20+ Natural, Cultural, and Historical Philippine Landmarks To Visit While You’re In the Country

Written by Bianca Versoza

The Philippines is home to one of the most diverse and interesting cultures on the planet, and it’s beautiful natural formations, scattered along its more than 7,000 islands. A trip to the Philippines wouldn’t be complete without visiting important places that will let you experience the unique and exciting way of life of the Filipino people.

The Philippines is jam-packed with many destinations that will interest both local and international travelers alike. These spots are unique and will let you know just how we FIlipinos value our heritage and natural resources.

We invite you to visit some of the most popular and important landmarks here in the Philippines, found below. You have to visit each and every one of them to experience something that’s truly unique to Filipino culture. 

Famous Natural Landmarks in the Philippines

The Philippines is blessed with thousands of breathtaking natural formations you will not find elsewhere. These destinations will awaken the adventurer in you, as they did mine:

Mayon Volcano, Albay

Mayon Volcano, situated in Albay, Bicol province, is a stunning geological wonder with a majestic height of 2,462 meters and a perfectly symmetrical cone shape. Despite being an active stratovolcano that occasionally releases volcanic glass, it remains a popular tourist destination among locals and foreigners alike.

In 1938, Mount Mayon and its neighboring areas were designated as a natural park. This protective status shielded the surrounding regions from commercial development, ensuring the preservation of its natural beauty to this day. If you’re like me, you’ll take out any camera you have with you and take photos of the volcano as it stands proud against the blue sky during the day, or even the stars at night. 

Mt. Mayon is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the Philippines. Visitors have a lot of things to do here. You can go on a trek up the volcano, have a picnic while looking at the mountain’s perfect cone shape, or simply take photos of the volcano’s breathtaking beauty set against a clear blue sky.

If you want more than just a photo of this active volcano, go and rent an ATV and ride towards the base of Mt. Mayon. Along the way, you will see evidence of the lahar that flowed through when the volcano erupted some time ago. You will also see the growth of flora along the area, as if to say that no matter how destructive some things in life can be, you can still hope for better things in the future.

Taal Volcano, Taal Lake

Taal Volcano, located in Batangas province, is a caldera filled with water from surrounding Taal Lake. It is an active volcano, the second most active in the Philippines—and records show that it has had continuous seismic and volcanic activity even in recent years. Despite this, Taal Volcano remains a must-see tourist destination because of its magnificent beauty as a volcano surrounded by a lake of sulfuric water

While Taal Volcano is situated in Batangas, some of the most breathtaking views of its caldera can be—and should be—enjoyed from afar in Tagaytay. Tourists often flock to places such as:

  • A leisure park called the Sky Ranch
  • A hilltop family picnic area called the Picnic Grove
  • An Ilonggo restaurant called Balay Dako
  • A picturesque lake-view hotel named Escala Tagaytay
  • A Filipino specialty restaurant named RSM Lutong Bahay

Visitors go to these places to get a magnificent view of the volcano from a safe distance. Personally, I love going to the Sky Ranch with my family and looking at Taal from there. When you look at Taal from here, you will see a seemingly small volcano surrounded by a lake, which is also surrounded by land. Words cannot completely describe its beauty–you have to see it yourself.

Chocolate Hills, Bohol

The world-renowned Chocolate Hills of Bohol in the Visayas is a natural wonder worth exploring. These geological marvels consist of hills, estimated to range from 1,268 to 1,776 in number, spread across a 50-square-kilometer area (about 20 square miles). The hills are not uniform in size and height, with many standing between 30 to 50 meters high. The tallest among them even reaches approximately 120 meters in height!

Although visitors are not allowed to climb the hills personally, local government authorities allow guests to look at them from a distance on viewing decks. That’s enough for me, really, since I think I’d get too tired to climb all of them anyway. I’d rather take panoramic shots of the hills using my smartphone–there’s too many to include in just one snap of the camera!

Despite the name, the hills themselves aren’t chocolate-colored at all times. First, vegetation covers the bases of the hills, making them look green from a distance. Next, the hills themselves are covered with grass which grows vibrant and green during the rainy season. The grass will dry up and turn brown during the dry season, however, making them look more like mounds of chocolate.

People remain baffled as to how the Chocolate Hills were formed. Local myths attribute their creation to giants throwing mud at each other or the tears of a lovelorn giant. Geologists, however, believe they were shaped by weather changes over time. Despite their uncertain origin, the Chocolate Hills remain a natural sight to behold.

Boracay Island, Aklan

Next is the world-renowned destination known as Boracay Island, or simply Bora. Tourists from all over now—or at least would have heard—of the pristine white sand beaches and crystal-clear blue waters of this stunning island in the Aklan province. It’s a top choice for travelers seeking a peaceful escape from their daily routines, and it’s a destination my family and I personally love and return to whenever possible.

Boracay offers a variety of beaches and accommodations to suit every type of tourist. There are luxurious resorts near the beach in an area known as Station 1, a bustling hub with more budget-friendly options, shopping centers, and dining spots at Station 2; and secluded lodgings at Station 3. All these Stations are conveniently close to the beach, allowing visitors to choose their ideal stay within walking distance of the shore.

This popular island has received numerous awards, including recognition as one of the top 10 islands to visit in Asia by Conde Nast. Aside from its white sands, the place offers a number of activities for you to do, such as swimming, island-hopping, diving, and snorkeling. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends, or by yourself, Boracay remains a favorite landmark for all types of travelers.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, Palawan

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, located in Palawan, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known for its limestone cliffs, cave formations, unique wildlife, and refreshing waters, this Philippine landmark stretches for 8.2 kilometers. However, tourists are only allowed to explore about four kilometers.

While the underground river is home to a variety of flora and fauna, you’ll probably encounter swallows and native bats during your visit as well. I recommend you drop by between November and May, when the waves are calmer and the weather is more favorable for travel.

UNESCO recognizes the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River as the largest and most valuable limestone forest in Asia. It is also considered as one of the “New Seven Wonders of Nature,” alongside many other places around the world. The underground river stands as evidence of the Filipino commitment to safeguard and preserve their natural heritage. It is also one of the most visited spots in this area of the country, known as the “Best Island” of the Philippines.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, situated near Palawan and the Visayas region, is one of the best diving spots in the Philippines. This protected marine area covers an impressive 97,030 hectares, making it the largest of its kind in the country. Within its boundaries is a diverse collection of underwater life.

Found right at the heart of the Coral Triangle, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a haven for a wide array of reef-building corals. It comprises the North and South Atolls, along with the Jessie Beazley Reef. It not only shelters numerous fish species, including sharks and whales, but also serves as a vital nesting ground for sea turtles. You can dive into the water to see them personally, but if you’re like me you can make do with snorkeling or taking photos from above the water. You can also watch the seabirds nesting in the area and take photos as they fly up and dive to catch their meal.

The protected marine area is located 10 hours away from Puerto Princesa. Despite that, divers flock to Tubbataha all-year round. In fact, this place is so popular that tourists have to book their liveaboard trips years in advance just to secure their spot.

Famous Cultural Landmarks in the Philippines

Aside from being blessed with natural formations, the Philippines is also peppered with tourist spots that played a large part in our history. These will help you understand our values and what matters to us as a nation.

Banaue Rice Terraces

Located in Ifugao Province in northern Luzon, the Banaue Rice Terraces is a massive agricultural invention that covers approximately 10,360 square kilometers (about 4,000 square miles) of mountainous land. Although this isn’t a natural landmark given its origins in human ingenuity, this captivating site still holds the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Banaue Rice Terraces were carved by the Ifugao tribe over 2,000 years ago. The Ifugaos are ethnic wet-rice farmers who were believed to have come from Malay origins and have settled in the area. They created the rice terraces as an effective means to produce rice, which is a staple across the Philippines.

The Banaue Rice Terraces is made up of six main terrace clusters. Within each cluster, you’ll find terraces that resemble a gigantic staircase stretching toward the heavens. Each step is an integral part of a massive irrigation system used to supply water to the rice being cultivated in terraces—this is why the entire landscape looks very green, especially when seen from afar.

Aguinaldo Shrine and Museum, Cavite

The Aguinaldo Shrine and Museum, situated in Kawit, Cavite, is at this national shrine where the country proclaimed its independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. This momentous event marked the end of three centuries of colonial rule and is now celebrated every year as Independence Day.

Aside from being the place where Filipino freedom was declared, the Aguinaldo Shrine and Museum is also the birthplace of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the first President of the Philippines. This 14,000 square-foot property is something he personally designed as well. Today, it has since been converted into a museum showcasing antique furniture, decorations, the Philippine national flag, and personal belongings of the former President. 

The mansion offers numerous attractions, including secret tunnels that were once used to conceal important documents. These tunnels lead to different places in Kawit—one of them will even lead you to the Saint Mary Magdalene Church. Sadly, guests are not allowed to pass through these tunnels anymore.

Jose Rizal Shrine, Dapitan

Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal is the national hero of the Philippines. He was an ophthalmologist who wrote novels and poems that inspired nationalism among Filipinos during a time when the country was under Spanish colonial rule. He advocated for political reforms, but was eventually executed. His death sparked the Philippine revolution against the Spanish government.

The Rizal Shrine, found in the Jose Rizal Memorial Protected Landscape in Dapitan, Zamboanga Del Norte, is where Dr. Rizal lived for four years after being exiled. He faced accusations of plotting a revolution against the three centuries-long Spanish rule in the Philippines.

Dr. Rizal actually owned this place after purchasing it for Php 4,000 at the time (about $70 USD now, not adjusted for inflation)—part of his winnings from the Royal Spanish Lottery of the Philippines. One of its most popular landmarks is known as the Mi Retiro Rock, a spot where Rizal sat down to watch sunsets and write poems.

While this was his place of exile, it also became a place where he spent time doing things for the benefit of the local community. He worked as a teacher, a rural physician, and a farmer. Among his contributions were the establishment of a school for boys and a hospital providing free treatment to the less fortunate.

Mactan Shrine, Cebu

The Mactan Shrine stands as a monument to a crucial chapter in Philippine history. Back when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan came to the Philippines, his goal was to bring Catholicism and secure loyalty to the King of Spain from local leaders. However, one local leader named Lapu-Lapu, the Chieftain (“Datu”) of Mactan Island, staunchly opposed Magellan’s efforts. 

This resistance led to the fierce battle between locals led by Lapu-Lapu, and Magellan’s group in April 1521. Magellan died on that day.

As a result, Lapu-Lapu is hailed as the first national hero of the Philippines for having resisted foreign invasion and imperial Spanish colonization. His image is even used by the Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire Protection to symbolize bravery.

Today, the Mactan Shrine features a 20-meter-tall bronze statue of the native leader. He is shown holding a sword on his right hand and a shield on his left. A shrine erected to commemorate Magellan also stands a few meters away from Lapu-Lapu’s statue.

EDSA Shrine, Quezon City

The EDSA Shrine, as it is commonly known, is a place built to commemorate a more recent event in Philippine history—one that has inspired many people across the world to fight for democracy and freedom against authoritarian rule. Known as the People Power Revolution, this peaceful yet powerful protest was held in 1986 against the dictatorship of former Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos Sr. 

Prior to the revolution, Marcos Sr. was the President of the Philippines for a long time–for two terms, between 1965 and 1969, as well as 1969 and 1986. He declared Martial Law on Sept. 23, 1972 and ruled over the Filipino people harshly until he was forced to flee. Under his presidency, tens of thousands were unjustly incarcerated, and thousands were extrajudicially killed. Social unrest became the norm, and human rights violations were frequent. People even had to form long queues just to buy rice.

An opposition to Marcos Sr.’s presidency continually advocated for reforms. One of their leaders, Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Sr., constantly called out Marcos Sr. and was beloved among the Filipino people for standing up against the dictator’s abuses. Ninoy Aquino eventually became a political prisoner, was taken to the US for surgery, and was assassinated when he returned to the Philippines.

Following Aquino’s assassination, a fraudulent snap election was held where Marcos was declared the winner. In response, throngs of Filipinos, including Catholic clergy, gathered in the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) in Manila and held a protest against the fraudulent results. Marcos Sr. and family were then forced to flee. 

Oldest Landmarks in the Philippines

As a nation that welcomed many groups of people in ages past, the Philippines also boasts of a rich history with many cultures. These are evidenced by the centuries-old structures that remain in many places around the country. Here are some of them:

Cagsawa Ruins, Albay

The Cagsawa Ruins of Albay are what remains of a 16th-century baroque church originally built by Franciscans in 1587. It was first destroyed by Dutch pirates in 1636, rebuilt through a priest’s efforts in 1724, then finally destroyed again—along with the town of Cagsawa—when the Mayon Volcano erupted back in Feb 1814.

The ruins are currently part of Cagsawa Park, located in the municipality of Daraga in Albay Province. It is a very popular tourist destination nowadays, with even international groups recognizing it as one of the must-visit sites in Asia. The place showcases Spanish architecture with hints of Mesoamerican influences.

Those who visit Mt. Mayon tends to come to the Cagsawa Ruins as part of a tour. You’ll see a museum which showcases images of Mayon’s various eruptions over the years. You will also see other images of interesting archeological and geological finds. Although the images themselves helped me see what Mayon looked like over the years, an ATV ride following the lava trail–and the ruins left by the eruption centuries ago–made me realize that Mayon is very destructive indeed.

Fort Santa Isabel, Palawan

The historic Fort Santa Isabel, originally known as Fuerza de Sta. Isabel is located in the town of Taytay in Palawan. It was built in 1667 by the Augustinian Recollect Fathers and named after Queen Isabella II of Spain.

The Fort was originally a wooden palisade used as a military station. In 1738, Governor General Fernando Manuel de Bustillo had the wooden parts replaced with coral limestone, which is still intact today. He also installed cannons inside the fort to defend against potential raiders arriving by boat.

Today, visitors to the Fort will still see its tall walls facing the sea. Some cannons remain, providing a glimpse into the chaotic history of this now-peaceful and laid-back seaside town.

Yap-San Diego Ancestral House

The Yap-San Diego Ancestral House, located in Cebu City, is one of the oldest houses in the Philippines. It was made during the Spanish colonial era (specifically between 1675 and 1700), and is said to be the first Chinese house made outside of mainland China.

This ancestral dwelling originally belonged to a Chinese merchant named Don Juan Yap, who lived here with his wife and their three children. The eldest, Maria, eventually married Don Mariano Sandiego, the Parian Cabeza de Barangay (district head). Their union is what gave the house its current name.

The Yap-San Diego Ancestral House features Spanish and Chinese influences, as seen in the roof and its overall structure. It is made of wood and stone, prompting the locals to refer to it as the Balay nga Bato ug Kahoy (house of stone and wood). The house contains all sorts of decorations like paintings, lamps, mirrors, and figurines. Those who visit this place will see how both Spanish and Chinese cultures influenced Filipinos of the time.

Museo Ilocos Norte

As its name implies, the Museo Ilocos Norte, located in Laoag, is a museum that showcases the rich heritage of the Ilocanos, one of the native tribes in the country. The province is populated by a variety of ethnicities, such as the Ilocanos, Igorots, Itnegs, and Yapayaos, and the museum proudly shows their unique culture and way of life.

Visitors to the Museo Ilocos Norte will see common tools the Ilocano people use for their livelihood. Locally-made clothing, handicrafts, and artifacts are also on display.

The museum building itself dates from the Spanish colonial era. It was the Administration Center of the Tobacco Monopoly in Ilocos Norte during those times. Eventually, the structure, which was also used as a Tabacalera or tobacco warehouse, was converted into the museum we see today.

Fort Santiago, Intramuros

Located in Intramuros in Manila, Fort Santiago is a defense fortress constructed during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines. It was built by Governor Miguel Lopez de Legaspi in 1571. This Fort is one of the most important historical sites in the country, being located in an area that has seen many events throughout the centuries.

Fort Santiago’s current location used to be the place where a palisaded structure that belonged to a pre-Hispanic Rajah stood. This was destroyed upon the arrival of maestre-de-campo (master-of-camp) Martin de Goiti in 1570. The Spanish occupants then started building Fort Santiago in 1571, after the city of Manila was established as the capital of the areas Spain had colonized.

The Fort is witness to many bloody events in history, such as the Battle of Manila in 1762, the Philippine-American War between 1899 and 1902, and World War II, where the Fort sustained heavy damages. Today, the Fort is a National Historical Landmark and is part of a park that preserves memorabilia from the Spanish Colonial era.

Modern Landmarks in the Philippines

While it is home to many historical places, the Philippines is also home to some newer cultural landmarks symbolizing the Filipino’s embrace of modern ways of living. Here’s a quick look at some of them:

Bonifacio Shrine, Manila

The Bonifacio Shrine, also known as the Kartilya ng Katipunan or Heroes Park, is a park located in Ermita in Manila. It features a 1998-built monument commemorating the Filipino Revolution and its leader, Andres Bonifacio. The Katipunan Code of Conduct, which is a collection of values and virtues the Filipinos of Bonifacio’s time strongly believed in, is found at the back of this monument.

In 2006, a Memorial Wall was erected to pay tribute to the victims of the martial law imposed by the former Philippine dictator, Marcos Sr.

Today, the park is a vibrant place people visit at different times of day. Come here to get a deeper look at the Filipino people’s continued fight for freedom.

Mactan Cebu International Airport, Cebu

If you are visiting the Philippines and planning to go to tourist destinations in the Visayas or Mindanao areas, definitely book a flight to and from the MCIA in Cebu!

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) is the second largest airport in the Philippines. It may be just a place where travelers come and go, but it’s actually a sight to behold once you’re there! The MCIA features a distinct architectural and aesthetic beauty that cannot be found elsewhere in the country. 

Despite being built way back in 1950, recent renovations were made so it could be modernized. Today, the MCIA is a world-class airport that won the 2019 World Architecture Festival Award for the “Completed Buildings: Transport” category, overtaking even Singapore’s Changi airport.

Iloilo Convention Center, Iloilo

The Iloilo Convention Center, located in Mandurriao, was completed in 2015, right in time for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting scheduled for that year.  The structure stands on what used to be the Mandurriao Airport, and occupies a 1.7-hectare lot donated by a corporation.

The Iloilo Convention Center was proudly designed by a native architect named William Coscolluela. He took inspiration from Iloilo’s own Dinagyang festival, a religious festival held in honor of the Infant Jesus and the pact between locals and the Datus after the Malay settlers arrived in the area, and the Paraw Regatta festival, which is a big sailing event using double outrigger boats.

Since its inauguration in September 2015, the Iloilo Convention Center has hosted many local and international events. This includes major events such as the APEC meetings in 2015.

Philippine Arena, Bulacan

The Philippines might be a small country, but it has the largest indoor arena in the world. The  Philippine Arena, located in Bulacan, is a multipurpose space that hosts major sporting events and concerts—it can hold up to 55,000 people at one time. 

This massive venue has hosted many events since it opened its doors, including concerts from K-pop groups Twice, Tomorrow X Together, and Blackpink; singers Bruno Mars, Harry Styles and Katy Perry; and bands U2 and Guns N’ Roses. This place has also hosted the FIBA Basketball World Cup, the PBA Philippine Cup, and Dota 2 eSport Tournaments.

The arena’s design draws inspiration from trees native to the Philippines.Its dome roof is modeled after a Nipa Hut, and the overall structure incorporates elements from Narra and banyan trees. It was officially inaugurated in July 2014, as part of the Ciudad de Victoria, a 140-hectare enterprise zone where the arena is located.

The Mind Museum, Taguig

As its name implies, The Mind Museum is an educational science museum located in Taguig, Metro Manila. Its facilities occupy a 1.2-hectare lot in the J.Y. Campos Park in Bonifacio Global City, a business district in Taguig.

The Mind Museum features more than 250 interactive exhibits, experiment demonstrations, and shows that visitors of all ages can learn from. Many of these were made by designers and faculty from the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas. These two are among the best Universities in the Philippines, and their academic excellence lends to the Mind Museum.

Visitors to the museum will see a variety of exhibits across five different themes: atom, life, earth, universe, and technology. These exhibits include galleries showcasing the various life forms found on earth, as well as technological advancements throughout the centuries. The Themed Entertainment Association awarded The Mind with the THEA Award in 2014 for Outstanding Achievement for the Science Museum category—a testament to The Mind Museum’s excellence.

Conclusion

The Philippines is home to many landmarks and places of interest, each of which speak of the Filipino’s rich heritage, history, and culture. While this list cannot possibly encompass all of them for sake of brevity, we included what we believe to be the best places for you to visit if you want to explore and learn more about our local culture.