1. Manila – Banaue (rice paddies)
Explore the ricefields with a 2D1N trekking through the mountains and rice paddies.
You will sleep in a little village surrounded by mountains with no wifi or phone reception at all. You will mingle with the locals, eat local food and see children attending classes in the old school buildings. These young kids have to walk 30-60 minutes through the mountains to get to their school!
The ricefields are on its’best in April/May (green) or September/October (gold). But this doesn’t mean it is a great trekking when you visit this place at other times of the year. The views are stunning and it’s for a reason that they call at the 8th World Wonder!
Why start with a trekking in Banaue?
Of course, you can also start on an island and chill your first day after the long flight. However, starting off your trip with an active trekking resets your brain immediately. In other words, holiday mode ON and forget about work in no-time.
How to reach Banaue?
You can easily reach Banaue with a night bus from Manila. They leave around 21:00 and take about 9 hours. You will arrive in the early morning (around 6) in Banaue, where tricycles will be waiting on you to bring you from the bus station to the center (5-10min drive)
Where to book a trekking?
You can book a trekking in advance on websites like Klook or GetYourGuide, but you can also just go with the flow and book a trip with a local guide when you arrive.
In my case I hadn’t booked anything. Just took the bus and then joined another group who met a local guide uppon arrival. We left the same morning (after having had a cup of coffee and refresh at the family restaurant of the guide). We left our big backpacks, took some extra warm clothes in a smaller bag and bought some groceries to keep our energy level up during the trip.
The first night we slept in the local village and the next day we arrived back in the afternoon. I directly organized a van back South, so didn’t even stay in the town itself as there is not so much to do.
You could travel up more north and explore the more adventurous area of Sagada, but it won’t surpass the experience from Banaue.
In short: it can be fun to add this to your trip, but it’s not a substitute for Banaue. And if you are short in time, just travel back to Manila (night-bus) and take a flight to one of the most beautiful islands in the world: Palawan/El Nido.
Ok, one more thing: If you are with some nice company and would like to have a unique beach experience you could travel up more north to Pagudpud. Here you might have a white-sanded beach all for yourself, but don’t expect many bars or restaurants.
2. Manila – El Nido (Island expedition)
- Explore Manila (Tip: Slum Tour), stay one night in Manila and fly the next day to El Palawan
- Fly in the afternoon to Palawan after you arrived from Banaue in the early morning
How to get to Palawan
- Fly with Airswift to El Nido and enjoy an amazing view from the windows of the low flying propellor airplaine
- Take an overnight ferry from Manila to Coron and book an expedition from Coron to EL Nido
- Book a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa and then continue with a 6-hour van or bus ride up north to El Nido
What to do in Palawan
I think you deserve (and need) at least one day rest after your trekking and hours of being on the road. Find a nice place to stay close to the beach or in El Nido town and enjoy the great atmosphere in this tiny village.
During the day you can rent a motorbike and explore the nearby beaches or hop in a tricycle and spend the afternoon at a closeby beach. After you witnessed one of the gorgeous sunsets of Palawan, you can get ready for night out. Have some delicious food at one of the many Italian restaurants or try out some Philippino food at one of the local food corners.
And last but not least, end the night with an amazing night at the raeggae bar at the beach. The live band of Apache know how to get the crowd going! Just don’t be shocked when the EDM start to bounce out of the speakers as soon as the band finished their last song.
Island expedition El Nido – Coron
Going on one of the island expeditions is one of the best ways to explore Palawan’s gorgeous Islands. Another option to join one of the day tours that hop along a few of the islands every day. There are four different tours which are labeled as A-B-C-D, but there are also several organizations that just visit the best of them.
Anyhow, I really recommend to do one of the expeditions. This unforgettable experience will likely end up to become one of your top travel experiences. Below we listed 2 tours that receive great reviews. Tao Philippines seems to be the most popular one. They receive amazing reviews because of the great staff and places they visit. However, Tao Experience is almost twice as expensive as Buha Isla, while almost offering the same trip. I even heard stories that boats with Tao became busier (30-40 people), while Buhay Isla only takes about 10-20 travellers on board.
Option: Stay a bit longer in Coron
If you always dreamed of diving in a Shipwreck, this might be your chance. Coron has the most shipwrecks you can find anywhere in the world.
Option: Port Barton
Before you fly to another island you could visit Port Barton. It’s known as a more chilled version of El Nido and many people fall in love with it!
3a. Cebu – Siquior – Bohol
Likely too much to visit all, but I still wanted to list it here.
Cebu: Go to Moalboal and dive or snorkel with one million of Sardines. Another great experience is the Canyoing tour in Badian (1 hr drive) during which you will also visit the Kawasan falls.
Siquior: Not only the island of the whitches but also known for it’s beautiful (sometimes empty) beaches. Rent a motorbike and tour around the whole island in one day.
Bohol: On this island you will find the world smallest monkey: The Bohol Tarsier. Another reason to visit this place are the Chololate hills, but don’t make your expectations too high. It are just some mountains that look brown at some time of the year, that’s why they call them chocholate hills. Not much more than that… But don’t be disappointed, there is another great thing to do on this island: ZIP-lining trough the jungle!
NOTE on Oslob: This place became famous for diving with whale sharks. However, please take in mind that an area with hunderds of tourists trying to touch a whale shark is not a natural habitat for these 5-10 meter tall creatures. This largest fish in the world is used to cross thousands of miles every year, but due to this tourist attraction, their are kept at one place by feeding them every day. If you care about these animals, I strongly recommend to avoid this place.
Keep the best for last… This paradise Island is not that well-known yet. Maybe because it is officially part of the province Mindanao, which is often flagged as a no-go area. However, Siargao is excluded from this listed and is as safe as all the other places described in this post.
The Island is especially known by surfers as it offers numerous surf-brakes, including the world-famous break Cloud 9.
You can spend your days exploring the Island on a motorbike, surfing, kite-surfing and just relaxing on uncrowded white sand beaches surrounded by palm trees. A perfect way to end your trip!
4. Flying back to Manila
I recommend to take a flight back to Manila at least one day before your international flight. Flights in Philippines often experience delays and especially flights from Siargao are often delayed because of the weather. Also take in mind that all flights from Siargao go over Cebu, so just a few hours of delay will likely mean that you have to wait for another day in Cebu before you can take the next flight to Manila. (something I experienced myself as well)
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