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Sights and Attractions

There's a good reason why they say: It's more fun in the Philippines. Why not see and experience the best sights and attractions in the Philippines for yourself?

Besides the impressive islands and beaches, the country is well-known for, a visit to the Philippines leads to memorable and interesting places of rich cultural history

The UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

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Philippine Baroque Churches, UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

Of all countries in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, together with Indonesia and Vietnam, have the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These sites are divided into two types: cultural monuments and natural monuments.

In the Philippines, there are a total of three cultural monuments at six different sites, because four different baroque churches have been combined as a cultural heritage site "Philippine Baroque Churches". Also, there are three more natural heritage sites, which are world-famous for their uniqueness and authenticity.

A vacation in the Philippines offers besides the aspect of recreation on beautiful beaches also the possibility to visit unique cultural and natural monuments of mankind.

At nine different locations scattered all over the island world of the Philippines, you can thus convince yourself of the contribution of the Philippine people to the culture of the world.

Philippines: The cultural heritage sites

Rice Terraces in Ifugao Province

Rice Terraces in Ifugao Province

The rice terraces in the Banaue Valley, which were carved with bare hands by the indigenous people some 2000 years ago, are an exemplary testimony to the harmony between intensive agricultural use and the simultaneous protection of nature. Located in the province of Ifugao in the north of Luzon, they cover an area of 250 km².

Since the Banaue Valley is only about 20 kilometers long, the Ifugao, an ancient Malay mountain people, were forced to use the slopes of the northern Philippine Cordilleras for rice cultivation. They developed a special skill and passed on their knowledge of building terraces orally from generation to generation.

The number of terraced areas that stick to the steep mountain slopes up to heights of 1500 meters is in the millions. Some of them are only a few square meters in size and are secured by retaining walls 6-10 meters high. Via an ingeniously designed irrigation system, the water flows from the mountain heights through canals and pipes made of bamboo cane to the uppermost terrace, fills it, and then continues its way down into the valley of terraces. The rice terraces in the Banaue Valley have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.

Philippine Baroque Churches

Philippine Baroque Churches

The fact that the Spanish missionaries have done thorough work has resulted in the Philippines being the only Catholic country in Asia today. However, the influence of Buddhism and Islam was naturally very strong, so the church buildings had to demonstrate the power, size, and stability of the Christian faith. This resulted in a unique synthesis of European baroque and the local art and crafts tradition.

The result is churches that look like impregnable fortresses of faith. Their architectural style is also jokingly called Earthquake Baroque. This characteristic is expressed very vividly in the church of St. Thomas of Villanueva in Miagao on the island of Panay, consecrated in 1797, whose bell tower resembles a fortress. Equally fortified is the Church of Our Lady in Santa Maria near Manila.

Like a fortified pyramid, the façade of the Church of St. Augustine in Paoay in northern Luzon rises. The church of St. Augustine alone, located in the old town quarter of Intramuros in Manila, amazes with its urban elegance. Consecrated in 1626, it is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. Since 1993 the four churches mentioned above have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Historic town of Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Historic town of Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Vigan was the only complete city to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999. It is considered the oldest existing colonial city and is located on the northwest coast of Luzon on the South China Sea. Its favorable location made it an important trading center during colonial times. It was also from here that the treasures of the country were transported to Acapulco in Mexico, to continue their journey to Spain. Since then the city center has hardly changed. Worth seeing are the three-nave cathedral from 1574 and about 130 stately Spanish colonial houses, which give the city of Vigan its incomparable charm. With the inclusion of the city on the prestigious World Heritage List, Vigan has become a source of pride and a national historical symbol of the Filipinos.

Philippines UNESCO Natural heritage sites
Tubbataha Park, Palawan

Tubbataha Park, Palawan

Two small atolls in the Sulu Sea, about 180 kilometers southeast of Palawan Island, form this marine national park. They rise only one meter out of the water and are relatively difficult to reach. This has led to a diverse and unique animal world, which has been considered worthy of protection by UNESCO since 1993. Most of the Tubbataha reef consists of a wild jumble of more than 40 coral species. Here you can meet the rare hawksbill turtles as well as the manta ray. Especially the southern atoll offers about 380 species of fish, such as the spectacular Napoleon wrasse. The northern atoll, the bird island, encloses a lagoon of coral sand and is an ideal breeding and nesting place for numerous bird species, such as swallows and gannets or the great hornbill.

National Park Underground River, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

National Park Underground River, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

A magnificent karst landscape with an underground river, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park on the island of Palawan has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. It covers about 5750 hectares. The park's biggest attraction is located a good 80 kilometers northwest of the island capital Puerto Princesa near the fishing village Sabang.

The longest navigable underground river in the world has a length of 7 kilometers, of which about 4.2 kilometers are navigable. The estimated age is 23 million years with the river flowing directly into the South China Sea. What’s more interesting is that a group of environmentalists and geologists has discovered in 2010 that the underground river has a second level. This means that there are small waterfalls inside the cave relatively unexplored.

The park itself is characterized by a variety of endemic animal and plant species. These include the Palawan Peacock-Pheasant, the Green-backed Sunbird, the Palawan Hornbill, and the very rare Red-vented Cockatoo.

Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, Davao Oriental

This region is located in the extreme southeast of the Philippines on the island of Mindanao and was only added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014. Around the 1620 meter high mountain Hamiguitan, the unique nature reserve extends over almost 7,000 hectares in the province of Davao Oriental.

A special feature of the region is the five different vegetation zones. While up to an altitude of about 420 meters, the vegetation is mainly characterized by agricultural ecosystem, between 420 and 920 meters the winged fruit plants typical for Southeast Asia dominate the vegetation.

This is followed by an area with low mountain flora about 250 meters high and a moss landscape between 1160 and 1350 meters altitude. The five vegetation zones are completed by a unique pygmy forest with endemic tree species. The national park is home to numerous plants and animals that only occur in the Philippines. These include, above all, the majestic Philippine eagle, the Philippine warty pig, and the endangered bird species Bleeding-heart dove.

As you can see, beyond the striking beaches and landscapes, the Philippines offers breathtaking UNESCO World heritage sites, so it’s not surprising that this tropical country is on most traveler’s bucket list!