8 must-visit places for the full Filipino experience

Enjoy the best of food and lifestyle in the Philippines during your next trip!

Nicole Descalsota

Published: 30 June 2022, 9:51 AM

With over 7,000 islands, there’s a seemingly endless list of things to do in the Philippines. 

The obvious choices are the sunny islands, such as Boracay and Palawan. But aside from warm beaches and glimmering seas, the country has so much more to offer.

From the national monuments that showcase the capital’s robust history, to the charming natural trails just outside the city, here are eight places that will give you the full experience of Filipino culture!

1. Tanay

It’s time to hit the road and head to the beautiful province of Tanay, located just a few hours’ drive outside of the main city of Manila.


Unplug, unwind, and be one with nature at Tanay. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE DESCALSOTA


Tucked away from the rush of Metro Manila, city dwellers can experience authentic countryside living at Tanay. It is also the perfect starting point to many nature sites, situated around forests and mountains. 

The area has lush tropical grounds and clear streams, where residents even wash their laundry and take swims. 

Nearby organic farms allow you to pick fresh produce, including the Filipino-native mango, and even garden terraces that have beautiful flowers all year round.

2. Pililla

Everything’s green in Pililla –– even the energy! The place is famous for its wind farms that generate electricity for thousands of homes.


Pililla’s views and roads are popular among motorcyclists and cyclists alike, although one of the most common ways to get around is using a motorised tricycle. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE DESCALSOTA


Be greeted by the strong breeze and really take in the view of Pililla’s meadows. The backdrop of the wind turbines combined with the hilltop view gives the feeling of truly being surrounded by nature.


You’ll be sure to meet many animals wandering around the large expanse of land in the countryside. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE DESCALSOTA


To completely immerse yourself in rural living, take the chance to get up close and personal with free-roaming animals at nearby farms, or explore authentic Filipino cuisine at nearby eateries!

3. Lake Caliraya

A lake situated outside the capital city, Caliraya is a popular spot frequented by locals for its wide variety of outdoor recreation.


Travellers can take a small boat to reach the islets around the lake, housing different activities and specialties. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE DESCALSOTA


A variety of water sports such as boating and water skiing are available at the lake, and are especially popular during the summertime. 

If you’re not interested in getting your feet wet, some of the small islands next to Lake Caliraya also offer more extreme outdoor activities such as ziplines and sky cycling, where the bicycle is on a rope that’s suspended metres off the ground. 

The cuisine at Caliraya is also definitely worth trying out. Fish dishes are a must-try since the fresh fish are caught at the lake itself. 

Whether you want to spice up your vacation or enjoy the tranquil lake and open-air, Lake Caliraya is sure to be a landscape you’ll never forget.

4. Laguna

You don’t need to be at the beach to dip your toes into clear water!

With its name literally meaning “lake”, Laguna is renowned for the abundance of bodies of water that can be explored in the region. Rivers, waterfalls, hot springs and even stream-adjacent caves are easily accessible by canoe.


Laguna is the birthplace of Filipino national hero José Rizal, and its roads lead to many neighbouring major cities. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE DESCALSOTA


The province of Laguna is also home to a popular Filipino dessert, the buko pie, which is a coconut-custard pie. 

Drive-by any of the roadside street shops and get a warm slice of Filipino flavours that will leave you wanting more.

5. Makati

Hit the town and enjoy the energy of the country’s party hub, Makati!

In the day, Makati is the financial centre of the Philippines. But at night, it transforms into one of the best cities to experience nightlife.


Makati is estimated to have a commuter-adjusted population of about one million people. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE DESCALSOTA


Due to its abundance of skyscrapers, the Makati cityscape is especially stunning after nightfall –– which is also when its social scene comes to life. 

What better to accompany some drinks than some live music? Makati, in particular, has all types of establishments that perfectly mix music and fun. 

From dance clubs to retro bars, no matter what kind of experience you’re looking for, the city has something for you!

6. Mall of Asia

Get ready to shop ‘til you drop at the largest shopping centre in the Philippines!

With over 600 stores to visit, you’ll be spoiled for choice. No matter your budget or shopping list, the mall has everything you need, from uniquely Filipino souvenirs to food chains that you can’t find in Singapore, like Dairy Queen and Tim Hortons.


The mall reclaimed its position as the biggest in the Philippines as it opened the world’s largest IKEA store in 2021. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE DESCALSOTA


If you don’t know where to start, head to the main mall. Not only is it a shopper’s paradise, it also has activities like ice sports for those who wish to incorporate a little more recreation into their trip.

A short drive from the mall will also lead you to other tourist destinations such as a scenic view of the city port Manila Bay, and one of the capital’s most popular amusement parks, Star City.

7. Intramuros

One of the most significant markers of the Philippines’ colonial history, Intramuros –– literally translated to “inner walls” –– is a walled district that served as one of Manila’s defences. The area’s history can be traced back to the 1500s when it was built by the Spaniards.


The Manila Cathedral, located in Intramuros, is where Pope Francis conducted his first mass in the Philippines during his 2015 visit. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE DESCALSOTA


Currently, the Intramuros area encloses multiple statues and churches. The most notable is Fort Santiago, where one the Philippines’ national heroes, José Rizal, was imprisoned in the 1800s. 

Equally educational and inspiring, there’s no better way to appreciate Filipino architecture and learn a little bit about the country’s culture than standing on a piece of history.

8. National Museum of the Philippines

The art museum documents the heritage of the Philippines, providing a deep dive into Filipino history through a blend of art and sculptures which not only provides a view but imparts powerful stories to the mind.


The National Museum Complex houses three different branches: fine arts, anthropology, and natural history, each with its own building. PHOTO CREDIT: HERSHELLE CALICA


Art and history buffs will especially love the informative and specially curated collections, where each floor has a different theme and captures a different moment of the past.

In addition to the displays, the neoclassical architecture of the exhibit house transports visitors to a different era. 

There are also many artsy Instagrammable spots both inside and outside the museum, so snap away to make the moment in history truly last forever.

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