Top Trekking Routes in the Philippines
Trip to the Philippines ?! Why not combine a little trekking in nature with its magnificent beaches? Here is for you a selection of the best 5 treks in the Philippines, including terraced rice fields, volcanoes, lakes, hot springs, waterfalls and tropical forests
The Philippines is an archipelago made up of 7017 islands and which, not surprisingly, is known and appreciated above all for its beaches. The undulating nature of the area, however, allows you to discover it on foot, and there is certainly no shortage of opportunities! Among the advantages that can be enjoyed there is certainly the tropical climate and biodiversity, even more accentuated by the insular nature of the territory.
Some of the best known peaks are actually volcanoes, as is common in this part of the world: the Philippines are in fact part of the so-called “Pacific circle of fire.” The presence of volcanoes is also synonymous with thermal waters: some trekking excursions can be made more interesting by pleasant baths in natural hot springs.
Trekking in the Philippines often allows you to combine a stay in the hinterland with stops on the coast, thus taking advantage of the ocean and crystal clear waters, a destination for unforgettable water excursions.
As in many other destinations, it is highly advisable to contact a local agency to organize walking tours, whether they are daily or multi-day. In fact, these are often rather remote areas where the presence of a room will guarantee safety. The local guides also allow as always to get to know the territory better and to interact with the population, certainly an added value to the experience. Some (few) destinations require prior registration, which is all the more reason to hire a guide.
The best time of year to visit and trekking in the Philippines is between November and April, when it rains less and the connections between the islands are safe and simple. Possibly, choose the months of November-February to be able to enjoy lower temperatures and therefore more suitable for physical activity. From June to October, however, travel is not recommended because the rainy season makes everything more difficult.
1. Terraced rice fields on the island of Luzon
For a trek in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The most famous terraced rice fields in the Philippines are located in the heart of the island of Luzon, the largest and most populous of the entire archipelago. The terraces of Batad and Bangaan have been proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, thus certifying their uniqueness and their presence in this list of the 5 best treks in the Philippines.
It is a system of terracing that was built, probably, starting from 1000 years ago and is still partly used thanks to an ingenious irrigation system that allows the water that rises higher up to channel and reach the terraces. Unfortunately, their use has lost its commercial appeal over time: one part has been damaged by the earthquake that hit Luzon in 1990, the rest suffer the effects of El Niño (which periodically brings drought that pushes earthworms to the surface). Furthermore, the variety of rice grown with these traditional methods is no longer economically advantageous and therefore many growers have preferred to move to areas more suitable for growing ears with a higher yield.
As in Sapa in Vietnam, trekking among terraced rice fields essentially means a zig-zag path between villages and viewpoints, without a specific destination. In order to better appreciate the experience, you can opt for 3 days / 2 nights. Your local guide will decide with you every day the length of the route based on weather conditions and interests. The overnight stay is usually at local.
Banaue, the nearest town, can be reached on a one night bus ride from Manila, to be booked in advance. It is also possible to visit the terraces in a day, but both for the length of the journey from Manila and for the beauty of the area it makes more sense to linger and appreciate this side of the Philippines, in the company of locals and without haste.
2. Ascent to Mount Kanlaon
On the island of Negros, on one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines
The Mount Kanlaon (2435 m) is located on island of Negros is an excellent option for a trek in the Philippines on a volcano surrounded by tropical forest. The peak is the highest in the central Philippines. The route to the top takes 2-3 days depending on the route chosen and is moderately difficult.
Attention: Mount Kanlaon is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines and therefore it is essential to be informed about the conditions of the route and the volcanic activity; for this the use of a guide is mandatory.
Three routes reach the top. The first is the Wasay Trail (14.5km) from Mambucal, a location rich in sulfur springs and natural pools. The two days needed to reach the main crater, the highest one, consist of a hard trek that pays off with breathtaking views and a unique natural environment. The lakes that can be seen along the way are actually extinct craters and are also a marvel of the area. This route is only recommended for experienced walkers accustomed to the climate. The return from the summit usually takes place from the Guintubdan Trail described below.
The second is the Guintubdan Trail (8km), which is less demanding than the Wasay Trail. In this case the path is dotted with waterfalls of particular effect. Given the greater simplicity of this second route, it is possible to opt for an ascent and descent along this side. In this case the trek is reduced to 2 days.
A third option is the Mananawin Trail (14km) a route of intermediate difficulty. Again the experience is 3 days.
For the next adventures from the list, please visit the Mount Trekking Guide.