n case you never considered visiting the Philippines, you should immediately revise your travel bucket list and put this beautiful country right on top! We had heard of so many amazing destinations that we initially didn’t even know where to start. So, in order to make things a bit easier for you, we'll outline our intended travel route through the Philippines in this article.
And yep you read that right, it’s the “intended” travel route. That’s because we actually ended up falling in love with our first stop where we stayed much longer than expected. As a result, we completely revamped our planned journey and definitely need to come back to the Philippines soon!
Hi! Nice to meet you, we are Marina and Ben. We live in Berlin and travel the world full-time 🚀
There are over 7.000 islands in the Philippines, so it might be a bit overwhelming where you should go first and how to travel this country. Here's the route that we came up with:
Our main means of transportation was the plane. The only exception would have been the trip from Cebu to Bohol via ferry and the route from Legazpi to Donsol via van. That being said, you could probably find even more ways to travel via boat, which would probably be less costly than a plane.
Manila is the capital of the Philippines and most likely the starting point for anyone flying in internationally. While we were told there are a lot of very good restaurants in Manila and you could do some good shopping, we only spent one night here.
Flight: from Berlin to Manila
Flight duration: ca. 17h
Flight costs: ca. 600€
This little island is pretty much the perfect vacation escape. In fact, we loved it so much that we spontaneously decided to stay about two weeks and completely change our trip itinerary. We really recommend you to stay here for at least 5 days.
Siargao has so much to offer: amazing surfing for beginners and pros, island hopping tours, endless palm tree forests, fluorescent caves, beautiful white sand beaches, delicious local and international food, fun parties, and so much more. Read our Ultimate Travel Guide for Siargao for all the details.
Flight: from Manila to Siargao
Flight duration: 2h
Flight costs: 100€
We flew in with Cebu Airlines, one of the major companies in the Philippines. The Siargao airport is lovely with the smallest luggage claim carrier we had seen until then. You‘ll be out within a few minutes and vans will be waiting for you to take you to your final destination.
We really wanted to visit Bohol for mainly three reasons:
First, it‘s home to the cutest little fella, the Tarsier. Since they are nocturnal animals, they have developed huge eyes compared to their generally tiny body. Never seen one in real life and would have loved to make their acquaintance. Now as usual, when it comes to wildlife and tourism, you need to make your research before you visit any place that features animals. From what we found online, the „Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary“ seems to be a fair option, as they are dedicated to preserve this fragile species.
Second, Bohol is know for the so called chocolate hills. There are over 1200 giant dome-shaped hills that stretch out over a vast area so everything you can see are these little mountains. Apparently, they get their name from the fact that the gras turns brown in dry season. So you gotta bring your own chocolate, we suppose.
Third, we planned in some extra days to go diving. Many resorts on the southern island of Panglao offer diving equipment and apparently, the close by reefs offer a fantastic variety in sea life.
Flight: from Siargao to Cebu
Ferry: from Cebu to Tagbilaran
Duration: 1h flight + 3h ferry
Flight costs: 50€
Oh wow, whenever we only think about this one we're getting super excited. Imagine you're swimming in the wide open ocean and then suddenly, a 10m long whale shark appears and swims right next to you. It must be one of the most humbling experiences to swim with these gentle giants. And don‘t worry if you‘re not a diver, most places don‘t even allow to be equipped with proper scuba diving gear. Simple snorkeling gear will do!
Now, the most advertised and commonly known location to swim with whale sharks is in Oslob close to Cebu City. However, you don‘t even need to do a lot of research to realize that this place does not create sustainable living conditions for these animals but instead seems to only focus on making as much revenue as possible. We quickly decided that Oslob would not be an option for us.
Instead, we had planned to fly up to Legazpi City and then drive to Donsol, where whale shark encounters are much more regulated. It seems the odds to actually see a whale shark are reduced as they do not feed the animals. But nevertheless, it's the better option.
Flight: from Cebu to Legazpi
Duration: 1h flight
Flight costs: 20€
For the last stop, we initially couldn‘t decide whether we wanted to go to Coron or El Nido. Both destinations are absolutely worth visiting. In the end, we went for El Nido simply because we were booking flights and accommodation very last minute. As a result, flights to Coron had become too expensive.
If you’ve done a bit of research about the Philippines, you’ll already have heard of El Nido as it’s been gaining popularity over the last years. In our opinion, despite the increase in tourism, it’s still a fantastic place to visit. We absolutely loved our island hopping tour and the little town of El Nido surprised us with a wide range of delicious restaurants and hip bars.
Also, you can discover amazing beaches, some of the biggest stretches of sand that we had ever seen. Even though there might be a lot of others around, some of the beaches are so vast that you could still find entirely lonely spots for yourself. Read more about this in our Best of El Nido Travel Guide.
Close by El Nido is Coron, a place we didn’t manage to see and still have on our wishlist. From what we can tell, Coron seems like an unreal paradise featuring the most impressive lime stone rock structures ever. Also, on Coron Island, you’ll find mystical lakes, some of which only locals have access to. If you have enough time, we suggest you visit this place as well.
Flight 1: from Legazpi to Cebu
Flight 2: from Cebu to Coron or El Nido
Duration: 1h + 1.5h flight
Flight costs: 20€ + 70€
Finally, we returned to Manila to catch our flight back home. While we could have booked the flights so that we wouldn't have needed another overnight stay, we planned in this extra time as a measure of security. It did happen a few times to us in the Philippines that flights were delayed by a few hours and we didn’t want to risk missing our long flight home.
Here are a few things that we initially didn't think about when we went to the Philippines. You don't need to do the same mistake, just stock up before: