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Be mesmerised by the magic of the Philippines on this 19-day tour from Manila to Puerto Princesa. See the fusion of the past and present in Manila, stare in awe at the eighth wonder of the world, be fascinated by the curious Hanging Coffins in Echo Valley and relax on the beach in sunny El Nido. This is a journey brimming with vibrant cities, stunning natural beauty, age-old culture, new experiences and real adventure.
Day 1: Manila
Mabuhay! Welcome to Manila. An intriguing, bustling and overwhelmingly chaotic city, Manila is the worthy capital of the Philippines. With contradictions and surprises around every corner, Manila is packed full of things to see, do, taste and experience. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight – check with hotel reception for more information and have your insurance details and next of kin information ready for collection. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early. We'll happily book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. If you arrive early, why not spend time discovering what the sprawling city has to offer. A unique mixture of the modern and historic, Manila has both sights like the walled city of Intramuros, built by the Spaniards in the 16th Century, and the Mall of Asia, a shopping centre that spreads for nearly a kilometre in length. A unique way to get around Manila and the Philippines is by jeepney, colourfully and flamboyantly decorated vehicles originally made from jeeps left by American troops after the war.
Day 2: Banaue
It's an early start today as you leave Manila by private van and travel to Banaue, settling in for a 9-10 hour drive – get out your book, get to know your fellow travellers, listen to your new favourite album, or watch out the window for your first taste of the Philippines outside of the metropolis. The isolated and quaint town of Banaue features markets and a local museum, but the main drawcard of the area is the rice terraces. Referred to by some as an ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, the stunning Banaue rice terraces were constructed over 2,000 years ago by the native Ifugao people. Still in use today, these remarkable rice terraces stretch like stepping stones towards the sky, some reaching an altitude of 1,500 metres (4,920 feet). The best way to view the terraces is from the nearby viewpoint, where the lush green steps unfold below and sunlight reflects off the surface of the pools. You’ll get more time on Day 6 to really appreciate this wonderful view. Notes: Tonight you’ll stay in a simple hotel with twin share rooms, with private bathrooms with hot and cold water showers.
Day 3: Cambulo / Trekking
Leave you main luggage in Banaue and pack a daypack with your necessities for the next few days, then drive 40 minutes to the start of the trek. Over the next 3 days and 2 nights, you’ll hike through rice fields, forest and villages, staying overnight in local Ifugao villages where people farm rice the way their ancestors did 2,000 years ago. On this first day of the trek, you’ll walk for approximately 4 hours on a mixture of up and down, but mostly flat terrain. Start from Kinakin and we take a short drive up a paved road to get to our start of the trail. The next 3 hours will be on a rather flat path, and the last hour includes steps down to the guesthouse in Cambulo. There will be plenty of stops along the way, including for lunch, so keep your camera handy for those scenic photos – the rice terraces here are characterised by their pyramid-like appearance, cut almost 360 degrees around the mountains. When you finish today’s hike, you can take a refreshing swim in the river 2 minutes walk from the guesthouse – a welcome relief from a physically demanding day! You’ll spend the night in isolated Cambulo Village – the guesthouse has multi shared rooms, shared bathroom with Asian style toilets. Cold water is expected with scoop showers.Notes: The rice terraces in this region are very steep, which means at times you’ll be trekking on very narrow paths with steep drops on either side. A very good level of balance is required for this trekking. Your leader can assist you, providing a walking stick to help you keep balance over these sections. Accommodation is in basic village guesthouses with shared facilities and cold water for bathing. Bedding will be provided, but you may like to bring your own sleeping sheet and a warm layer for cool nights (especially during January and February). Meals are provided at the guesthouses – simple dishes like stewed vegetables for dinner, and omelette or pancakes for breakfast. Basic hot drinks are also available.
Day 4: Batad / Trekking
With the sound of animals as your alarm clock, wake up to a fuelling breakfast, and then begin the second day of your walk. Walk a total of approximately 3 hours to Batad Village, where you’ll spend the night. Today involves some serious walking and can be especially challenging for those with limited experience in hiking. The trail is a combination of up and downhill, and there are sections where you’ll walk on the edge of steep rice terraces, balancing on narrow edges of concrete or natural stone. Sticks are used for balance – plant them in the rice terraces to help your progress – and the local guides will assist you if you need. The incredible views are more than worth it though, and you can also use the time to learn about the customs and culture of the local Ifugao people from your guide. This afternoon you’ll have some free time to relax, read a book, or enjoy a massage from one of the locals. Soak up the views of Batad's famous rice terraces, which line the entire valley like an amphitheatre, and can come in and out of the clouds like a mirage.Notes: In Batad your guesthouse has twin and triple share rooms, shared bathrooms and Asian style toilets. Showers are usually cold water only, but you can request a bucket of hot water for a small fee.
Day 5: Banaue
You’ll start the third day of the trek with a short final walk of approximately 30 minutes up to Sadel. Then you’ll probably be happy to not use your legs for a bit as you’re transported back to Banaue by road (approximately 1 hour). Here you’ll be reunited with your main luggage back at the guesthouse. Enjoy plenty of time to freshen up, then later in the afternoon head out to the Hiwang Village. Here you’ll find wonderful views overlooking the rice terraces, Banaue town, and the Cordillera Mountains. Your leg muscles haven’t done all their work quite yet – you’ll also wander around traditional Ifugao houses that have been converted into mini museums. Here you can discover the traditional culture of the local people, including a multitude of wooden carved rice gods and decorative skulls. Later tonight at the guesthouse, you may want to enjoy a celebratory drink while watching the sun set over the rice terraces for the last time.Notes: In Banaue you’ll stay in a simple hotel in twin share rooms with private bathrooms, with showers of hot and cold water.
Day 6: Sagada
Leave the rice terraces behind and travel into scenic alpine mountains by jeepney. There’ll be plenty of time to stop off at the many viewpoints along the way and capture those priceless photos of the rice terraces below. Along the way you’ll also pause at Bontoc, the capital of the Mountain Province (2 hours from Banaue). Here there'll be time for some lunch and a visit to the Bontoc Museum. This wonderful museum, laid out in the style of a traditional Ifuago house, is packed with captivating memories from the past of each of the region’s main tribes. There are turn-of the-century photographs of headhunters with their loot, hunting implements, baskets for carrying severed heads, traditional costumes, farming tools, musical instruments, jewellery, and more. From Bontoc, continue to today’s destination of Sagada (approximately 30-45 minutes). There will be fresh mountain air and stunning views everywhere you look. Notes: Tonight’s accommodation is in twin share rooms with private bathrooms, with showers of hot and cold water.
Day 7: Sagada
Today you’ll get trekking again with a 3-hour walk to the Hanging Coffins in Echo Valley. Pass by the town cemetery, the American Anglican St. Mary’s Cathedral built by missionaries, then continue into Echo Valley. Trek down the side of some cliffs, maybe testing out the valley’s name, before reaching an unusual burial site. Dangling high up on the limestone cliffs, the coffins are both mystifying and eerie in their presence. The Igorot practice of attaching the coffins to the mountain comes from a belief that underground burials isolate a person from the natural world and the gods. Continue on your trek, crossing an ankle deep stream, and pass by a coffee plantation and a small waterfall. The trek then ends at the Sagada weaving factory, a local pioneer in the industry having been making products since 1968. If you’d like to delve deeper into the local burial practices, this afternoon you can take local transport to a valley view point across to the Sugong Hanging Coffins, visit Lumiang Burial caves to see stacks of carved coffins, and also see the Klitepan and Kapay-aw rice terraces.Notes: Today’s trek is quite adventurous and a good level of fitness is required. Shoes with a good grip are a must on this trek as the trail is steep and often slippery, with loose gravel at times.
Day 8: Baguio
Hop on a private mini bus heading towards Baguio City. This journey takes approximately 7 hours through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Philippines. Travelling through the Cordillera Central, the highest and largest mountain range in the Philippines, pass peaks of incredible heights (and drops), dotted all-over with small villages and terrace-upon-terrace of rice and other crops. This is one journey you don't want to sleep through. Baguio City was established by American troops in 1900 and has become a popular destination for both travellers and local tourists seeking a retreat from the heat of the lowlands. It's now a bustling urban centre offering town comforts high in the Cordillera Mountains. When you arrive you’ll take a leisurely afternoon walk to explore the city, visiting Burnham Park, which features a lovely lake, lawns, wooded areas, and also stop by a local market and the town's most popular shopping mall.Notes: Tonight’s accommodation is in twin share rooms with private bathrooms, with showers of hot and cold water.
Day 9: Mt Pinatubo
An early start by private mini bus (it can get cold on the bus so pack a light warm layer) takes you to the small town of Capas (approximately 5 hours). Here you’ll meet your guides and prepare for the trek to stunning Mt Pinatubo, which erupted as recently as 1991. By the time the explosions had finished, the top of the mountain was gone, replaced by a large lake-filled crater. Jump in a 4x4 and travel along a bumpy, dusty road (bring a scarf and sunglasses to protect your eyes) for around an hour before disembarking and starting your trek. You’ll hike for around 2.5 hours to reach the crater. On the way you may meet some of the indigenous people of the area, the Aetas, who have lived on the slopes of the volcano for several centuries, surviving as hunter-gatherers in the dense jungles. Nowadays, they live in more modern settlements and some of them work as guides on the volcano. Arrive at Lake Pinatubo, a stunning vista of pristine emerald green water in the heart of the volcano; relax and take photos of this magnificent sight. Tonight your unique accommodation is in tents by the crater lake.Notes: Your main luggage will be stored at a guesthouse close to the base of the mountain, so you'll only take a small daypack for overnight necessities. Please make sure everything is waterproofed as it can rain heavily at times. The terrain is uneven so bring supportive shoes with good grip. Sleeping bags will be provided, but it can be cold at night here so bring warm clothing as well. Please refer to the “Important Notes” section for further information about the camping on this trip.
Day 10: Manila
Wake up in unique surroundings, soak up the views across the lake, then trek around 2.5 hours back from the campsite down the mountain. Get back in the 4x4 for an hour, and then transfer to a private bus to swap mountains of rock for mountains of buildings as you return to Manila (approximately 3 hours). Depending on traffic you’ll arrive in the city in the late afternoon, around 5-6pm. Reacquaint yourself with the hustle and bustle of city life after all that time spent out in isolated communities, and then tonight perhaps gather together your fellow adventurers for an optional final farewell dinner in downtown Manila.
Day 11: Manila
Today is a free day for you head and experience this chaotic city anyway that you wish. Remember to take a hotel business card with you to help you get back to your hotel.As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Day 12: Puerto Princesa
Start the morning with a fun ride in a local jeepney through the streets of Manila, which are the most popular local form of transport in the Philippines. Start today's adventure with a visit to San Aguistin Church, the oldest stone built church located in the historical walled Intramuros in Manila. Continue onto Casa Manila, which is a colonial lifestyle museum that provides a glimpse into what it was like to live in Manila in the 19th century. From here travel to Fort Santiago; a Spanish Military Fortress that was built and reinforced for over 200 years. In the afternoon take the short flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, which takes around an hour and twenty minutes. On arrival, you'll instantly see the slower pace of this island compared to busy Manila. 'Puerto', as the locals call it, is the capital of Palawan and has been internationally recognised as Philippines cleanest and greenest of all cities in the Philippines. Palawan has some amazing seafood restaurants, so perhaps head out in the evening and give one a try.
Day 13: San Rafael Beach
Head out this morning in a private mini van and drive to Sabang, which should take about an hour and fifty minutes. Sabang is most famous for it's Subterranean River that's 8 kilometres in length and passes through a magnificent limestone cave that opens onto the ocean. Jump into a boat with a local guide and explore this great cave complex, and remember to bring a camera. After lunch you may want to do the optional Mangrove Boat trip which gets you into the heart of the thick mangrove forests. You will travel in small traditional boats down the river with plenty of opportunity of wildlife spotting. After a 40 minute drive you arrive at your private beach for the next 2 nights. San Rafael beach has basic beach cottages with private ensuite facilities.
Day 14: San Rafael Beach
This morning you meet up with your local guide who'll be walking with the group to meet the Batak Tribe - one of about 70 indigenous peoples of the Philippines. The trek will take around two to three hours in total and we leave early in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat. The trek is generally quite flat with only small rises along the way, but the path is quite rocky so shoes with a good grip is recommended. There's quite a few river crossings today, so sandals with a back strap and decent grip would be ideal if you don't want to get your shoes wet. If you're lucky enough to be there in the right season, you may be able to eat the fruit directly from the cashew trees. After finishing the hike, drive back to the beach chalets in San Rafael beach. There's plenty of free time for swimming in the waters or reading a good book.
Day 15: El Nido
Say farewell to San Rafael Beach today and travel to El Nido in a private mini van (approximately five hours). With a backdrop of marble cliffs to it's white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, El Nido town is the base for many island adventures. There are over 50 beaches to discover that are all accessible by the boats docked. It's quite easy to pick an isolated beach, book a local boat, pack some food and drinks, and head out on your own adventure. The afternoon is free for you to wander around town, have a drink at one of the many beach side restaurants, do a spot of shopping or count how many different coloured tricycles you can spot on the streets.
Day 16: El Nido
This morning head off on a full day snorkelling trip, island hopping off El Nido. Witness jagged limestone islands, rocky coves, virgin rainforest and white sandy beaches. The snorkelling is just as spectacular, with beautiful coral and many different species of fish. After an included lunch, venture out on various trips to lagoons throughout the day. Your evening is then free to do as you wish.
Day 17: El Nido
You'll have plenty of free time today in El Nido for beach loving activities. If you feel like some more adventure then hire a kayak from El Nido town or jump on a boat out to one of the lagoons. You'll kayak on turquoise, crystal clear water, lagoons with dramatic cliffs or past pristine, untouched beaches - where you'll see a plethora of tropical fish. If you want to see a picture perfect beach take an optional trip to Nacpan beach. White sand and lined with palm trees this is another beach in paradise and worth the drive out of town. Your leader can help you organise transport to this beach if you are interested. Jump on a bike and get pedaling around El Nido town. Bike hire can be organised locally for a small fee.
Day 18: Puerto Princesa
Say goodbye to your island paradise and travel back to Puerto Princesa in a private mini van (approximately six hours). Tonight, you'll finish the trip with a special treat. Travel for around 45 minutes out of Puerto Princesa to the Iwahig River, where you'll see fireflies glowing among the mangroves by the river. It's a truly magical experience and it's the perfect way to end a trip. Head out tonight for your final dinner together as a group, at a local restaurant called Kainato. This is a restaurant that supports the community and employs some people who have disabilities, so please be patient with the staff.
Day 19: Puerto Princesa
Your Philippines Island Getaway ends after breakfast this morning. There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time.
- 3-day trek with local guide
- Banaue - Bontoc Museum
- Guided walk to Hanging Coffins and Bokong Falls
- Baguio -Guided orientation walk
- Mt Pinatubo climb
- Manila - City Tour San Agustin Church, Casa Manila, Fort Santiago
- Sabang - Puerto Princesa Subterranean River boat trip
- Sabang - Batak Tribe trek
- El Nido - Island hopping boat trip & snorkelling
- Puerto Princesa - Iwahig River Firefly Boat trip
18 Breakfast(s) Included
3 Lunch(es) Included
4 Dinner(s) Included