Home to over 7,000 islands, Philippines is a picturesque archipelago straddling the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea. This South-East Asian country is multi-cultural to boot with a strong and heavy catholic presence for this tropical paradise was under the Spanish rule for several centuries. With it's soft-sandy beaches, rugged and towering mountains, luscious jungles, fierce volcanoes, an array of ethnic groups, foreign influences and a mesh of culture and arts have made Philippines what it is.
The first pit-stop no doubt ought to be the country's capital, Manila. This mega-city is more than just a chaotic, crowded and polluted concrete jungle. A few notable highlights in Manila are Fort Santigo and Intramuros - historically significant district. Wander about on Rizal Park and admire the huge Rizal Monument. San Ausustin Church and Manila Cathedral are impressive baroque colonial churches and head over to the Oceanarium in Manila Ocean Park. When it comes to shopping, Manila boasts of spectacular and swanky ones such as SM Mall of Asia, featuring Olympian ice-skating rink, 10-pin bowling and even a science museum.
Several thousand islands adorn this picturesque country. Boracay is a small island packed in with beautiful beaches, stunning resorts and feel free to indulge in adventurous activities such as cliff diving, parasailing, motorbiking, horse riding, snorkelling, kite surfing and scuba diving. Don't forget to watch the mesmerizing sunset, wander about the volcanic coves and remote coves of turquoise lagoons. Malapascula Island is famed for being the only place in the planet to view the thresher sharks as well as manta rays and hammerheads. Head over to lounge around on the soft white-sand beaches meshing with the warm translucent waters which is framed by coconut trees and colorful coral gardens.
Popular for housing some of Asia's best coral reefs, Puerto Galera is a quaint little coastal town renowned for it's beautiful beaches, avant-grade diving spots and being home to different types of aquatic life. The perfect destination to catch a glimpse of whale sharks is the is the charming fishing village of Donsol. The gentle giants usually makes an appearance between November and June, with February and May being the peek months. One of the most popular diving site is the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea. This marine park features live-aboard diving excursions between April to June, when the waves are calm.
Visit the spectacular underground river called the Puerto Princesa Sunterranean River situated in Puerta Princesa in the northern coast of the island of Palawa. This natural wonder is renowned to be the globe's largest navigable underground river. Tourists can take up guided paddle boat tours which goes around captivating rock formations and fluttering bats. Known to be the most active volcano in this archipelago, be sure to catch a glimpse of the fierce Mayon Volcano. Don't forget to trek up the Chocolate Hills, famous for encompassing 1,268 individual mounts spruced through the interior of the island of Bohol. One of the top tourist attraction is the magnificent Banaue Rice Terraces. Sculpted from the mountain ranges about 2,000 odd years ago by the Ifugao tribes, these spectacular farm terraces appear to be huge steps reaching up to the sky.
Filipinos are passionate about shopping so one can find several swanky and sprawling shopping complexes, particularly in the mega-cities such as Manila. When it comes to tourist souvenirs, be sure on the look-out for barong tagalog (hand-embroidered dress shirts designed from pineapple fibres), brassware, painted papier-mache horses, woven grass mats, antique wooden figuirnes of saints, carved rice guardian figures, terracotta pots and so forth.
While holidaying in Philippines, be sure to dig into the tasty delicacies their cuisine offers such as Pinakbet, made from mixed vegetables steamed in fish or shrimp sauce. Refresh yourself with a mouth-watering Salabat, iced or hot tea prepared from lemon grass and pandan leaves or brewed from ginger root. The country is packed in with several bars and dance clubs where locals and tourists can mingle around and groove till the crack of dawn.
Philippines houses plenty of stay options. The richie-rich can splurge on the best luxury hotels and sprawling private apartments while those who are light on the pocket and budget travellers can opt for modest and cheap accommodations.
Philippines is defined by relatively high temperature, scorching humidity and abundant rainfall. The best time to visit the country would be from November to April, when the climate is cooler and conducive for travelling.