When talking about travelling South East Asia, the Philippines is probably not the first country that comes to your mind. Last winter, the Philippines received a lot of media coverage because of the horrible impact caused by typhoon Haiyan. But while the Philippines are sadly regularly hit by such natural disasters, they are also an extremely diverse country which has not yet been discovered by mass tourism. Whether you are into surfing, relaxing or partying, one of the over 7000 islands will be your personal paradise.

Discovering the Philippines - Katharina Plavec

Having spent my summer on the archipelago, I thought it was about time to show you my three favourite spots in the Philippines.

1) Palawan

Palawan is probably one of the most underrated islands in the world. The place to go is El Nido, a little village up in the north of the island. Here, you will mostly find laid-back and backpacker-friendly accommodation. THE thing to do here is island-hopping. The tours in small boats carrying about 10 people will take you to secret caves, the best snorkelling spots (where you can meet Nemo and sea turtles), hidden beaches and rock formations that will remind you of those in the movie ”The Beach”. Lunch of fresh seafood is usually served directly at the beach. To reach some of the most amazing spots, you might have to leave the boat and swim – but the final destination will be breathtaking. The best way to end such a long day of adventures is to meet up with fellow travellers on the beach and enjoy a cheap bear.

Discovering the Philippines - Katharina Plavec

For those with more time I recommend a 3-day-boat trip to Coron, another island close by that is famous for its diving opportunities.

2) Boracay

Boracay is the most touristic place in the Philippines – with good reasons, as it features a picturesque, 4 km long white beach. However, if you are not staying in the high season (that is, around Easter and Christmas) you will still find it relatively quiet compared to popular beaches in, say, Thailand. Being on a touristy island has its advantages too: You will get food from all over the world, there are countless bars where you can enjoy your favourite drink on the beach and there’s a lot of clubbing going on at night. Some of the activities offered here include helmet diving, kite surfing and snorkelling. It is thus a perfect place for getaways with your girlfriends and for those who want to combine partying with relaxing. If you have missed Western lifestyle a little bit too much: there is even a Starbucks at the beachfront.

Discovering the Philippines - Katharina Plavec

3) Rice terraces in Banaue/Batad

The rice terraces in the villages of Banaue and Batad are absolutely breathtaking and even made it on the UNESCO World Heritage List. While most places in the Philippines can be accessed fairly easily due to the large number of low-cost airlines catering even to the most remote islands, the trip to Banau and Batad takes quite some time. First, you have to survive a 9h ride from the capital Manila to Banau in a freezing bus. Banaue’s rice terraces are already impressive, but if you want to see something even more stunning, you will first have to ride a jeepney (the Filipino’s favourite way of transport, which can be best described as an oversized, colorfully painted jeep) and then hike for more than an hour to reach the small village Batad – but the trip will definitely be worth it. Waking up in one of the few hostels with the sun rising over the misty rice fields just across my window was one of the most stunning things I have seen in my life.

Discovering the Philippines - Katharina Plavec

And the Philippines offer more: “Chocolate Hills” in Bohol, surfing in Surigao and world-renowed diving in Coron – the possibilities are endless. The Filipinos will welcome you anywhere with a smile and since English is one of the official languages, you will have no problems finding your way around.

Discovering the Philippines - Katharina Plavec

Most islands are accessible via plane from the capital Manila. While Manila might not be the prettiest city in the world, it is still worth spending a few days in this metropolis to experience the Filipinos’ way of life and get used to the crazy traffic. Manila’s international airport is also a hub for flights to Asia and, though more limited, the rest of the world. The Philippines are a all-year-round travel destination and the weather varies from one island to the other, with most heavy storms usually taking place from August to September (but again, this depends on the island). Not all islands have facilities for tourists, but the more touristy places offer a decent choice from dirt-cheap hostels to fancy five-star resorts.

You see, the Philippines should be on your radar!

This is a guest post by Katharina Plavec from Vienna.
You can follow her on Instagram here: @travelling_kate
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