Asia Budget Travel

Discover The Best Of The Philippines In 14 Days – A Sample Itinerary

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on
January 25, 2017

The Philippines are truly one of the most diverse nations I’ve ever been to. On over 7000 different islands, travelers from all over the world come to relax on white beaches, explore traditional rice fields, trek through mountain landscapes and discover colorful reefs underwater while snorkeling or diving. You could probably travel around the Philippines for several months and still not see everything there is. This itinerary gives you the chance to experience a little bit of everything and get a taste of this marvelous Southeast Asian country in only 2 weeks.

Philippines Map Itinerary

The Route In A Nutshell

Day 1: Bus to Banaue
Day 2: Banaue
Day 3: Sagada
Day 4: Bus to Manila
Day 5: Flight to Cebu
Day 6: Ferry to Tagbilaran
Day 7: Loboc
Day 8: Loboc
Day 9: Panglao Island
Day 10: Panglao Island
Day 11: Ferry to Siquijor
Day 12: Siquijor
Day 13: Siquijor
Day 14: Ferry to Dumaguete / Flight to Cebu/Manila

Highlights Of The Trip

– Visiting the famous UNESCO rice terraces of Batad and Bontoc
– Trekking to the Hanging Coffins in Echo Valley
– Meeting cute tarsiers in Bohol
– Seeing the famous Chocolate Hills in Bohol
– Snorkeling or diving with sea turtles in Balicasag Island
– Relaxing at a paradisiacal beach
– Swinging into a jungle waterfall like Tarzan on a liana at Cambugahay Falls in Siquijor
– Jumping off the high cliffs at Salagdoong Beach in Siquijor

14-Day Itinerary

Before going on this trip, I recommend purchasing flight tickets for both Manila – Cebu on Day 5 as well as Dumaguete – Cebu/Manila on Day 14 (depending on which city you’re flying out of the Philippines after your trip).

Make your way to Manila one day before the start of your program. Since this itinerary has a pretty tight schedule, be sure to add a few extra days here and there if you prefer traveling slowly. You will spend two nights in a night bus instead of a hotel due to the vast distances you’ll have to cover to get from Manila to North Luzon and back.

Day 1: Manila

Accommodation: Night Bus

Since you’re probably still exhausted from your journey to the Philippines, maybe even jetlagged, catch up on some sleep and have a relaxed day. Many accommodations in Manila have rooftop bars or lounges – I found it most convenient to hang out there for a while.

Make sure to purchase your night bus ticket to Banaue at least one to two days in advance.

In the evening, take a night bus to Banaue in North Luzon (e.g. Oyahami bus company). After a very bumpy ride and about nine hours of serpentines, you will wake up to an entirely different world. A world of mountains, deep valleys and beautiful green clusters of rice terraces. And only 15°C.

Day 2: Banaue

Accommodation: Banaue

Banaue is a town with a population of 20.000 located between two well known UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Batad Rice Terraces, and Bangaan Rice Terraces.

Check in at your accommodation and ask for a tricycle driver to hire for the day. You could also take a jeepney (public bus) to Batad, though it will take much longer. Also, hiring a driver means that you will get yourself a local guide at the same time. He’ll take you to various other spots along the way to Batad as well as viewing points around Banaue.

Once you’re in Batad, trek around the famous rice fields and take some photos of these ancient UNESCO awarded rice terraces – you could even hike to a waterfall if you’re up for it. Locals in the Batad village will be happy to assist you with directions.

Talking to locals will also give you some insight into the betel-nut traditions as well as the tribes living in the north, especially around Banaue, Batad, and Bontoc.

Batad Rice Fields

The UNESCO Rice Terraces in Batad are truly magnificent.

Day 3: Sagada

Accommodation: Sagada

On Day 3, hop on a van to Sagada, a beautiful little town in the Cordillera mountains, west of Banaue. On the way, you will pass Bontoc, which is also famous for its rice fields. You will probably stop at a couple of viewing points along the way.

Make your way to your accommodation. Depending on how tired you are, stroll around Sagada for a little bit and have a relaxed afternoon/evening. Also, make sure to purchase your Codalines night bus ticket for the next day.

TopTip: If you’re looking for a budget-friendly café or restaurant, check out Strawberry Café opposite George’s Guesthouse on the main road. It’s a family-run restaurant with great food and low prices. They’re specialized in breakfast and brunch but also serve lunch and dinner. The most delicious things are definitely their banana, mango and strawberry milkshakes for Php 80.

Day 4: Sagada

Accommodation: Night Bus

After breakfast, go to the tourist information center. If you want to explore the Echo Valley, it is best to have a local guide with you who knows the area well. At the tourist information center, a local guide will be arranged for you at reasonable costs.

What starts as a leisurely walk through the woods will soon turn into an adventure trek through the lush Echo Valley. Depending on the tour you choose, you will climb very steep hills, cross rivers, and wade through the mud in several caves. However, the most spectacular sights in Echo Valley are the traditional 400-year-old hanging coffins.

Hanging Coffins Echo Valley

Some of the hanging coffins you will see in Echo Valley are more than 400 years old.

In the evening, board the night bus to Manila. The ride will be pretty long, but this will be the cheapest and fastest way to get back to civilization.

Day 5: Cebu

Accommodation: Cebu

You will arrive in Manila early in the morning. Take a taxi to the airport, from where you will fly to Cebu.

Once at Cebu Airport, grab a taxi to your accommodation. If you’re not too tired from the bus ride and flight, check out Cebu’s incredible Ayala Mall with more than 600 shops, stores and restaurants.

Day 6: Tagbilaran

Accommodation: Tagbilaran

If you haven’t done so online, purchase a ferry ticket to Tagbilaran (Bohol) at the pier in Cebu. There are several companies you can choose – the fastest one is Ocean Jet.

Once you’ve arrived Tagbilaran, grab a tricycle outside the port area (less expensive) and make your way to your accommodation. In the evening, stroll around Tagbilaran and have some authentic Filipino barbecue at Acacia de Bubu, which is considered one of the best street food places in the city.

Day 7: Loboc

Accommodation: Loboc

From Tagbilaran, take a jeepney towards Sikatuna and ask the driver to drop you at the Tarsier Sanctuary.

Strolling around the Tarsier Sanctuary with a guide, you will meet the world’s smallest primates, which are most famous for their big eyes. Since their habitat is subject to destruction, they’ve become an endangered species over the years. Currently, Bohol is running numerous tarsier conservation projects to ensure their survival.

Tarsiers Bohol

The Philippines’ Tarsiers are the smallest primates in the world and an endangered species

After visiting the sanctuary, wave down a jeepney towards Loboc. Spend a relaxed evening in Loboc or at your accommodation.

Day 8: Loboc

Accommodation: Loboc

Most accommodations around Loboc offer motorbikes for rent. In case yours does not provide any, I suggest going back to Loboc and renting a motorcycle there. Going by scooter is the most convenient way to discover the Chocolate Hills and other attractions on the way.

The Chocolate Hills are probably Bohol’s main tourist attraction. These majestic grassy hillocks get their name from vegetation that roasts to chocolate brown in the driest season of the year (between February and July). Over the years, they have formed as a result of erosion, but the local traditional belief is that they were tears of a heartbroken giant.

Chocolate Hills Bohol

Bohol’s Chocolate Hills are probably the most famous attraction in the central Philippines.

You can spend some time at the main viewing point where you can also have refreshments in a restaurant nearby. At the foot of the viewing point hill, you will find several souvenir booths – this might be an excellent opportunity to buy souvenirs from the Philippines if you’re planning on bringing something back home.

On the way back to Loboc, consider visiting the Butterfly Habitat, which is a butterfly conservation area at the side of the road. Here you can learn all about the world of moths, cocoons, and caterpillars.

The Loboc River is a famous place to see fireflies at night. Ask at your accommodation for a little banka trip down Loboc River at night. After a while of chugging in the dark, you will reach a surreal looking tree, lit like a Christmas tree with one million LED lights. Try not to miss out on this unique opportunity to experience the magic of the glowing tree surrounded by nothing but darkness.

Loboc River

Loboc River is a magical spot both during the day and at night when the fireflies light up entire trees.

Day 9: Panglao Island

Accommodation: Panglao Island

Get a jeepney from Loboc to Tagbilaran, where you have to transfer to another jeepney to get to Alona Beach on Panglao Island. Panglao is directly connected to Bohol and just a 30-minute jeepney ride from Tagbilaran.

You can find most attractions, bars, restaurants, shopping opportunities and dive shops around Alona Beach. However, hotels on the waterfront are pretty expensive, which is why many people stay further away from Alona Beach. Depending on the location of your accommodation, consider renting a motorbike to be flexible.

In the late afternoon, stroll along Alona Beach, get to know the area, check out different dive shops and book a half-day trip diving/snorkeling for the next day. You will find the most budget-friendly options if you inquire with a local operator.

Day 10: Panglao Island

Accommodation: Panglao Island

Taking a day trip / half-day trip around Panglao Island you will have the chance to go diving and/or snorkeling in the clear waters and colorful reefs off the coast of Balicasag Island. The dive sites are home to an abundance of marine life including many sea turtles.

>> See also: Dive Guide: 3 Magical Dive Sites In Pangalo Island

Turtles Balicasag Island

The reefs off the coast of Balicasag Island are home to an abundance of sea turtles.

Day 11: Siquijor Island

Accommodation: Siquijor Island

From Tagbilaran, take a ferry (preferably Ocean Jet as it has a fast and direct connection) to Siquijor Town on Siquijor Island. I recommend renting a motorbike right at the pier. There is hardly any reliable public transport available in Siquijor, which is why a motorcycle will give you a lot of flexibility.

Try and find accommodation near San Juan as it offers the best opportunities in terms of activities: you can stroll along the white stretches of sand at Solangon Beach, relax in a hammock in your beach resort, try the local cuisine at nearby restaurants or inquire about snorkeling or diving at one of the various dive shops in the area. Also, most attractions on the island are not far away from San Juan and can easily be reached by a short motorcycle ride.

On your first day in Siquijor, I suggest checking out the area around your accommodation a little bit and just relax at the beautiful sandy beach.

Solangon Beach Siquijor

Solangon Beach in Siquijor is a great place to unwind and watch the sunset at night.

Day 12: Siquijor Island

Accommodation: Siquijor Island

On Day 12, explore the island by motorbike. First, make your way to the century-old Balete Tree and dip your feet into the pool just below the tree for a fish spa. Continue driving towards Lazi, where you can visit San Isidro Church aka. Lazi Church.

Balete Tree

The 400-year old Balete Tree is an attraction you should not miss.

It’s not long now until you see a road sign towards Cambugahay Falls, which is said to be Siquijor’s most beautiful waterfall. Take a refreshing swim here and jump in the water like Tarzan on a liana.

Cambugahay Falls

Jump in the crystal clear waters of Cambugahay Falls by using a liana.

Afterwards, either stay on the circumferential road until you reach Solagdoong Beach for an adrenaline rush while jumping off high cliffs or take a small road into the mountains in the island’s center and get to know the traditional healer scene.

>> See also: Budget Travel Guide: Experience Siquijor Island In 3 Days

Day 13: Siquijor Island

Accommodation: Siquijor Island

It’s your last day in Siquijor, so I recommend you do whatever you feel like doing. Have another relaxed day at the beach or take another tour on the motorbike to see Lugnason Falls, not far from San Juan.

For those of you who enjoy water activities as much as I do, I recommend going on a half-day/full-day trip diving or snorkeling. The reefs around Siquijor are absolutely gorgeous, rich in healthy corals, reef fish, and turtles. And most of all, Siquijor is still considered a somewhat hidden gem when it comes to diving, which means it will likely just be your boat diving/snorkeling at a dive site.

>> See also: Dive Guide: 3 Magical Dive Sites In Siquijor  

Diving Siquijor

Around the island of Siquijor, you can find coral walls and coral gardens with many different kinds of reef fish, macro marine life and big swimmers like turtles or rays.

Day 14: Cebu / Manila

Accommodation: Cebu / Manila

On Day 14, take a ferry to Dumaguete, from where you can catch a flight to either Cebu or Manila, depending on the city you fly out of. Alternatively, take a Ceres bus to Cebu (pretty long ride) or stay in Dumaguete for another night.

Mind you, if you went diving the day before, I strongly advise against taking a flight today (high risk of decompression disease). If you have a plane to catch on Day 14, I suggest swapping Day 12 and Day 13.

How To Extend Your Trip?

If you still have a few days left in the Philippines, I suggest flying back to Cebu on Day 14 and taking a Ceres bus to Moalboal (great for snorkeling and diving) or Malapascua Island in the north of Cebu island. Both locations offer activities and attractions to fill a few days.

If you have the chance to extend your trip for more than 5 days, here are the best options:

→ Take a ferry to Siargao, which is a beautiful tropical island with laidback vibes and a perfect spot surfers.

→ Take a flight to Puerto Princesa and explore Palawan for a few days. Be sure to check out Port Barton and consider spending more time in Coron than El Nido if you want to avoid the crowds.

→ If you prefer going a little bit off the beaten track, I recommend taking a ferry to Leyte and travel all the way to the south, where you’ll find nice beaches and, if you’re lucky, see whalesharks in a very eco-friendly environment (no feeding, no boat trips, no tour operators – just a local marine conservation company that occassionally takes guests with them on a boat, there’s no 100% guarantee to see the whalesharks, though.)

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Lena On The Move

Hi there, I'm Lena! I love being on the move around the world - travelling, diving or taking pictures. I've recently started dealing with and writing about ways to make diving more affordable. I enjoy sharing my experiences and tips with y'all, fellow budget backpackers and budget divers! Read more

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