The second-largest archipelagic country in the world after Indonesia, the Philippines has everything you could ever want from a holiday destination. Besides idyllic islands and breathtaking beaches, it has lush rainforests, soaring volcanoes and colorful coral reefs, while its quiet colonial towns and teeming megacities exhibit a wide array of cuisines and cultures.
Set in Southeast Asia, the enormous archipelago consists of around 7,640 islands with only roughly a third of them being inhabited. Surrounded by the shimmering waters of South China, Celebes and Philippine seas, it remarkably boasts the fifth-longest coastline in the world. Dazzling white sands are set alongside gently swaying palm trees and tantalizing turquoise lagoons. Very mountainous and biodiverse, its two largest and most populous islands are those of Luzon and Mindanao.
While its massive capital Manila can be a nightmare to navigate, its extensive array of monuments, museums and markets make it well worth stopping by. After exploring its historic heart, most visitors then head off to bask on beautiful beaches or amble about the well-preserved colonial cities of Vigan and Zamboanga.
Aside from seeing grand old churches, mosques and palaces, the Philippines’ main draw is of course its drop-dead gorgeous beaches and islands. Among the most popular are Boracay due to its wonderful white sands and El Nido for its incredible karst topography and crystal clear waters. Both Palawan and Cebu also have all kinds of picture-perfect beaches, fun watersports and sublime views, while the remarkable rice terraces of Banuae and unusual Chocolate Hills count among the country’s most impressive natural sights.