If you’re wondering where to travel next, we have just the place for you: Iloilo. This quiet province in Visayas is brimming with activities for every type of traveler, whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, an adrenaline junkie, or a laidback traveler. And the best part? Many of the activities here are affordable!
If you need 10 reasons for you to visit Iloilo today (or the holidays or during the summer), check out this list below:
1. Visit Islas de Gigantes
Beach-lovers will enjoy Islas de Gigantes, a beautiful beach with clear waters, white sand, rock formations, caves, and a lagoon. Make sure to visit Tangke Lagoon, a hidden saltwater lagoon that offers great opportunities for swimming, and Pawikan Cave, which has awesome rock formations lit up by openings at the cave ceiling. The cave got its name from the rock formations, which are said to resemble turtle eggs.
2. Try the OG La Paz Batchoy at the La Paz Market
One of the staples of Ilonggo cuisine is La Paz Batchoy, a rich and delicious noodle soup overflowing with an egg, beef loin, crushed chicharon, spring onions, and garlic. The soup was established at the La Paz Public Market and there are many restaurants offering it there, but people say that it was invented by Netong’s. You can get a bowl for only P120!
3. Go see some churches!
Iloilo is home to plenty of majestic churches and they’re all worth checking out! Top on the list is the Miagao Church, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its history: the Baroque church was built in 1797 with thick walls to protect itself from Moro Invaders. Attend a mass and admire the retablo, which is finished in 98% gold and silver. Other churches worth exploring are Jaro Cathedral, the San Joaquin Parish Church, and Molo Church.
4. Go back in time and visit Calle Real
There are a lot of heritage buildings in Iloilo and you can see them all at Calle Real, with some of them dating back to the 1800’s. Many of the buildings there have signs saying when it was built, so don’t forget to check those out! Also, don’t miss out on the Panay Railways train, which was preserved and is on display at Plaza Libertad. And because of the many old buildings, a lot of establishments there follow the retro theme.
Side trip: you can also check out ancestral houses like Casa Mariquit (built in 1803), Nelly’s Garden (built in 1928), Avanceña House (built in 1865), Molo Mansion (now a store), and the Magdalena Jalandoni Mansion (now a wellbeing center).
5. Hike at Bucari Pine Forest
If you’re more of the hiking type, you’ll enjoy the Bucari Pine Forest, aptly described as Little Baguio and the summer capital of Iloilo for its cooler temperature. You can either hike or bike to the top. Don’t forget a photo of the view!
6. Climb Garin Farm’s Stairway to Heaven
One of the most iconic scenes in Iloilo is Garin Farm’s Stairway to Heaven, a pilgrimage site with 480 steps going up to the Divine Mercy Cross. The cross is surrounded by an all-white area filled with angels and angelic music. It’s like you’re at the gates of heaven! Aside from this unique landmark, Garin Farm also has horseback riding, pedal boats, and ziplines.
7. Relax at the Iloilo River Esplanade
If you want to have a chill afternoon, stay by the Iloilo River Esplanade and relax with some snacks (Ilonggo snacks like biscocho, of course), coffee, and good company. You can also stroll along the esplanade and admire the view and all the establishments around the area. Make sure to be here in the afternoon so you can take photos of the gorgeous sunset.
Bulabog Putian National Park is a protected rainforest that’s home to different kinds of flora and fauna. It’s also an important historical spot since it was used as a hideout during the Spanish occupation. Look carefully and you’ll see text written by the revolutionaries on the cave walls, with one reading, “Los republicanos juran morir antes que entregarse,” or “the republicans swear to die before surrendering.” Here, you can trek, visit the mountain spring resort, or explore the more than 30 caves.
9. See the Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary
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If you’re into marine life, visit the Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary! The place is home to a marine reserve where you can snorkel to see the rich underwater life. You can also have a picnic, look at the sea through the view deck, and appreciate what this island has.
10. Check out the other islands at Concepcion
You can explore more islands at Iloilo at Concepcion, where you can go island hopping! Concepcion is home to 16 islands with white sand, hilltops and mountains, and an incredibly blue sea. There’s plenty to do here: relax with friends, get a tan, or go snorkeling to see all the beautiful coral reefs and fish underwater.
If you have a little extra time (we suggest you make time for this), visit the nearby island of Guimaras, which is only 15 minutes away by boat. Here, you can enjoy the pristine Guisi Beach, the National Heritage House Lopez Mansion, the Trappist Monastery, and its most famous delicacy: the sweetest mangoes you will ever taste. Make sure to try the mango pizza at The Pitstop!
Explore Iloilo with AirAsia, which offers four flights daily to this paradise! Fly from Manila to Iloilo for only P890. Booking period is from September 17 to October 7, with flights from September 17 to June 30, 2019. To book, click here!