Sitting between the Philippine and South China Seas, the Philippines is an archipelago formed of many islands – more than 7000 of them in fact, meaning that there’s plenty to explore on Philippines holidays.
It’s a country that offers a diversity of experiences and cultures - it would take more than 20 years to spend a day on each of the Philippines islands, and more than 70 languages are spoken around the country (although Filipino and English are the two official languages). Alongside centuries’ worth of local culture, the country’s history has also seen a distinct influence from periods of Spanish and American rule, and the country has one of the largest Catholic populations in the world.
Found to the north of the archipelago, Luzon is the Philippines’ largest island and home to the National Capital Region, Metro Manila. The Metro Manila area has a population of almost 13 million people, and actually spreads out across a number of cities. A bustling, modern area, life in Manila is exciting and fast-paced, but there are many ways to relax if visiting on a holiday in the Philippines. The area is home to two national parks, Rizal and Paco. Rizal is the largest urban park in Asia, and features one of the Philippines’ most important monuments, dedicated to national hero Jose Rizal, as well as gardens, statues, a dancing fountain and the National Museum and Library.
The region has also been named one of the best shopping destinations in Asia, with the SM Megamall and SM City North EDSA being the 3rd and 4th biggest shopping malls in the world. Part of the Metro Manila area, the city of Marikina is known as the Shoe Capital of the Philippines thanks to its local industry, and you can pick up a bargain in the city’s markets and explore the famous collection of controversial politician Imelda Marcos in the Marikina City Footwear Museum.
If you’re interested in more relaxing Philippines holidays, why not stay at one of the country’s luxurious beach resorts? To the west of the country sits the island of Palawan, which is home to one of the country’s most famous beach towns, El Nido. Surrounded by dramatic cliff-faces and rock formations, the white sandy beach has appeared in several big budget movies and is not only a beautiful spot to lie back and soak up some sun, but also a great place for diving.
To the south, Boracay island is home to some of the country’s most popular beaches, which draw visitors for their white sands, and their exciting nightlife. In 2012, Boracay was named best island in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine.
With its mix of local, Spanish and American cultures, there’s all sorts of fascinating historic sites and customs to explore during Philippines holidays. The historic town of Vigan is definitely worth a visit, being UNESCO World Heritage listed and named one of the New 7 Wonder Cities of the World. It’s the most intact example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia, dating back to the 16th century. Another UNESCO listed site can be found in the mountains to the north of Metro Manila – the town of Banaue, which features ancient rice terraces created 2000 years ago, and still in use today. And if you’re looking for a bit of a winter sun getaway, holidays to the Philippines over the Christmas period make for unforgettable experiences. Being a mostly Catholic country, Christmas is a very big deal in the Philippines, starting with carols being played in shops as early as September, and continuing through until the first Sunday of January. The festivities include a mix of the familiar traditions – including Christmas trees, cards and Santa – and local customs, such as the displaying of Parol – bamboo poles topped with a star lantern.