The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country in the Western Pacific, comprising more than 7,000 islands. Its capital, Manila, is famous for its waterfront promenade and centuries-old Chinatown, Binondo. Intramuros, a walled city in colonial times, is the heart of Old Manila. It’s home to the baroque 17th-century San Agustin Church as well as Fort Santiago, a storied citadel and military prison.
Considering it’s a country with thousands of postcard-perfect islands – 7,107 to be precise – and world-class diving, surfing and beach-flopping, the Philippines remains relatively little-known among well-traveled people.
Demand a deserted tropical beach all to yourself? Done. Want rainforests, mountains, ancient tribal villages and terraced rice paddies? No problem. Won’t leave the house for anything less than world-class diving? Sorted. Made up of more than 7,000 tropical islands, off-the-beaten-track Philippines is the second-largest archipelago in the world and has the answer to any travel diva’s most outlandish demands.
When: October to April is the dry season: the best time to visit. Sunny and dry, with temperatures reaching 35°C-plus in March/April; the mountains can be 10°C cooler. This is peak season for diving as summer’s cyclonic conditions can affect visibility. Whale shark watching season at Donsol runs January-May. In May, Flores de Mayo fiestas are commonplace across the country. May to September is the wet season: humid and hot. Regular tropical downpours can cause road closures, but travel is still possible. Cyclones are a serious risk July-October.
For information: The Philippines is a relatively easy travel destination by Southeast Asian standards. English is widely spoken, and the country has an endearing don’t-worry-be-happy vibe, soothing for first-time visitors. Alas, volatile weather and natural disasters can mess up trips in a hurry, while a menu of 7000-plus islands creates itinerary headaches for even the most seasoned travel planners. Increase your chances of a smooth trip by avoiding the following tripwires.
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