When we put together our list of the coolest travel destinations in 2017, it was no surprise that the Philippines made it's way to the top. The Filipino community in Canada has long known that their homeland is stunning, and now it’s finally getting the love it deserves.
More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, each with some amazing natural wonders. It’s impossible to see everything in a lifetime, so we’re going to focus on Cebu and Bohol, which are the perfect mix of culture and relaxation.
As the second largest city in the Philippines, Cebu City has a population of just over 1 million, which is significantly less than the capital of Manila. The city is growing so you’ll see tons of construction, but with it comes new restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops.
As for sights to see, Cebu City does not disappoint. Start with a trip to the Tops Lookout, which sits 600m above sea level and will give you the best views of the city. Tops is located 10km outside of town, so you’ll need to take a taxi, but if you prefer to stay close, head to the Cebu Taoist Temple, which also has spectacular views. The temple serves the Chinese community and also has some cool dragons and architecture to check out – plus, it’s free to visit!
History buffs will want to make sure they don’t miss Magellan’s Cross, which was planted by Portuguese and Spanish explorers in 1521. The original cross is actually encased in the cross you see for protection purposes. Some people believe it has the power heal while others think it was long destroyed.
Not too far from Magellan’s Cross is Fort San Pedro, which was built by the Spanish to defend the city. Free guided tours are offered by local university students, and these tours are a fun way to learn about the city’s past.
Oddly enough, one could argue that the shopping malls of Cebu are the biggest attractions. Many locals come here to get out of the heat, but at least the shopping experience is easy since the layout is organized by categories. Oh, and the malls here are huge! The Ayala Center is one of the largest in the City, and it’s twice the size of Yorkdale Mall in Toronto.
One of the reasons why the Philippines makes our list of the coolest travel destinations in 2017 is the natural beauty of Bohol. This unique ecosystem is the highlight of the country. It’s just a two-hour boat ride from Cebu, but you’ll then have to transfer by land to your next destination. Most people make their way to the town of Loboc to use as a base. It helps that resorts here are pretty inexpensive.
Without a doubt, the main attraction in Bohol is the chocolate hills. No, they’re not actually made of chocolate, they’re a geological formation of 1,776 natural grassy hills that turn chocolate brown during the dry season. A trip to this extraordinary landscape costs just 1100 pesos (CAD $29), and for that price you will taken in a private, air conditioned van.
When in Bohol, many people make sure they don’t miss the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. Tarsiers are endangered primates that sort of look like gremlins. They have giant eyeballs and can rotate their heads 180 degrees. Yes, it does sound creepy, but some find these animals cute. You’ll only find them in Bohol, and they’re less than 1000 remaining so the sanctuary is the perfect place to observe them. The entry fee is just 60 pesos per adult while children under 7 are free.
Before you depart Bohol, make time for a cruise down the Loboc river. Most tourists decide to take the floating restaurant tour since it includes a buffet and live entertainment, but the real attraction is your surroundings. There are 50 shades of green here with the surrounding mountains, jungle, and river. Some consider this a tourist trap, but at 450 pesos ($12) a person for a 90-minute cruise, there’s really not that much to complain about.
Covering an entire country like the Philippines in a single article is impossible. There’s so much to see including the white-sand beaches of El Nido, the Hanging Coffins in Echo Valley, and the glowing fireflies in Puerto Princesa, but that’s a story for another day. Interested in the Philippines? Click the image below now to find out the cheapest time to fly there from Canada.