||THE ISLAND OF LUZON|
Philippines Largest Island
Luzon is the largest and most northerly of the main islands. Its spectacular landscape is made up of mountainous regions in the north, the flat vistas of the central plain, lakes and volcanoes in the southern peninsula, and a coastline dotted with caves and sandy-beached islands.
, capital and hub of the nation, is situated on the east coast. Founded in 1571 on the ruins of a Muslim settlement, Manila has been a port for hundreds of years. The oldest part of the city, the Intramuros (Walled City), was protected by a massive wall, some of which still remains today despite savage fighting staged here in the Second World War. Places of interest include San Augustin Church and Manila Cathedral, from which there is an excellent view of the 2072 sq km (800 sq miles) of the harbour, and the ruins of Fort Santiago. Outside the Intramuros is Chinatown, a market in the district of Binondo, crowded with shops, stalls and restaurants. Luneta Park contains the Rizal Monument, a memorial to the execution of this great Filipino intellectual of the late 19th century. Other places of interest are the American Cemetery and Coconut Palace.
Manila is a good base from which to make excursions, for instance to Las Piņas, situated a little way outside the city, where the famous Bamboo Organ is located and the Sarao Jeepney factory, where people are allowed to wander around free of charge.
About an hour's drive away from Manila through coconut plantations, Tagaytay Ridge in Cavite overlooks a lake that contains Taal Volcano, which itself holds another lake. Tagaytay is a popular destination in summer, when all kinds of festivities are celebrated and roadside stalls overflow with flowering plants and fruits in season.
The series of mineral springs of Hidden Valley lie secreted in a 90m (300ft) deep crater in Alaminos, enclosed by rich forests. The pools vary in temperature from warm to cold, and the lush trails end up at a gorge with a waterfall.
Villa Escudero, an 800-hectare coconut plantation in Quezon Province, less than two hours by road from Manila, is part of a working plantation, yielding rare glimpses into rural life. Guests are taken on a tour of a typical village on a cart drawn by a carabao, or water buffalo.
, 'The Rock', has a famous memorial to those who were killed during the Japanese invasion, and is accessible by hydrofoil. Day tours include refreshments and guide. A day trip to the town of Pagsanjan, 63km (39 miles) southeast of Manila, includes dug-out canoe rides down the jungle-bordered river to the Pagsanjan Falls. This was a location for the filming of Apocalypse Now, and is a popular excursion.
, a short distance from Manila, is a province famous for hot sulphur springs. The 'Towns of Baths', Pansol, Los Baņos and Cuyab are situated here. 250km (150 miles) north of Manila is Baguio, 1525m (5000ft) above sea level, a cool haven from the summer heat. It is accessible both by air and land, though the drive up the zigzagging Kennon Road is more popular as it offers spectacular views of the countryside. Baguio has a good variety of restaurants, mountain views and walking excursions. Main attractions include The Mansion, summer residence of the Philippine president; Bell Church; Baguio Cathedral; and the Crystal Caves, composed of crystalline metamorphic rocks and once an ancient burial site.
is eight hours' bus ride north of Baguio. A remote mountain community lives here, and tourists can visit their settlements. The beautiful rice terraces are the main attraction of this area. A breathtaking sight, they rise majestically to an altitude of 1525m (5000ft), and encompass an area of 10,360 sq km (4000 sq miles). The terraces were hand-carved some 2000 years ago using crude tools cutting into once barren rock, each ledge completely encompassing the mountain. Now listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites, they offer an unforgettable sight to tourists and trekkers in the area (see also the Sport & Activities section). Banaue has a tourist hotel and many good pensions.
, lying off the coast of Pangasinan, is made up of 400 islets surrounded by coral gardens and white sand beaches. This area is ideal for swimming and fishing. Hundred Islands is the second-largest marine reservation in the world, teeming with over 2000 species of aquatic life. The caves and domes of Marcos Island and the Devil's Kitchen are worth exploring.
The entire province of Palawan is a remarkable terrain for adventure and exploration, with its primeval rainforests, St Paul's Underground River and Tubattaha Reef. Inter-island cruises around northern Palawan are now available.
island, reached by ferry from Batangas pier and south of Manila, is a place where the stunning scenery includes Mount Halcon, 2695m (8841ft) high, Naujan Lake and Tamaraw Falls.
, situated on the northwest coast of Luzon, has some of the best beach resort facilities on the island. There are regular buses to La Union from Manila and Baguio.
, situated in the east, is developing as a tourist destination and offers beaches, hotels and sights such as the Mayon Volcano, a nearly perfect cone, and the Kalayukay Beach Resort.