With well over 100 million people, the Philippines is among the twenty most-populous countries in the world, and includes more than 7,100 islands. This tropical nation is blessed with hundreds of spectacular sandy beaches, and was inhabited many thousands of years ago, long before Spanish explorers arrived here in the 16th century.
Each year, millions of people take flights to Philippinesto airports such as Ninoy Aquino International Airport, near Manila, and Puerto Princesa International Airport.
The bustling capital city, Manila is immensely cosmopolitan, with a diverse skyline that ranges from staggering post-modern skyscrapers to majestic Spanish colonial buildings.
Visit some of its key sights such as the National Museum of the Philippines, the impressive Mexican-Baroque-style Quiapo Church, the stupendous 16th-century Fort Santiago citadel, and the magnificent family themed Manila Ocean Park. A couple of sought-after places to stay in Manila include value-for-money The Bayleaf and the luxury Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.
The largest city in the county and the former capital, Quezon City is known for the Ateno Art Gallery, which shows thousands of great artworks that were collected by the renowned Spanish painter and art teacher Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo. See other popular sights such as the prominent Quezon Memorial Circle, the impressive EDSA Shrine, and picturesque La Mesa Ecopark, and consider staying at the affordable Brentwood Suites and sophisticated The Cocoon Boutique Hotel.
The Historic Town of Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a remarkable Spanish colonial settlement founded in the late 16th century. It's revered for its charming cobbled streets and striking Baroque-style cathedral, and is home to a number of friendly accommodation establishments such as the very conveniently located One Vittoria Hotel and the elegant Hotel Luna.
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is incredibly rich in marine and bird life, and comprises a fabulous coral reef that is one of the world's premier snorkelling and scuba diving destinations. This breathtaking park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, has nearly 500 fish species and almost all of the coral species to be found in the Philippines.
The easiest way to get here is to take a long boat journey from the stunning resort of Puerto Princesa, which is internationally acclaimed for its seafood. Here, there are also plenty of superb hotels to choose from, such as the romantic Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Puerto Princesa and the value-for-money Aziza Paradise Hotel.
The Philippine Cordilleras
There are few sights in the Philippines that provide such a fascinating insight into national history as the Philippine Cordilleras rice terraces, which are also on the coveted World Heritage Site list.
This area, which may have harvested rice more than two millennia ago, is a wild, winding, contoured circuit of rice terraces that collectively form what seems like a three-dimensional landscape painting on a grand scale. For good quality accommodation nearby, consider the elegant Prestige Vacation Apartments Bonbel Condominium or the Chalet Baguio.