Highlands to Islands

Our Highlands to Islands holiday showcases the Philippines’ diverse landscapes beyond its idyllic coastline, taking you from Luzon’s mountainous Cordillera region, past the ancient rice terraces of Banaue and the otherworldly slopes of Taal volcano, to the rolling hills of Busuanga and limestone islands of El Nido.

At a glance
  • Walk Banaue’s ancient rice terraces
  • Experience traditional Ifugao village life
  • Wonder at Sagada’s poignant hanging coffins
  • Rattle over Vigan’s picturesque cobblestones
  • Feast on Manila’s traditional treats
  • Gaze into Taal Volcano’s crater lake
  • Hop between Busuanga’s island beaches
Itinerary
Price & Hotels

Manila - 1 night

Manila, like many densely populated capitals, is an exhilarating mix of organised chaos, congested streets and enriching culture; a fast-paced metropolis where towering skyscrapers sit alongside historic architecture and impoverished shantytowns. Despite a catastrophic earthquake in the mid-1800’s and relentless shelling during World War II, this resilient city continues to thrive and expand. Besides its absorbing history and traditions, Manila has developed a rich creative side, packed with eclectic art galleries, grand theatres, and a lively music scene.

Day 1 - Arrive Manila

On arrival in the Philippines, you'll be met by your private guide, who will accompany you to your Manila hotel.

Welcome to Selective Asia! This level of personal service (such as private transfers, private tours etc) is what you can expect throughout your trip. A few services (eg boat cruises) will be shared, but we'll always make sure you're aware of these.

The rest of your day will be at leisure to take in this exciting capital.

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Banaue & The Northern Luzon Region - 5 nights

Banaue’s spectacular 2,000-year-old rice terraces inevitably form the focus of any visit to northern Luzon, but the region has a wider wealth of history and culture to discover. Batad’s traditional villages show you ancient culture in harmony with the region’s stunning natural beauty, while Sagada’s sleepy streets, old markets and poignant hanging coffins seem forever frozen in time. Travelling over the charming, chocolate-box cobbles of Vigan by horse-drawn carriage evokes a slightly surreal bubble of Spanish colonial influence, from the grand architecture to the empanada streetfood, while a visit to the Bontoc museum displays a wealth of fascinating Cordillera artefacts.

Day 2 - Fly to Banaue, rice terrace & village tour

Includes:

Fly to Cauayan, in the heart of northern Luzon, then head to Banaue, keeping your camera close to capture the jaw-dropping views as you travel. On arrival, hop aboard a private jeepney for a tour of the rice terraces and local villages. Look out from a vantage point with panoramic views over the famous ridged terraces, before continuing to Banga-an village. Nestled in a picturesque valley, this typical Ifugao village offers an insight into traditional Luzon life. Stroll around and chat with the locals before returning to Banaue where the remainder of your day will at leisure to take in your spectacular surroundings.

Day 3 - Batad terrace trek & waterfalls

Includes:

Set out in a colourful, private jeepney for a day’s trekking through the rice terraces. A strenuous uphill hike follows a winding trail to Batad saddle, where the terrain becomes undulating and rocky. After a further couple of hours hiking, you’ll arrive at Batad, and be rewarded with unforgettable views of the rice terraces spread below, backed by jungle-clad mountains. Batad is a traditional village with a leisurely pace of life, where you can mingle with the villagers and enjoy a simple restaurant lunch. If you’ve got the energy, you can continue your trek downhill to Tappiya Waterfalls, before jumping back in the jeepney back to your hotel where the rest of your day will be at leisure to relax and recuperate.

Day 4 - Bontoc tribal museum, Sagada hanging coffins

Includes:

Travel to the small town of Sagada, famous for its fascinating burial traditions, passing yet more stunning scenery and dramatic rice terraces along the way. Pause in Bontoc to see the museum’s collection of tribal artefacts from the Cordillera region including nose flutes, elaborate headdresses, and traditional tools, before continuing to Sagada. Ifugao beliefs hold that the spirits of the dead should be close to the gods, and Sagada communities have traditionally interred the deceased in colourfully painted coffins that hang from the surrounding limestone cliffs. Your guide will also be able to show you some of the evocative, and more easily accessible, subterranean cave burial grounds. The remainder of your day will be at leisure to relax in this sleepy town.

Day 5 - Drive to Vigan via Bessang Pass

Includes:

Head west along winding roads through pine-forested mountains, dropping down to the plains and finally following the coast to the historic, UNESCO-listed town of Vigan. Stop en-route at Bessang Pass war memorial; and make a determined visit to the fortress-like Sta. Maria Church, high on a hill surrounded by a defensive wall, and accessed by climbing steep steps. On arrival into Vigan the rest of your afternoon will be at leisure. On the west coast of northern Luzon, overlooking the South China Sea, Vigan is among the oldest, and most beautiful, towns in the Philippines, with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and grand colonial-style mansions to explore.

Day 6 - Heritage tour

Includes:

Start your tour of Vigan in traditional style, travelling by ‘kalesa’ (horse-drawn carriage) to some of the immaculately preserved houses the town is famous for. Built from local stone, wood and capiz shells, many of these properties are still in use now as they were in the 18th century, with shops on the ground floor and spacious living areas upstairs. Stop at the Burgos Museum to see a vast collection of Ilocano artefacts, and visit a ‘burnay’ – earthenware pottery - workshop where the artisan methods used date back to the 16th century. Your tour finishes with lunch at Café Leona, located in a traditional Vigan house, to sample the region’s famous longganisa spicy sausage, and a few empanadas (Spanish-style filled pasties), before enjoying the rest of your afternoon at leisure.

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Manila - 3 nights

Returning to Manila after a few days in Luzon’s rural north will showcase the contrast between the Cordillera region’s calm agricultural surroundings, and the non-stop, high-energy rush of the capital. Tour the city’s eclectic jumble of old and new; sample the vibrant arts scene, taking in everything from traditional Filipino folk song and dance to Broadway musicals; experience Manila’s oldest cultural heritage in the Quiapo district, wandering past fortune tellers and herbalists; and stop wherever the aromas make your mouth water in Binondo’s Chinatown enclave - the oldest in the world - to try stuffed spicy dumplings and seafood noodles.

Day 7 - Fly to Manila

Includes:

Enjoy a morning at leisure catching a flight to Manila, The rest of your day will be at leisure to explore a few new corners of this enticing capital.

Day 8 - ‘Old & New’ city tour

Includes:

Tour Manila’s classic landmarks and vibrant modernity, cycling through the cobbled streets of Intramuros - Manilla’s historic, 16th century original walled city - on a traditional, handmade bamboo bike. Follow your guide to the ancient San Agustin church, and the Casa Manila museum house showcasing typical Filipino colonial life. Continue to the impressive, stone Fort Santiago, overlooking Manila Bay, containing a poignant museum dedicated to the country’s famous freedom fighter and national hero, Dr Jose Rizal. Drive on to walk through Rizal Park’s ornamental gardens, visit the unique Chinese Cemetery (with spectacular mausoleums resembling luxury homes equipped with everything from kitchens to running water!), and wander into Makati, the capital’s glittering financial, shopping and entertainment district, to see the Nielson Tower, Fort Bonifacio, and the American WWII Cemetery. The rest of your evening will be at leisure to try some Filipino dishes, including chicken adobo and colourful halo-halo pudding.

Day 9 - Taal Volcano trek & heritage town tour

Includes:

Head south through the Manila’s suburbs to Taal Lake and Volcano. Reputed to be the world’s smallest active volcano, last erupting in 1965, it sits, rather uniquely, within a large crater lake, on an island, within another lake! Hop aboard an outrigger boat to cruise across the water to Taal Volcano Island. Trek uphill to the rim of the crater for impressive panoramic views across the green crater lake, to the mountains in the distance and down into the centre of the volcano itself. Visit the heritage town of Taal: one of the best-preserved Spanish colonial settlements in the country, home to some beautifully restored 18th and 19th century ancestral houses, as well as the imposing Basilica de San Martin de Tours, allegedly the largest church in Asia.

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Busuanga Island - 3 nights

The second largest island in the Palawan province, Busuanga is a predominantly rural island of rolling hills and rice fields, deserted stretches of coastline and crystal clear waters. It is best known for its wreck diving opportunities in Coron Bay where an abundance of marine life congregates around the well-preserved remains of Japanese WWII ships. A diving guide can take you right through the 170-metre wrecks for an unforgettable diving experience, or you can stay outside, peep into the cabins, and explore the decks, cranes and guns, now encrusted with living coral.

Day 10 - Fly to Busuanga Island

Includes:

Fly to Busuanga Island, where you’ll meet your guide, and enjoy the rest of your day at leisure.

Day 11 - Coron Town tour

Includes:

Take an afternoon tour of Coron, a small fishing town with a laid back, ramshackle vibe, and the main centre of Busuanga Island. Stroll around the market, learning about local cashew nut farming directly from the producers, then climb over 700 steps to the top of Mount Tapyas, for panoramic views over the town and Coron Bay. As the sun sets, take a restorative dip in the Maquinit hot springs, the nearby natural, salt water baths, washing away the aches of the trail under the twilight sky.

Day 12 - Island hopping tour

Includes:

Board a boat at Coron Town to begin a full day exploring Busuanga’s natural wonders. A short journey brings you to Siete Pecados Marine Park, a protected coral reef teeming with marine life; don snorkelling gear and explore this colourful underwater world. Hop back on the boat and travel past majestic limestone islets on your way to Kayangan Lake, an inland lagoon on Coron Island. Climb to the island’s summit, from where you can enjoy picture-postcard views over the lagoon, then descend to the shore for a refreshing swim. The geological formations below the water are as impressive as those above, and can be easily viewed through the lake’s crystal-clear waters. Cruise to Calachuchi Beach to relax on the white sands and enjoy a picnic lunch, then continue island hopping throughout the afternoon, interspersed with swimming and snorkelling at Coral Eden and the ethereal Twin Lagoons.

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El Nido - 3 nights

One of the most picturesque regions in the Philippines, El Nido’s cluster of limestone islands rises dramatically out of the sea. The area was named after the nests of the swiftlet birds - ‘nido’ in Spanish - found in the crevices of its cliffs, which form main ingredient in the traditional dish of bird’s nest soup, highly prized in several Asian cultures. El Nido is now a protected marine reserve, home to an incredible diversity of underwater life, including the rare dugong (a relative of the manatee), three species of endangered sea turtles, and sleek black-tip sharks.

Day 13 - Fly to El Nido

Includes:

Catch a flight to El Nido, then continue by shared boat to your chosen resort where the remainder of your day will be at leisure to relax in the beautiful natural surroundings.

Day 14 - Island hopping

Includes:

An island hopping tour is the best way to experience the natural beauty of El Nido. Which specific islands you visit, and the route of your boat trip, will depend on the resort you start from, but you’re guaranteed to find the golden sands, clear water lagoons and snorkelling sites that the region is famous for.

Day 15 - At leisure in El Nido

Includes:

Your day will be at leisure to relax and enjoy your tropical surroundings.

Day 16 - Depart El Nido

Includes:

Your day will be at leisure until it's time for your onward flight.

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We only provide privately guided holidays - meaning that you will not be expected to share guides or transport for the duration of your visit. You can also start on any day you choose.

Please click on the hotel category buttons below to view hotel details. These are recommended properties only - we have many alternative options for you to choose from if you would prefer. You can mix hotel categories throughout your holiday.

Hotel class Price per person (based on total # travelling)
2 - 3 4 - 5 6 persons
First Class £3,864US$5,061 £3,206US$4,199 £3,106US$4,069

The Henry Hotel

Offering modern boutique accommodation in the heart of lively Pasay City, and within easy walking distance of the area’s many cultural and architectural highlights, The Henry Hotel is compact... See more

Banaue Hotel

Located some 4,000 feet above sea-level, on the outskirts of Banaue town, the Banaue Hotel enjoys impressive panoramas of the famed Banaue Rice Terraces...

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Martha's Hearth

Martha’s Hearth is an attractive two-storey inn, situated just outside the small town of Sagada in an area that’s justifiably famed for its natural beauty. This charming guest house has ... See more

Hotel Luna

Hotel Luna is an extravagantly beautiful hotel in Vigan City, situated right in the centre of the Heritage Village. Far more than just a convenient base from which to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site... See more

The Henry Hotel

Offering modern boutique accommodation in the heart of lively Pasay City, and within easy walking distance of the area’s many cultural and architectural highlights, The Henry Hotel is compact... See more

The Funny Lion

Situated outside Coron Town, the smart and modern Funny Lion may lack the instant beach access offered by many resorts and hotels in Palawan, but it more than makes...

El Nido Miniloc Island Resort

First impressions count, and El Nido Resorts’ Miniloc Island getaway could not score more highly for instant wow factor. Nestled in a perfectly private ultramarine bay at the foot of towering limestone cliffs... See more
Superior £4,302US$5,635 £3,644US$4,773 £3,545US$4,643

The Manila Hotel

Once a favourite of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, possibly because the suites offered plenty of room for her shoes, the distinguished Manila Hotel is one of the city’s oldest hotels... See more

Banaue Hotel

Located some 4,000 feet above sea-level, on the outskirts of Banaue town, the Banaue Hotel enjoys impressive panoramas of the famed Banaue Rice Terraces...

See more

Martha's Hearth

Martha’s Hearth is an attractive two-storey inn, situated just outside the small town of Sagada in an area that’s justifiably famed for its natural beauty. This charming guest house has ... See more

Hotel Luna

Hotel Luna is an extravagantly beautiful hotel in Vigan City, situated right in the centre of the Heritage Village. Far more than just a convenient base from which to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site... See more

The Manila Hotel

Once a favourite of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, possibly because the suites offered plenty of room for her shoes, the distinguished Manila Hotel is one of the city’s oldest hotels... See more

Busuanga Bay Lodge

Surrounded by unspoilt islands and turquoise seas that ache to be explored, Busuanga Bay Lodge is ideal for enjoying an action-packed water sports break… See more

El Nido Lagen Island Resort

Peeping out of dense forest onto the curving shore of a sheltered lagoon, the El Nido Lagen Island Resort sits in a timeless bubble of natural beauty… See more
Deluxe £5,038US$6,600 £4,381US$5,738 £4,281US$5,608

Discovery Primea Hotel

Designed by an award-winning architect and situated in the heart of bustling Makati Central Business District, the Discovery Primea Hotel boasts a high standard of amenities combined with... See more

Banaue Hotel

Located some 4,000 feet above sea-level, on the outskirts of Banaue town, the Banaue Hotel enjoys impressive panoramas of the famed Banaue Rice Terraces...

See more

Martha's Hearth

Martha’s Hearth is an attractive two-storey inn, situated just outside the small town of Sagada in an area that’s justifiably famed for its natural beauty. This charming guest house has ... See more

Hotel Luna

Hotel Luna is an extravagantly beautiful hotel in Vigan City, situated right in the centre of the Heritage Village. Far more than just a convenient base from which to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site... See more

Discovery Primea Hotel

Designed by an award-winning architect and situated in the heart of bustling Makati Central Business District, the Discovery Primea Hotel boasts a high standard of amenities combined with... See more

Two Seasons Coron Island Resort

Tucked away on the tip of the idyllic Malaroyroy Peninsula, overlooking two pristine beaches and flanked by jungle-clad mountains the Two Seasons Coron Island Resort blends... See more

El Nido Pangulasian Island

El Nido Resorts’ private Pangulasian Island getaway in Bacuit Bay boasts a dreamlike beachfront setting with a backdrop of lush tropical forest. A 750-metre stretch of brilliant white sand... See more

Solo travellers are always welcome - please contact us for a tailored quote.

These prices are shown in GBPUSD.
Selective Asia is a UK-registered company, but our client-base spans the globe, so we bank in both GBP and USD and can therefore provide a fixed price in either currency.
We also have payment facilities in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the EU, and can typically offer better-than-bank exchange rates on the date of payment in these currencies (against a booking priced in GBP).

Itinerary additions

At Selective Asia we specialise in creating unique, tailor-made experiences. The holiday itineraries provided on this website are intended to help you visualise what is achievable in your destinations of choice, over a given period of time and at an intended budget.
Whilst many clients are happy with of our recommended itineraries in the current form (and at the price quoted), there are those that wish to personalise their holiday in some way, whether it be a change of hotel, an additional destination or even start from scratch. This is when our tailor-made specialists come into their own; with many years of experience both living and working in the region they are ideally equipped to advise on alternatives and to facilitate any necessary changes.

The important stuff

Please note: During high season periods (such as Easter, Christmas and New Year) hotels often levy a surcharge and these are not included in the above prices. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.

Inclusive:
  • English speaking, local guide
  • All accommodation listed
  • Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
  • Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
  • All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All meals listed (B: Breakfast, L: lunch, D: Dinner)
  • International flight reconfirmation.

Exclusive:
  • Flights to/from Asia. We are an ATOL bonded operator and can arrange flights for all our clients, regardless of whether you are departing from the UK or from almost any other worldwide destination.
  • Entry visas
  • International airport departure taxes
  • Any meals not listed in the itinerary
  • Drinks, other than water on activity days
  • Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...)
  • Travel insurance
  • All other services not listed in 'inclusive'

Please note: All prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.

Extras

Flights

We will arrange all internal flights used within our holiday itineraries. We can also arrange discounted flights from all UK airports to Asia and we are a fully bonded ATOL operator. If you would like a quote for your international flights then please complete the required section on the enquiry form.

Visa

You will not require a visa to enter the Philippines. Your consultant will be happy to advise you on visa requirements.

Passport

Please ensure that you have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining after your return date. You will also need at least one blank page for each of the countries you are visiting.

Insurance

You will require a comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for medical costs associated with hospitalisation, emergency travel and repatriation back to your home country. We offer our customers a specially discounted insurance policy, ideally suited to the needs that a trip such as this creates. Tick the insurance box in the enquiry form and we will send you a quote to suit your needs.

Vaccinations and Malaria Prevention

You will undoubtedly require vaccinations for your visit to Asia. Please consult your doctor or a vaccination clinic for the most up-to-date advice. They will also be able to advise you of the most suitable anti-malarial medication if required. It is important that you do this well in advance of your departure date.

Booking Procedure

Only once you are completely happy with any holiday itinerary we create for you will we ask for a payment. In order that we can secure availability for your booking we would typically require a deposit of 20%.

Travelling Responsibly

We care about the places and the communities that you will travel through. It is important to us that we travel as responsibly as possible throughout Asia and that we are giving something back to the regions and the people that make these journeys so special. Full details on our approach to responsible travel can be found on a dedicated section of this website.

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

Kate – Philippines tailor-made specialist

'If you're looking to get under the skin of the Philippines this itinerary is for you - taking you off the well-trodden tourist trails.'

KatePhilippines tailor-made specialist

Speak to Kate on 01273 670 001

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

Our tailor-made service costs you no extra

This itinerary is designed to work straight off the peg, but we'll happily tailor it until it's a perfect fit for you, to ensure we’re making the absolute best of your time and funds. All you need to do is ask...

Your own private guides & drivers

You'll typically have your own private guides & drivers throughout your trip. When you will be sharing a service (eg a boat cruise) with others, we'll always let you know.