There’s more to the Philippines’ than white sands and blue seas. Head inland after you’ve got off your Manila flight.
When you book a flight to the Filipino capital of Manila, images of white sands, sparkling blue seas and sun beds under idyllic palm trees usually spring to mind. However, the islands of Boracay and Palawan attract partying backpackers like the clichéd moth to a flame, so why not head inland when visiting the world’s second largest archipelago to get away from the crowds and experience a less beaten path?
We know straying from the picture-perfect beaches isn’t at the top of your agenda when heading to a nation of over 7,000 islands, but there’s a whole lot more to this country than swinging on a hammock with a Banana Shake in hand.
Forget about those beaches for the time being, here are four reasons to head inland after landing in Manila.
Walking in the Chocolate Hills
In the heart of the island of Bohol, there are nearly 2,000 limestone bumps just waiting to be climbed. These bumps are all uniform in shape and range from 30 to 50 metres in height; the result of hundreds of years of water erosion, they contain many an underwater fossil. For the romantics out there, local legend says that Arogo, a young giant, fell in love with a mortal girl by the name of Aloya. After she died, Arogo’s heartbroken tears left the Chocolate Hills as a permanent reminder of his grief.
Visit a traditional village
There are plenty of isolated, traditional villages in the foothills and jungles of the Filipino landscape that are definitely worth the visit if you want to get a real taste for the old country. You can choose to go with a group and a tour, or go solo in search of villages where they still farm by hand and loincloths are the norm. Be aware that if you do choose to steer clear of the usual villages that travellers visit, you’ll need to find yourself a local guide and be prepared for a lot of walking.
The rice terraces of the Philippines are praised as one of the eight wonders of the world, and are routinely missed by travellers to the country due to their distance from the urban hub of Manila. These rice terraces were carved into the mountain 2,000 years ago and are said to spread around the world if they were laid end to end. The best places to see these terraces, trek along paths where you won’t see a soul for days and chat with the locals over a tea are in Banaue and Batad – nine hours north of the capital.
Dive WWII wrecks
Okay, so this means going to the beach, but instead of sliding your sunnies up your nose, delving into a good book and bronzing yourself (it’s tempting, but hear us out), grab yourself a snorkel and go wreck hunting. It won’t take long before you find something to explore – the coastal shallows of Palawan are littered with sunken battleships from when Japan and the USA were fighting over the Pacific. Be sure to take a waterproof camera.