the islands, so if you’re feeling in need of spirituality, you’ll find it here.
Historic Town of Vigan
Another example of Spanish colonialism, this is one of the few remaining intact towns from that era and is remarkably well-preserved. Its location on the South China Sea led to it becoming an important trading town with the Chinese. As the goods flowed, so too did the cultural exchange between the Philippines and the rest of Asia, Europe and the Americas. Today it is an idyllic trip into the past, with history lining every side of the cobbled streets.
Rice Terraces of the Philippines Cordilleras
Locals have been growing rice for approximately two thousand years in these five sites in Ifugao province. The terraces were built into the mountain slopes by hand and basic tools and reach to a great altitude. They have belonged to the ethnic minority Ifugao group all this time, passed down from generation to generation and carry the traditions, knowledge and history of a people. It is said that the rice hills are alive and a visit to this breathtaking area will make you believe just that.
Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park
This 8.2 km underground river flows through a limestone karst cave system directly into the sea and is affected by the tide creating an ever-changing natural wonder. You can take a boat ride inside and witness incredible rock formations, including stalagmites and stalactites. The 360 metre-long Italian’s Chamber is one of the largest cave spaces in the world. The rest of the park is covered with dense and lush forest, where you will find hundreds of species of birds, animals and plant life.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
This marine park area covers almost four hundred square miles and consists of two main atoll coral reefs, the North and South reefs. The park is uninhabited by humans, by is home to hundreds of varieties of fish and coral. Tubbataha is a divers’ paradise and a must-visit location for anyone interested in marine life. Due to the delicate and well-protected ecosystem, any trip here must be planned in advance with the local authorities, but is definitely worth the effort.
Aside from these World Heritage sites, there are a further 29 locations submitted for consideration by UNESCO, so you can be sure that you’re never too far from stunning beauty in the Philippines, be it natural or constructed. The Philippines offer great diversity, culture and value for every visitor, so when planning your next holiday, think about these stunning islands in South-East Asia and find out why this is the new place to be.