Full of mountains and volcanoes that look out imperiously over the beaches and islands lining its shores, Southern Luzon is a delight to explore, with a plethora of great things for you to see and do. The majestic Mayon Volcano dominates the region with its perfectly symmetrical cone that so dramatically stands out against the bright blue sky, but this beautiful part of the Philippines has many more hidden gems for you to discover.
Map of Southern Luzon, the Philippines
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With plenty of untouched and unspoiled nature for visitors to immerse themselves in, you can be wandering around secluded islands such as Catanduanes one minute and be basking in the astounding scenery of Taal Volcano and Pagsanjan Falls the next, while whale sharks and abundant marine life lie just offshore.
Lying at the foot of the majestic Mount Mayon, Legazpi is set in a beautiful location on the shores of the Albay Gulf, with a beautiful waterfront for you to stroll along. Perfectly conical in shape, the active volcano is stunning. Its gentle slopes offer a myriad of great outdoor activities, with hiking, ziplining, and climbing all popular pastimes.
While its scenic setting and proximity to Mount Mayon are what attract many people to Legazpi, there are also a number of interesting sights in town, such as San Raphael’s Church and the Cagsawa Ruins. In addition to this, visitors can also go scuba diving or snorkeling offshore, and the nation’s rich culture and heritage is showcased at festivals such as Ibalong Festival and Daragong Magayon Festival, both of which are held in town.
As it is often overlooked by visitors to Southern Luzon, the island of Catanduanes is a great place to head to if you want to step off the beaten path and enjoy some fantastic scenery with barely another soul in sight. Dotted along its wild and rugged coastline are some sleepy little fishing villages, as well as some beautiful, secluded beaches. Its rainforest-coated interior is home to some amazing waterfalls and caves.
Despite its many wonders, the main reason that people visit Catanduanes is for its renowned ‘Majestic Wave,’ which attracts surfers from all around the world; the best waves can be found along the east coast. One thing to bear in mind when visiting Catanduanes is that, although it is undoubtedly a lovely place, the island lies at the heart of the typhoon belt; as such, typhoons can strike at any point throughout the year.
Lined with jagged cliffs punctuated by beautiful white sand beaches, the Caramoan Peninsula really is breathtaking. It should come as no surprise to learn that the famous TV show Survivor was filmed on its dazzling beaches, which are backed by rainforest-covered hills and mountains.
Due to its remote location, the peninsula is full of wonderfully untouched nature, and the best way to travel between its scatterings of resorts and beaches is by boat. Jetting across the turquoise water among rugged isles and jungle-clad islands to an idyllic beach is an incredible experience. When it comes time to leave, you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away from the incredible scenery.
Consisting of Guintinua, Maculabo, and Tinaga islands and a scattering of smaller islets, the Calaguas Islands are an increasingly popular tourist destination – and it’s not hard to see why. Blessed with an abundance of glorious white sand beaches – of which Mahabang Buhangin beach on Tinaga is the undoubted highlight – the islands really are picture-perfect. Gently swaying palm trees and sparkling turquoise waters line their golden shores.
With a plethora of fantastic outdoor activities such as swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing on offer, a visit to the Calaguas Islands can be as relaxing or adrenaline-filled as you make it.
Jutting out into the sea from between the bays of Balayan and Batangas that lie to either side of it, Mabini is a very pleasant place to spend some time. The town is particularly popular with snorkelers and scuba divers, as the waters surrounding the small peninsula teem with life. With lots of brightly colored fish and corals on show, diving in its waters is a magical experience, and there are a myriad of great dive spots found nearby.
If exploring the underwater world isn’t your thing, you can always go hiking in the hills that dot the peninsula, take a scenic boat trip around the bays, or simply lounge on one of the lovely beaches. In addition to this, the majestic Taal Volcano isn’t far away if you’re looking for an unforgettable and easy day trip.
Gushing out from the rock face, the powerful jet of water that is the Pagsanjan Falls is slightly underwhelming to behold at first sight, but it is not without reason that it is one of the most famous and most popular tourist attractions in Southern Luzon. Hemmed in by towering cliffs, the falls are only accessible by boat. The 90-minute journey through scenic gorges below rainforest-coated cliff faces really is as memorable as they come.
As such, the Pagsanjan Falls are slightly disappointing at first glance – until you enter the Devil’s Cave, that is. Located directly behind the waterfall, the cave is an exhilarating cacophony of sound and spray. Seeing the tumultuous waters plunge into the pool right in front of you from up high is an awe-inspiring experience.
An extraordinary place to visit, Taal Volcano is well worth checking out if you have the chance; there is almost nowhere else like it on Earth. Lying near the middle of Taal Lake, the island of Taal Volcano rises dramatically before you. Within its caldera, you can find the glimmering waters of a crater lake.
Even more remarkable is the rocky outcrop of Vulcan Point that protrudes from the lake, which means you are gazing upon an island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island. This incredible feat of nature is astonishing, and hiking to the top of the caldera is well worth the effort for the panoramic views of the surrounding scenery.
3. Tagaytay Where to Stay
Overlooking the glorious Taal Lake, Tagaytay is one of the most popular cities to visit in the Philippines with both tourists and locals alike. Its cool mountain climate offers visitors some welcome respite from the hustle and bustle, heat and humidity of nearby Manila. As it is bordered by lots of hills and mountains, there is loads of magnificent scenery to enjoy, with Taal Volcano being the undoubted highlight.
With so much nature nearby, Tagaytay has lots of hikes and trails for you to do. In addition to its natural wonders, the city has some interesting historical and cultural landmarks to check out. The Mabini Shrine, People’s Park in the Sky, and Sky Ranch amusement park are the pick of the bunch.
2. Donsol Where to Stay
Once a sleepy, laidback fishing village, the coastal town of Donsol now hums with life as scuba divers and snorkelers come to swim with the infamous whale sharks that are found just offshore. Growing up to 12 meters long, the gentle giants are majestic to see up close, and swimming with them really is an unforgettable experience.
While there is not all that much to see or do in town, Donsol is a pleasant enough place to spend a couple of days, and the surrounding area has loads of great hikes and cycle rides for you to do. Although most people primarily come to see the whale sharks, another very memorable thing to do is to take a firefly boat tour and watch the night light up as a thousand small dots punctuate the darkness.
Rising majestically from amidst the picturesque countryside and landscapes surrounding it, Mayon Volcano looks absolutely incredible, and visiting it is simply a must when in Southern Luzon. Towering to an impressive 2,463 meters, Mount Mayon dominates its surroundings, and the active stratovolcano is widely considered to have ‘the perfect cone’ due to its symmetric conical shape.
Lying at the heart of a national park that’s named after it, the volcano has a plethora of great hiking trails and paths for you to explore; the higher you go, the more dazzling the views are. Wandering around the countryside surrounding Mayon Volcano is also well worth the effort. The volcano in the distance is picture-perfect, and you’re sure to come away with lots of fantastic snaps of its mist-shrouded peak.