4 Must-See Backpacking Spots in the Philippines

The Philippines is an expansive county with over 7,000 islands. However, most of these islands are uninhabited or not set up for tourists at all. It is possible to fly between certain islands or take regular ferries, but when traveling within the Philippines, getting anywhere takes time. No one is rushing – except maybe the Jeepney drivers – and it’s best approached that way as a backpacker.

Due to the expansive nature of the country, narrowing down the must-see places and allowing enough time to transit and spend time there is far more important than getting to 30 different spots. It’s not very achievable and will be far less enjoyable than taking your time.

Accordingly, here are the four must-see backpacking spots in the Philippines.

Northern Luzon

The island of Luzon is where the capital, Manila, is situated. As such, it makes sense to start from there. The northern part of Luzon has the Cordillera region, which is lush green and mountainous. Here you’ll have plenty of hiking, rice paddies, and incredible views to enjoy.

If you’re planning to stay in the region a few days – the best way to see its expanse – then consider living simply in local accommodation near the town of Sagada. You may want to bring along one of these stoves designed especially for backpacking for the convenience too.

The culture in the northern part of Luzon is unusual because due to the mountains, foreign invaders didn’t reach these parts. As such, there’s more local heritage and original landscapes to explore. Elsewhere, the Spanish and American influences are more noticeable.

To get there, catch a night bus from Manila to Banaue once you’re flown in and then a second bus onto Sagada itself the following day.

El Nido Region

The El Nido is a collection of 54 little islands and is considered a part of Palawan Island. The sandy beaches on many of these unspoiled islands are Instagram worthy for sure. There’s limestone cliffs nearby, blue lagoons for snorkeling in, and plenty of water-based transport to ferry you about from island to island.

Also, if you fancy a spot of climbing, then Mount Taraw is nearby, which will pose a challenge and provide excellent panoramic views from the summit.

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The island of Siargao used to be less known but it’s been discovered by a few backpackers in the last few years. As a result, there’s a growing backpacker scene with small businesses opening up to cater to the new visitors.

It’s a laid back place in the Southern part of the Philippines. The vibe is very chilled and many of the restaurants and bars are equally tame affairs compared to the likes of Manilla. Sometimes, the bars take turns in holding a party to avoid competing with each other.

For backpackers wanting to relax and enjoy some good food, there are few places better than Siargao Island. It’s also easy to island-hop from here to other nearby places once you’re there. Both Philippine Airlines and Philippine AirAsia run flights from Manila , which are a little pricey but worth it.


The hundreds of curved hills at Bohol pull in the visitors curious to observe this visual spectacle. The formations seem to resemble an alien planet from a sci-fi movie rather than Earth! They’re green initially but become brown when dry season hits. Because of this, they’re called the Chocolate Hills. There are plenty of legends to get sucked into if you let the locals convince you with their stories.
Over in Corella, there is the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary , which gets you up close with the awesome tarsier monkeys with their mesmerizing big eyes. When you’re finished at the Sanctuary, booking a cruise down the Loboc River is worth considering too.

Remember, in the Philippines, it’s best to relax and enjoy your time there. Rushing isn’t really an option in the tropics.

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