Best of the Islands

Philippines

Culture | Christmas

Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, volcanoes & beaches

14 days £2,895 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Start with birdwatching on one of the islands of Cebu, take a boat ride to neighbouring Bohol and see the famous Chocolate Hills. Relax on Siquijor, the Island of Fire(flies), then pass by the laidback city of Dumaguete. Head to Palawan for a ride through the enchanting underground river and stop off at Palawan’s infamous crocodile farm. Finally, make the journey across to the Bicol region of South Luzon, where majestic Mount Mayon looms in the background. Take in more natural beauty in Bulusan Crater Lake and the bee farm close to Sorsogon. Finally, end your trip on theshores of secluded Ticao Island.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Historical tour of Cebu
  • Chocolate Hills and tarsiers in Bohol
  • The walled city of Intramuros in Manila
  • Explore the dramatic underground river in Palawan
  • Witness smoking Mount Mayon - the perfect conical volcano
  • Kayak on Bulusan crater lake
  • Relax, snorkel or go fishing on remote Ticao Island
  • Sample delicious Bicolano cuisine

Places Visited

Cebu - Bohol - Siquijor - Dumaguete - Palawan - Manila - Legazpi - Ticao Island - San Jacinto

What's Included

Airport transfers
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Most meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Ground transport and driver
Local guides
Activities as per itinerary
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Cebu

Arrive in Cebu where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to the hotel. The evening is free at your leisure. Overnight in Cebu. 

Meal plan: n/a

Cebu is a significant cultural centre for the Philippines. The Roman Catholic influence is evident in the citys most famous landmark, Magellan's Cross which is now housed in a chapel and was reputed to be planted by Ferdinand Magellan after he landed in the Philippines in 1521. The Basilica Minore del Santo Nino was the first church to be established on the islands and house the country's oldest relic, a figure of the Santo Nino de Cebu.

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Day 2 : Cebu - Bohol

Enjoy a morning city tour of Cebu and see its main sights including Santo Nino Church, San Diego Yap Museum and Fort San Pedro. Later, transfer to Bohol by ferry. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore. Overnight in Bohol.

Meal plan: Breakfast

The island of Bohol is famous for its white sandy beaches and being the home of tarsiers, the second smallest primate in the world. It is a hotspot for diving, but it also boasts the dramatic landscape of rice terraces, the Chocolate Hills and thick jungle. The island’s towns reveal some of the best examples of Spanish Colonial churches, many of which are made from coral stone.

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Day 3 : Bohol

Spend the day touring Bohol and the Chocolate Hills. Enjoy a Loboc River Cruise and visit the Philippines Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary to see the tarsiers, the world's smallest primate. The rest of the day is free at your leisure. Overnight in Bohol. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Bohol's main attraction has to be the Chocolate Hills. Located in the heart of the island, the rolling terrain consists of hills of limestone covered in grass. During the dry season, the grass turns chocolate brown, giving the hills their name. According to legend, the hills were formed by the tears of a giant who was heartbroken by the death of a mortal he was in love with.

The Philippine tarsier is the world’s smallest primate. The nocturnal creatures live on a diet of insects although a lot of folk traditions believe that they eat charcoal. However, this stems from tarsiers being seen retrieving insects from charred wood. They are commonly found on the islands of Bohol, Leyte, Mindanao and Samar. Although tarsiers are a protected species, they are threatened by the destruction of their forest habitat due to years of logging and without conservation efforts could soon become extinct. Tarsiers belong to the prosimian suborder of primates and are closely related to lemurs, lorises and bushbabies. 

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Day 4 : Bohol - Siquijor

Transfer to Siquijor via ferry. The rest of the day is free at your leisure. Overnight in Siquijor. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

The third smallest province in the Philippines and one of the Visayan Islands, Siquijor is commonly known as the 'Island of Fire' for it's abundance of fireflies, which light up the night as they swarm the branches of the molave trees. Fishing is the island's main economic source, whilst the land is primarily used for agriculture. Siquijor is often associated with mystic traditions and has gained a reputation of magic and witchcraft, not only as a result of the eerie glow of the fireflies, but also for it's healing ritual festivals and mountain-dwelling 'mangkukulam' (healers), who brew 'potions' of traditional ointments for modern ailments.

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Day 5 : Siquijor

Go on a tour around Siquijor Island. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore. Overnight in Siquijor. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 6 : Siquijor - Dumaguete

After breakfast, take a ferry to Dumaguete where the rest of the day is free at your leisure. Overnight in Dumaguete. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

The centre of the Negros Oriental's 20 municipalities and 5 cities, the busy interisland-shipping port of Dumaguete City is a thriving community of peace-loving and hospitable people. A quaint and charming place, Dumaguete is rich in history and culture, as well as in natural resources. Though a lot calmer than the usual metropolitan city, Dumaguete is not completely devoid of urbane life, with its cosmopolitan harbour promenade lined with upmarket bars, restaurants and food stalls thriving off Dumaguete's identity as a university town. While the Philippines in general is famous for its hospitality, tourists and locals all enjoy the laidback and casual Dumaguete lifestyle, earning it the name of 'the City of Gentle People'.

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Day 7 : Dumaguete - Manila - Palawan

Transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Manila. Connect with a flight to Puerto Princesa in Palawan, where the rest of the day is free. Overnight in Palawan. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

The least populated region of the Philippines, Palawan is famous for its pristine beaches and cool blue waters. Bursting with flora and fauna, the island is home to 200 species of bird and over 600 species of butterfly. Endemic species such as the Palawan Peacock, Philippine Mouse-deer, Philippine Pangolin and the Palawan Bearded Pig call the forests their home. Endangered sea turtles nest on the island's beaches and the sea surrounding the island shelters the largest population of dugongs in the Philippines.

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Day 8 : Palawan

In the morning, take a tour of the Underground River which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. In the afternoon, visit a mangrove forest. The evening is free at your leisure. Overnight in Palawan. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

In 2012, it was officially confirmed that the Puerto Princesa Underground River had been chosen to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the Nature. During 2010, environmentalists and geologists discovered that the underground river has a second floor, meaning that there are waterfalls inside the cave. They also found a large domed cave, rock formations and large bats, a deep water hole and many marine creatures. The subterranean river is part of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site status for its karst landscape and biodiversity. The river itself is unique because it flows directly to the sea and the lower part of it is subject to ocean tides.

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Day 9 : Palawan - Manila

Transfer to the airport for a flight to Manila and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free at your leisure. Overnight in Manila. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Intramuros is the oldest district and historic centre of Manila. Originally founded in 1571, the city had been invaded many times over the years by Chinese pirates, Japanese, American and British forces. At its peak, Intramuros instilled fear into Spain's enemies and was the only city of its kind in Asia. It survived until WWII, where it was destroyed by US bombs during the Battle of Manila.

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Day 10 : Manila - Legazpi

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Legazpi. Visit the Japanese Tunnel before exploring Daraga Church and the Cagsawa Ruins at the foot of Mount Mayon Volcano. Overnight in Legazpi.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Home to black sand beaches, ancient buildings and beautiful religious architecture, Legazpi is known for its volcano Mount Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines. It is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and attracts visitors to its National Park where they get stunning panoramic views of Legazpi. Legazpi is also known as 'the city of fun and adventure' as there are plenty of historical buildings and ruins to explore such as the Cagsawa Ruins.

Considered to be one of the Philippines' best tourist attractions, Mount Mayon is only 15 kilometeres from bustling Legazpi. This mighty volcano is regarded as a 'perfect volcano' due to its almost symmetrical conical shape. The most active one in the Philippines, it has attracted many visitors to its national park. Mount Mayon's most destructive explosion happened in February 1814, when it belched out thick black ash which bombarded the town of Cagsawa and buried it completely. Its longest uninterrupted eruption was on June 23 1897 which lasted for seven days. Fire rained down on the surrounding settlements and the town of Bacacay was buried under the lava.  

Also known as 'Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church', Daraga Church was built after Mount Mayon destroyed the one in Cagsawa. It is regarded as a crowning glory of religious architecture in the Albay province and stands as a testament of resilience and faith of the Bicolano people. Built from volcanic rock, the details of the facade has been eroded from over 200 years of exposure to the elements. To save it, a lime coating have been applied and it is hoped that the church will stand for years to come.

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Day 11 : Legazpi - Lake Bulusan - Ticao Island

There is an early morning option to visit a local market. After breakfast, visit Lake Bulusan where you can bird watch, trek around the lake and do water activities such as kayaking. Afterwards, visit Balay Buhay Bee Farm for lunch and explore the local communities there. Transfer to the port to catch the boat to Ticao Island. Overnight on Ticao Island. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Ticao is an untouched tropical island and the perfect retreat for any traveller. Visitors can take a stroll down the island's one street or visit the mangroves in the evening. They can even take part in the daily life of the island's inhabitants, going fishing with the fishermen and visiting the cattle ranch, the only one of its kind in the area. For the more adventurous, there are many dive spots as well as areas that are perfect for snorkelling and surfing.

Bulusan, which translates as 'where water flows', is truly a sight to behold with its beautiful waterfalls, springs and lakes, not to mention its majestic volcano set at the foot of a crater lake. A boat can be taken across Lake Bulusan, so that visitors can see the magnificent volcano in all its glory and explore the bamboo huts, the endemic bird species and hidden grottos.

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Day 12 : Ticao Island - San Miguel - Ticao Island

In the morning, take a boat to San Miguel (30 mins) where you have the opportunity to kayak, snorkel or dive. The afternoon is free at your leisure. Head back to the hotel where you can watch a cookery demonstration showcasing Bicolano cusine. Overnight on Ticao Island. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 13 : Ticao Island

A day to relax. Options include lazing on the beach, fishing with the local fishermen or visiting cattle farms and the town of San Jacinto. In the evening, take a dug-out canoe to the mangroves to see the fireflies which light up the trees. Overnight in Ticao Island. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Located on the idyllic Ticao Island with it's pristine beaches, San Jacinto is a beautiful port on the island. Known for fishing, it became a station for galleon ships in 16th and 17th century, it still has some of the remains of colonial Spanish rule in the architecture of its houses and streets. The island itself is popular with tourists seeking somewhere to relax or some adventure with its firefly-lighted mangroves and numerous diving and surfing hotspots. 

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Day 14 : Departure

Transfer from Ticao Island to Legazpi for your flight to Manila. Connect to your onward flight home.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Costabella Tropical Beach Resort

Costabella Tropical Beach Resort is a 3* resort inspired by a Spanish-Filipino design, set in an exclusive beachfront paradise in Mactan. It is 3-4 hours away from Ginatilan Cebu. 

Visit hotel's site
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Bohol Beach Club

Bohol Beach Club boasts facilities for water sports like kayaking and windsurfing. There is also a restaurant with a bar, business centre, swimming pool, and a courtyard for weddings and other social events. The resort offers quiet seclusion, but is also just 1 km from the popular Alona Beach and 17 km from Tagbilaran Airport. 

Visit hotel's site
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Coco Grove Beach Resort

Coco Grove Beach Resort is the only high end resort property in Siquijor. The resort has long white beaches surrounded by turquoise water with amazing marine wildlife. 

Visit hotel's site
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Pura Vida

Pura Vida is a charming 3* category resort popular with European guests due to its native 'bahay kubo' design rooms. 

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One Manalo Place

One Manalo Place is a modern yet classical Filipino-designed hotel, situated in the heart of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Approximately 2 minutes drive from the airport and 5 minutes drive to the shopping centres, souvenir shops, banks and other restaurants. 

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The Bayleaf Intramuros

Launched in November 2011, The Bayleaf Intramuros promises a restful experience in a boutique environment with high quality bedding, room amenities and spacious bathrooms. The al fresco, roof deck View Bar is a must-visit, offering unobstructed views of the Manila skyline. 

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Siama Hotel

Siama Hotel can be found in central Legazpi. Its contemporary design and decor has been influenced by the hotel's natural setting. The spacious bedrooms are equipped with modern fixtures and fittings to allow for a comfortable and relaxing stay. Guests can make use of the hotel swimming pool and sample local delicacies in the hotel restaurant. 

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Ticao Island Resort

Ticao Island Resort is a relaxing and authentic retreat. Comfortable bungalows with modern amenities lie not far from a sandy beach. There is also a beachside restaurant serving a variety of Filipino, European and American dishes.

Visit hotel's site
Extensions

Volcano Discovery (5 days)

Three volcanoes tour - Mount Pinatubo, Taal & Mayon

Festival of the Hill Tribes (13 days)

Experience the Imbayah Festival in North Luzon

Best of the Islands (14 days)

Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, volcanoes & beaches

Hidden Treasures of Luzon (15 days)

Discover hill tribes, smoking volcanoes & idyllic islands

Reviews

Our trip was an amazing mix of the familiar and the exotic. We saw and did so much and came home feeling that we experienced the best of the Phillipines! Everyone we met was so warm and friendly, the tropical island waters were irresistible, and the 2000 year old rice patties of Banauae were breathtaking!

Lorraine Sisko & Robert Marino (USA) , Tailormade Philippines
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