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This Philippines adventure focusses on Luzon, the largest island of the archipelago. We explore the whole island discovering contrasting landscapes including incredible 2000 year-old rice terraces, cobbled Spanish colonial towns, white-sand beaches, climb an active stratovolcano and the teaming mega-city that is Manila.
Explore Tour Leader
12 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Once known as the 'Pearl of the Orient', Manila was occupied by the Spanish in the 16th century as part of their growing empire. The city went on to witness Chinese insurrections, a British occupation, a war against the Spanish and the Americans, and some of the bitterest fighting of World War II. Today it is the capital of the Philippines and one of the most populous cities in the world.
For those arriving on time, our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 5 pm for the welcome meeting and for those who wish, there is the chance to have dinner on the roof deck restaurant of a hotel in Intramuros. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Manila at any time. If you would like to receive an airport transfer today, you will need to arrive into Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), which is a one-hour drive from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up in the lobby at 9 am on day two.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to visit the National Museum of the Philippines Complex, which houses the Fine Arts Museum, Natural History Museum and Anthropology Museum. It is less than a 20-minute walk from the hotel, and admission is free.
Rizal Park Hotel (or similar)
This morning we take a tour of the city by walking to Rizal Park and the historic walled city of Intramuros, where we find San Agustin, the oldest church in the Philippines and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We sample a public jeepney ride to Binondo, one of the first Chinatowns in the world, we explore the network of alleys and side streets that lead us to Binondo Church, Santa Cruz Church and the old commercial district of Escolta where we'll see art deco structures, such as the Perez-Semanillo building, that survived World War II.
The afternoon is free. We meet our bus and return to the hotel. However, you may wish to stay in Chinatown for lunch and further exploration of this colourful area, visiting one of the Taoist temples or mingling with the locals in the street markets, returning independently by taxi. An optional bamboo bike tour of Intramuros is available too.
After a substantial breakfast, later in the morning, we take a short flight to Laoag. On arrival, we will have a late lunch in a local restaurant serving authentic llocano dishes.
In the afternoon we will go on an excursion to the Malacañang of the North, the erstwhile residence of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, now turned into a museum overlooking Paoay Lake. We also visit the Baroque 18th century UNESCO Paoay Church, otherwise known as the Church of Saint Augustine - famous for its unusual architecture and bell tower built with coral stones. Its style is the perfect mix between an Asian temple and a Western church!
Time permitting, we will go on a walk across the coastal La Paz dunes of Luzon which cover an area of approximately 85 square kilometres. Optional sandboarding is available.
Java Hotel (or similar)
After an early breakfast, we drive northeast along the coast to a small village from where we'll start our short and gentle walk to reach Kabigan Falls. A local villager will lead us through the flora and fauna of the forest following trails passing through rice paddies. The falls are spectacular and can be as tall as 80ft. There will be an opportunity to swim in the waters after the walk.
We then head to coastal Pagudpud for lunch and more swimming or relaxing by the beach facing the Philippine Sea. On our drive back to the hotel we will stop at Kapurpurawan to admire its rock formation moulded over time by powerful winds and the ocean's tides. There will also be a chance to stop by Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, the highest lighthouse in elevation from the Spanish colonial era.
We spend the morning driving south to the charming town of Vigan. One of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines. Vigan's historic heart was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1999. The best-preserved example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia, it is home to cobbled streets, colonial villas and the imposing grandeur of a 16th-century cathedral. This afternoon is free for you to relax or head out and get a feel of the city ahead of our full day's sightseeing tomorrow.
Hotel Felicidad (or similar)
This morning we discover Vigan by kalesa (horse-drawn carriage). We see well-preserved Vigan houses that are truly reflective of their roots - built from the wood, stone, shells (kapis), and terra cotta derived from its surroundings such as the Syquia Mansion, a former presidential residence. We also visit the National Museum Ilocos Regional Museum Complex particularly the Padre Burgos Museum and the Old Carcel Museum. Later we take a short drive to a pottery shop known locally as Burnayan, where we learn about the ancient tradition of pottery making, dating back to pre-colonial times. Here we can also browse shops that showcase hand-woven fabrics and antiques.
We return to the city and on to the famous Calle Crisologo where we sample famous Ilocano delicacies such as the longaniza (sausage), empanada (Mexican taco/meat pie) and bagnet (deep-fried crispy pork crackling).
After an early breakfast, we drive to Sagada, arriving in the early afternoon. We visit nearby Echo Valley to see the mysterious hanging coffins and Lumiang cave, a burial cave. The indigenous population have been burying their dead in coffins perched high on cliff faces for over 2000 years. No one knows exactly why this practice started but it is believed to both keep the preserved bodies safe from wild animals and take them one step closer to heaven.
Masferre Country Inn (or similar)
We leave Sagada in the morning and drive to the municipality of Bontoc. From here we will start our two-hour walk along lesser-known Maligcong rice terraces and on mostly flat terrain. We then go on an easy climb on steps to reach Favarey village where the "dead lives with the living". Here, village folk are buried in their backyard, a contrast to the hanging coffins and the burial caves we visited in Sagada. We will have the chance to meet the locals and interestingly most of the elderly have their bodies covered in traditional intricate tattoos.
On the hike back, we stop at a typical rice storage hut and visit the local school which is attended by most of the village children. We head back to Sagada to our accommodation.
We make our way this morning to Bontoc, a bustling market town and former capital of the Cordillera region. We will visit its small museum that has several interesting exhibits about the region's indigenous communities. Carved into the mountains of Ifugao province, the centuries-old rice terraces that occupy these high, fertile landscapes are considered by Filipinos to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. Our destination is the town of Banaue, our gateway into the remote villages of the Cordilleras. The Banaue rice terraces are recognised as a national cultural treasure along with the rice terraces that are found in Mayoyao, Batad, Bangaan, Kiangan and Hungduan. It is believed that if these ancient terraces were laid end to end, they would reach halfway around the planet!
This afternoon we take a local jeepney (a converted jeep) and drive out towards Hapao village. As we drive through the mountains, we enjoy some spectacular views of the Cordilleras passing through a series of deep gorges and canyons to the Hapao rice terraces. Here we are rewarded with the spectacular scenery of terraced rice fields cut through by the clear waters of the Hapao River. The total walking time is around two hours.
Banaue Hotel (or similar)
This morning, we take a local jeepney to Bangaan, a village surrounded by rice terraces. We meet Ifugao, the indigenous people of the province and examine closely the unique characteristics of a bale - a traditional house with an architecture that fits the needs of the family.
Afterwards we drive to Sadel, the starting point of our 2-hour trek to Batad. The trail takes us along rice terraces and viewpoints overlooking the terraces. From here the view is almost completely panoramic and some describe it as looking down onto an ancient amphitheatre.
Today sees an early start for a full-day drive to Mabalacat, our base for climbing Mount Pinatubo tomorrow morning. Located in the mountains that separate the central plains from the west coast of Luzon Island, Mount Pinatubo volcano was the scene of the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century when, on June 15, 1991, it erupted with an intensity that was ten times that of the Mount St Helens volcano, a decade earlier.
On arrival in Mabalacat later on today we have the opportunity to rest in tranquil rural surroundings.
Abes Farm (or similar)
This morning we leave quite early for the drive to Santa Juliana station, where we take 4x4 jeepneys to drive to the foot of the trailhead, from where we trek to the volcano's crater - a relatively easy walk of usually around two hours each way. From March to May there may be some erosion of the path due to rainfall which will make the jeepney drive longer and the trek shorter. Please note that there are several stream crossings in ankle-deep water on this trek, so please be prepared for your footwear to get wet. The total walking time is approximately four hours.
After a lunch break, we return by road to Manila for our final night and farewell dinner.
City Garden Grand Hotel (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Manila.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Manila at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), which is just 30 minutes from our Makati-based hotel.
Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable. The central and northern islands of the Philippines have a tropical monsoon type of climate with a single season of heavy rain. In most areas the wettest time is from July to October with rainfall being particularly heavy in the period August to October, when much of it comes from tropical typhoons in the South China Sea. Temperatures remain fairly high throughout the year (late 20's Celsius) except in the mountains which will be cooler.
2 Pin Flat
Manila - Tour of Intramuros on Bamboo bikes US$42 per person. Luzon - Sandboarding on La Paz sand dunes US$15 per person.
The region is tropical (humid) and days can be very hot although evenings in the Cordillera mountains will be cooler. Casual, loose fitting clothes are the most practical. We recommend shorts, lightweight trousers and skirts, lightweight shirts and T-shirts. An umbrella is excellent in sticky, tropical conditions and a sunhat is essential.
Comfortable walking shoes for the Mount Pinatubo and Banaue rice terrace walks. Trainers and/or sandals for other sightseeing.
One main piece of baggage and daypack. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself.
Binoculars, torch, water bottle, insect repellent, high factor suncream (at least factor 15), good quality sunglasses and a lip salve with sun protection.
Bus, 4WD, Boat
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Philippines: Citizens of the UK, EU, Australia, US and Canada may enter for 21 days without a visa. However, you will need to provide a valid flight ticket to show that your return journey is within this time. All passports must have at least 6 months validity remaining on exit from the Philippines. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. As of 22 August 2023, you must also register with the \ e-travel\ system within 72 hours prior to your arrival - https://etravel.gov.ph/
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Although not compulsory travellers may also wish to immunise themselves against Japanese encephalitis. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.