We bump into familiar faces and say – ‘It is a small world’. Well, it is true to an extent and interesting too. Travellers flying to Manila face just one question: what to do and which are the best places to visit in Manila?
The Philippine archipelago is huge. The north and south islands are now easily accessible to tourists visiting Manila. Many visitors escape the clammy climate and head towards these heavenly atolls.
If you do not wish to explore malls and other attractions, then keep your eyes towards the horizon and head countryside. When it comes to adventure, the surrounding getaways provide a fascinating tour like none other. Some recommendations are:
1. Rizal Park
The Rizal Park is a monumental area in Manila, dedicated to the gallant hero – Jose Rizal. His statue and monument stand in the center of the park, right across the Roxas Boulevard. Several tourists can be seen clicking photographs of the famous icon. And, there is no entrance fee. Enjoy and relax as you feel.
2. MOA – Mall of Asia
Asia’s largest mall is stunning. A day is not enough to explore the mall entirely. Apart from the glitzy showrooms, this mall hosts musical concerts with renowned celebrities and artists. Every Saturday visitors can witness fireworks. If you get a chance to visit this gigantic mall, do not miss the IMAX theatre.
3. Fort Santiago and Intramuros
The Intramuros is the historic walled area located in the modern Manila. The name that means ‘within the walls’ in Latin, was built by the Spanish. It houses several historical places and age-old remnants. Fort Santiago is a famous place located within the Intramuros and it highlights the life and culture of the country since its inception. With an entrance fee of 75 pesos, you can enjoy the ancient tour.
4. The National Museum
If you wish to see a collection of Manila’s ancient masterpieces, visiting the National Museum is a must. As you enter, a huge painting will capture your attention. Well, this is just the beginning; it is a long way to go. As you walk into the corridors, you will see Philippine treasures and a collection of archives. You are free to take pictures, but do not touch anything.
5. Manila Ocean Park
Admire Manila’s marine and aquatic life at the Manila Ocean Park, which is one of the most popular places in the city. Facilities at the Ocean Park include marine education, latest electronic tools and a tour for kids. You could also dive and swim with the sharks and marvel at the rare underwater species. This is one of the best tourist attractions in Manila.
6. Manila Bay or Baywalk
Rubbing shoulders with the Manila Ocean Park, the Manila Bay is the idyllic venue to watch ocean activities and huge ships sail by. Enjoy a stroll with your partner and take your kids out for adventure in the open space.
7. Mt. Pinatubo
With a bus ride to Tarlac and a jeep ride, you get to trek up the massive craters of Mt. Pinatubo. The journey is long, but the view is staggering. Book cheap flights to Manila in advance to avoid last minute hassles because there’s a lot to see and explore. Admire the crater filled with water over several years and enjoy boating as well as camping.
8. Crater of Taal Volcano
If you have loved nature, you will love it from a closer point too. Within 2-3 hours, you are at the starting point in Talisay. Hire a small boat towards the volcanic island. Prepare to use all your energy to trek up the mountain. The sun might be harsh, but it’s worthwhile to walk up.
9. Tagaytay City
For some valid reason, if you do not want to trek, you can avoid the physical exertion and just be in awe at the volcano. Tagaytay offers amazing views with a cool climate and amazing restaurants to treat your hunger. Visit the recently inaugurated Sky Ranch and enjoy riding the Giant Ferris Wheel. If you are scared of heights, be a ground person and enjoy a walk in the garden.
10. San Juan, Nasugbu and Calatagan
Unbelievably, San Juan is blessed with the most popular beaches. It might be crowded! So if it is, drive down to the other side and land in Matabungkay. This place was once ‘majestic’, but the present atmosphere can still provide a recess. Nasugbu and Batangas can still surprise you with several points of interest.
11. Mix into a vibrant festival
Just remember the dates to these stunning and jovial festivals near Manila:
Pahiyas Festival – May 15
Parada ng Lechon – June 24
Higantes Festival – November 23
Giant Lantern Festival – Saturday before Christmas
Hot Air Balloon Fiesta – 3rd Week of February
The Pahiyas Festival is a favourite of many. It is celebrated for good harvest in the honour of San Isidro de Labrador. A parade circulates the town and stops at homes that are decorated colourfully. The traffic can be quite dense and if you are hungry, there’s plenty to eat. Fly to Manila with affordable airfares and see it all for yourself.
12. Pagsanjan Falls
The surrounding lush landscapes are also dotted with captivating waterfalls, but the Pagsanjan Falls will make your visit unforgettable. Get a small boat and experience passing through rapids and rocks. The best-kept hidden secret is the Buntot Palos Falls that provides the ultimate thrill to adventure lovers.
Read Also: 10 Most Amazing Waterfalls in Philippines
13. Freedom Islands
The Freedom Islands are considered as one of the most popular travel attractions in Manila comprise Long and Freedom Island, which lay towards the coast of Paranaque and Las Pinas. These islands are home to last remaining mangrove forests and salt marshlands. These islands also offer refuge to several species of birds and other small animals. You can book last minute flights to Manila from UK at a much cheaper rate and enjoy the time of your life.
14. Star City
Star City is not the name of any planet, this is a popular amusement park located in the heart of Manila City. With a few hundred pesos, you will get the pass to ride all rides. There are roller coasters, Wild River and fun waiting to excite you.
15. Paco Park
What was once Manila’s municipal cemetery, now transformed into a lush garden for leisure, and strolls. A sanctuary at the inner courts draws several people to admire the ancient design.
16. Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center
The busy Quezon City might seem like your everyday neighbourhood with busy crowd, playground, parks and gardens. Among these attractions lies Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center. If you are fond of wildlife, this is the perfect place for you.
17. Cafe Juanita
If you are craving for traditional Filipino dishes in the main city of Manila, look no further than Cafe Juanita. The wall and furniture design are so colourful that you will not feel like leaving the place. Recommend dishes are: Eggplant Omelette, mixed pork, Beef Mechado, beef with peanut sauce, milkfish, pork blood stew, cured beef, and more.
18. China Town
The Philippines caters to a large Chinese group residing in the city of Manila and hence, Chinese merchandise and dishes are popular among locals and international tourists. You might check out Soup No. 5 at China Town and savour delicious soup.
19. The Malacanang Palace
Located on the banks of Pasig River, the Malacanang Palace is translated as ‘place of the fisherman’. It remained occupied as a summer residence for the Spanish authorities. The red and white artistry that we see today went through a lot of renovations.
The museum displays souvenirs dating back to the 16th century. Make sure you book five days in advance and enjoy a memorable walking tour.
20. Makati Business District
The glitz, glory, and glamour that Manila displays succeeded due to the ongoing and developed trade, business, and tourism that we see today. If time permits, you can visit the financial district known as Makati. It is not boring; you can see towering skyscrapers, famous malls, broad streets with luxury cars and opulent hotels. Go, shop for famous brands; eat your heart out and soak up the affluent setup of the Makati.
The Philippines are most popular during the dry season, between November and April. The country is easily accessible. Visitors can visit several beautiful islands and remote areas. Book flights tickets to Manila 3-4 months prior to your departure and enjoy a memorable trip to the ‘Pearl of the Orient’.