Philippines: Visit the tropical archipelago of 7,640 islands

You won’t find many countries more naturally diverse than the Philippines. Made up of 7,640 islands, the Southeast Asian archipelago sits near the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

Blessed with glorious sunshine and unique landscapes, around 2,000 of the islands are inhabited, with Luzon, the largest and northernmost of the islands hosting the Philippine capital of Manila.

The islands are still relatively difficult for international tourists to access, but things are expected to reopen later this year.

“The Philippines has been one of the most conservative countries in the world in terms of protection against COVID-19,” said Gerard Penga, the Philippines’ tourism attaché to the UK.

“For more than a year, we have been preparing destinations to ensure they meet global standards for health and safety protection.”

What are the travel restrictions in the Philippines?

Issuance of visas on arrival in the Philippines remains suspended, so anyone wishing to visit the country must obtain a visa from the nearest Philippine embassy prior to arrival. You will be refused entry if you do not have one.

The Philippines also currently operates a risk-based traffic light system. The UK and most other European countries are currently considered ‘Risk Yellow’. You can see the full list here.

Fully vaccinated travelers from yellow list countries must provide a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure. They must also pre-book accommodation in a quarantine hotel for five days. You will have to pass a test to be released on the fifth day and you can be released on the seventh day.

From February 16, travelers wishing to enter the Philippines must present a certificate stating that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Filming a survival show

The country’s strict measures have made it possible to organize unique events, despite the pandemic.

“Even at the height of the COVID-19 infection cases, we had Israel’s Survivor TV group. Over 100 people, the cast and crew of Survivor TV traveled to this remote Caramoan Island.

Once described as a “hidden island”, the TV blockbuster is now so world famous that the island is well known to travellers, although it is still difficult to reach. Isolated from the main Caramoan peninsula, you may need to take several buses and boats to reach them.

Despite the isolation of some of its islands, the Philippines has also suffered from overtourism in the past. But special measures have allowed one of its most famous destinations, the island of Boracay, to transform for the better.

Reviving Boracay Island

Awarded the title of “second most Instagrammable place in the world” by The 7 great journeys and labeled the best island in the world by Travel+Leisure in 2012, global popularity quickly overwhelmed Boracay.

After gaining a reputation as a 24/7 party island, authorities have declared the 10.32km islet closed to holidaymakers to give the ecosystem (and locals) a chance to relive. to re-establish.

“Now on the beach, we no longer allow smoking, drinking, loud parties or loud music, so it has become a paradise for relaxation, honeymooners, families, to commune with nature” , explains Penga.

“We had to remove all the structures on the shore, so now everything is wild, the water is clear.”

Unleash your underwater adventurer

If you’d rather be adventurous than lounging on the beach all day, there are plenty of activities for nature lovers in the Philippines.

If underwater sports are your thing, how about swimming with millions of sardines? the sardine race in the resort town of Moalboal on the island of Cebu offers divers a truly unique experience.

Head to Panagsama Beach pretty much any time of the year (although you’ll get a clearer view if you avoid the rainy season from June to October) and you can swim with this amazing school of fish . Sardines rise close to the surface of the water to feed on plankton, so even scuba divers can enjoy the silvery reflections of the swaying sardines.

“The underwater treasures of the Philippines are truly unparalleled, in fact we are the diving capital of Asia,” says Penga.

“According to the WTA (World Travel Awards) for the past three years, from 2019 to 2021, we have been voted the number one diving destination in the world.”

Walk your way to happiness

For something a little less sleazy, hiking is a great way to explore the sprawling environment of the Philippines. The country has 3,134 mountains to its name, the tallest being Mount Apo on the island of Mindanao.

You don’t have to climb the tallest mountain to get your hiking fix. Mount Pulag is a great place for both seasoned and less experienced (but not beginner) hikers, as it offers a variety of trails suitable for a range of abilities.

Popular with backpackers due to the stunning views of the ‘sea of ​​clouds’ from the top of the peak, it’s also a great place to watch the sunrise. Prepare well, as temperatures on the mountainside can drop to -5°C and depending on the trail you take, the hike can take anywhere from seven hours to a few days.

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