Arrive in the heart of Spanish activity in the Far East during the 16th century. Once known as the 'Pearl of the Orient', the city went on to witness Chinese insurrections, a British occupation, a war against the Spanish and the Americans, and some of the bitterest fighting of World War II. Today it is the capital of the Philippines and one of the most populous cities in the world.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to have dinner on the roof deck restaurant of the hotel. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Manila at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you will need to arrive into Ninoy Auino International Airport (MNL), which is one hours\ drive from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up in the lobby at 9am on day two.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to visit the National Museum of the Philippines Complex, which houses the Fine Arts Museum, Natural History Museum and Anthropology Museum. It is less than a 10-minute walk from the hotel, and admission is free. Stay: Bayleaf Intramuros Hotel (Comfortable)
This morning we take a tour of the city by bus visiting Rizal Park and the historic walled city of Intramuros, where we find San Agustin, the oldest church in the Philippines and a UNESCO World Heritage site. In nearby Binondo, one of the first Chinatowns in the world, we explore the network of alleys and side streets that lead us to Binondo Church, Santa Cruz Church and the old commercial district of Escolta where we'll see art deco structures, such as the Perez-Semanilio building, that survived World War II. The afternoon is free. The bus will return to the hotel, however you may wish to stay in Chinatown for lunch and further exploration of this colourful area, visiting one of the Taoist temples or mingling with the locals in the street markets, returning independently by taxi. Stay: Bayleaf Intramuros Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
We depart Manila this morning and head south to San Pablo City in Laguna Province, where we find ourselves amongst tropical foliage and coconut trees, scenery typical to this rural part of the Philippines. We board a large bamboo raft on Pandin Lake where we gently float across the lake. Those wishing to swim are welcome to take a dip. We enjoy an included lunch in traditional Filipino style - using our hands to eat food served on a banana leaf. Afterward we drive on to Tagaytay for an overnight stay. Stay: View Park Hotel (Comfortable) (B/L)
This morning we drive to nearby Taal Volcano, one of the smallest in the world. The volcano itself is located on Taal Crater Island within a lake, a caldera formed by prehistoric eruptions, and is still active. We enjoy a boat trip across the lake to the island, where we trek up to the crater to be rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the caldera lake. You may wish to treat yourself to a fresh coconut drink as you enjoy the scenery. We make our way back to the mainland where we will stop for a lunch break before driving back to Manila for our late afternoon flight north to Laoag. Total walking time is around three hours with a climb of 300 m. Stay: Java Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
We have a full free day to enjoy the many activities available nearby. Optional activities include an excursion to Paoay Lake and the Baroque 18th century UNESCO Paoay Church, otherwise known as the Church of Saint Augustine - famous for its unusual architecture and bell tower built with coral stones; a Walk across the coastal La Paz sand dunes or an excursion to the tropical palm fringed sandy beaches of Pagudpud on the northern coast of Luzon, around an hour and half from Laoag. Stay: Java Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
We spend the morning driving south to the charming town of Vigan. One of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines. Vigan's historic heart was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1999. The best-preserved example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia, it is home to cobbled streets, colonial villas and the imposing grandeur of a 16th century cathedral. This afternoon is free for you to relax or head out and get a feel of the city ahead of our full day's sightseeing tomorrow. Stay: Hotel Felicidad (Comfortable) (B)
This morning we discover Vigan by kalesa (horse-drawn carriage). We see well-preserved old stone houses made from hard adobe stones such as the Syquia Mansion, a former presidential residence. We also visit the Burgos museum, a small ethnographic museum. Later we take a short drive to a pottery workshop known locally as Burnayan, where we learn about the ancient tradition of pottery making, dating from the 16th century. Here we can also browse shops that showcase hand woven fabrics and antiques. We head back to the city and on to Calle Don Mena Crisologo where we sample famous Ilocano delicacies such as the longaniza (sausage), empanada (meat pie) and bagnet (deep fried crispy pork crackling). Stay: Hotel Felicidad (Comfortable) (B)
After an early breakfast, we drive to Sagada, arriving in the early afternoon. We visit nearby Echo Valley to see the mysterious hanging coffins and Lumiang cave, a burial cave. The indigenous population have been burying their dead in coffins perched high on cliff faces for over 2000 years. No one knows exactly why this practice started but it is believed to both keep the preserved bodies safe from wild animals and take them one step closer to heaven. Stay: Masferre Country Inn (Comfortable) (B)
We make our way this morning to Bontoc, a bustling market town and former capital of the Cordillera region. We will visit its small museum that has a number of interesting exhibits about the region's indigenous communities. We continue on to Banaue (1300 m). Carved into the mountains of Ifugao province, the 2000-year old rice terraces that occupy these high, fertile landscapes are considered by Filipinos to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. Our destination is the town of Banaue, our gateway into the remote villages of the Cordilleras. The Banaue Rice Terraces and recognised as a National Culture Treasure along with the rice terraces that are found in Mayoyao, Batad, Bangaan, Kiangan and Hungduan. It is believed that if these ancient terraces were laid end to end they would reach halfway around the planet! This afternoon we take a local jeepney (a converted jeep/bus) and drive out towards drive out towards Hapao village. As we drive through the mountains we enjoy some spectacular views of the Cordilleras as we pass through a series of deep gorges and canyons to the Hapao Rice Terraces where we are rewarded with spectacular scenery of terraced rice fields cut through by the clear waters of the Hapao River. Total walking time is around two hours. Stay: Banaue Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
This morning, we ride a jeepney to Sadel, the starting point of our trek to the Batad and Banga-an rice terraces. The trek takes us along the terraces and up to a viewpoint that overlooks the terraces. From here the view is almost completely panoramic and some describe it as like looking down onto an ancient amphitheatre. Stay: Banaue Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
Today sees an early start for a full day drive to Mabalacat, our base for climbing Mount Pinatubo tomorrow morning. Located in the mountains that separate the central plains from the west coast of Luzon Island, Mount Pinotubo volcano was the scene of the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century when, on June 15, 1991, it erupted with an intensity that was ten times that of the Mount St Helens volcano, a decade earlier. On arrival in Mabalacat later on today we have the opportunity to rest in tranquil rural surroundings. Stay: Abes Farm (Comfortable) (B)
This morning we leave quite early for the drive to the Santa Juliana station, where we take 4x4 jeepneys to drive to the foot of the trail head , from where we trek to the volcano's crater - a relatively easy walk of usually around two hours each way, although in the months of March to May when there may be some erosion of the path due to rainfall, the roads are manually paved to allow access, making the jeepney drive longer and the trek shorter. After a lunch break we return by road to Manila for our final night. Total walking time is around four hours. Please note that there are several stream crossings in ankle-deep water on this trek, so please be prepared for your footwear to get wet. Stay: Bayleaf Intramuros Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight south to Bohol island.
This beach extension has been designed to complement the trip but will be run without a leader and may not be a group experience, so you may not be travelling with other customers. A rep will be on hand to meet you on arrival and to facilitate your transfer to the resort. Stay: Bohol Beach Club (Comfortable) (B)
Enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Alona beach. Stay: Bohol Beach Club (Comfortable) (B)
Relax further or perhaps venture out to explore the island. Stay: Bohol Beach Club (Comfortable) (B)
Departing Bohol this morning we drive to Bohol-Panglao International Airport (TAG), where we will take a short flight and arrive into Manila at about 1pm and this is where our trip ends. The earliest your international flight can depart is 5pm. (B)