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Boasting Asia’s best beach, picture postcard views that scream ‘paradise’, countless volcano peaks, and chartreuse-coloured rice terraces, the Philippines is one of the region’s most alluring yet off the beaten track destinations. Originally named Las Islas Filipinas in honour of Spain’s King Philip II, by Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos in 1543, the Philippines is Asia’s seventh most populated country with 92 million people. Comprising 7107 islands scattered across 300000 square kilometres in the western Pacific Ocean of Southeast Asia, it’s the world’s second largest archipelago. Taiwan lies to its north across Luzon Strait, the Philippine Sea is to the east, Indonesia south across the Celebes Sea, Borneo southwest over the Sulu Sea, and Vietnam to the west across the South China Sea.
A tropical climate and location on the Pacific Ring of Fire – a fault line that’s the site of 452 volcanoes and tectonic trenches and has been the source of 90% of the world’s earthquakes – has made the Philippines prone to devastating eruptions, typhoons and earthquakes. Mayon Volcano, the island’s most active, erupted 48 times in 400 years, while Mount Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption was the world’s second largest 20th century terrestrial eruption. In 2012, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Samar Island in September, while in December of that year a typhoon killed 1500 people in southern Philippines.Read more
Those same geological conditions have made the mountainous Philippines one of the region’s most beautiful and fertile countries, with an abundance of natural resources and rich biodiversity comparable to the Galapagos Islands. It’s estimated that it’s home to more than 510 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds that only exist in the Philippines, like the dwarf water buffalo and Philippine Eagle. Also worth looking out for are the enormous hornbills and flying lemurs.
Each island is distinct, making the Philippines one of the region’s most diverse countries, however, while the islands lure tourists with sandy palm-lined beaches lapped by aquamarine water, cities such as the capital Manila are marked by a grittiness and chaos that can sometimes scare off all but the most intrepid at first glance!. Where to start your itinerary when there are thousands of islands to explore? Each is home to an array of indigenous and ethnic groups and cultures due to successive waves of visitors throughout history, from early Malays, Hindus and Muslims through to Chinese, Spanish and Americans, who probably left the most indelible marks.
Palawan and Bacuit Archipelago appeal to budget travellers as much as affluent jetsetters, offering wildlife galore and countless dive wrecks, including Japanese and American battleships sunk during World War II. The Visayas are home to popular party destination Borocay, continually named Asia’s best beach; Cebu, the second largest city; and Bohol Island with its ‘Chocolate Hills’. For tranquillity, try Langub Beach or Sugar Beach at Sipalay and for mountains head to Camiguin Island, which has more volcanoes than towns For diving, try Samal, which also has bat-filled caves.
Places of interest in Philippines
Luzon Island is home to Banaue, which has become synonymous with the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ifugao Rice...
Most explorations of the Philippines start in the capital Manila, on the main island of Luzon. The country’s oldest...