January is the perfect time to explore and travel the Philippines. The weather is ideal, colder, hence your sweat glands will not suffer as you explore the sights; it is off-season and therefore more budget-friendly with bargains in the offing; and with the Yuletide stress being over and done with, people are generally more relaxed.
This article will guide you through some of the popular tourist spots in the country to visit during January, from up north to down south, with each featured destination as enchanting as the last.
Founded in 1572, the City of Vigan is acknowledged as the most well-preserved Spanish colonial town not just in the country but in Asia. For that singular honor, it is now part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1999.
More than just architecture and antiquity, Vigan is a vibrant city that continues to embrace its past as it advances into the future. It is a well-planned and authentic urban center that has survived a world war and calamities since the 16th century. Indeed, a great place to travel in the Philippines in the month of January for history and architectural lovers.
The heart of Vigan is Calle Crisologo, a street paved with cobblestone and flanked on each side with ancestral homes that date back to when Spain colonized the Philippines in the 16th century. From this throbbing pedestrian, haven flows Vigan’s culture and history. Best explored on foot, there are also horse-drawn carriages available for sightseeing tours. These carriages are the only vehicles that can travel on Calle Crisologo, which transforms from a shopping street by day to a ribbon of al fresco dining establishments at night.
National Museum of the Philippines – Vigan
The National Museum of the Philippines maintains a regional museum on Padre Burgos Street. More popularly known as the National Museum of the Philippines – Ilocos Complex, it is housed in two buildings, the Padre Burgos House, often referred to as Bahay Na Bato (House of Stone) that showcases the memorabilia of the martyred priest Padre Jose Burgos of the GomBurZa triumvirate, and the President Quirino Museum that houses his personal effects and other mementos.
The most photographed landmark in Vigan, which consistently shows up on Instagram, is Bantay Church Bell Tower. Located in the northeast section of the city, the Bell Tower offers an amazing view of the city. Younger tourists, however, focus on getting the most creative shots not inside the tower but at the foot of the hill where the view itself is Instagram-worthy.
There are a host of other places that are of interest to travelers in Vigan City. From Mansions of the Ilustrados that have been transformed into Museums, to Churches, to a jar-making factory where your hands can try the creative clay-manipulation process. And then there is the world-famous Ilocano food that will sustain your wandering soul as you further explore Vigan.
Unspoiled El Nido
Picturesque is one adjective that befits El Nido. A quaint town in the northern end of Palawan, El Nido is famed for its beaches and cobalt blue waters. The awesome limestone formations that are like arms reaching towards heaven are also a must-see.
These limestone formations often have caves where birds are called Swifts. These birds build their nest with their saliva as a primary material, with some ferns and twigs for reinforcement. The nests are made into a soup, a very expensive delicacy. Hence the name El Nido, the nest in Spanish, because they are plentiful in the coastal caves in the area.
Even with the influx of tourists that have increased in folds over the years, El Nido remains quite nonchalant, seemingly oblivious to its success as one of the destinations in the bucket list of travelers. Nevertheless, its a must-see travel destination in the Philippines for your January adventure.
Traveling to El Nido
El Nido is reachable via AirSwift in an airport just minutes from the center of town. Most tourists, however, still go through Puerto Princesa City and then a 5-hour mostly bumpy van ride to El Nido. Others go via Busuanga and take the ferry from Coron.
Accommodations in El Nido are somewhat more pricey in comparison to other places, although the facilities and amenities are sparse. Internet connections are generally iffy, and ATMs frequently run out of money to dispense or are offline. Technology has yet to get a strong foothold, but the lure of El Nido is strong. Enchanted visitors usually come back for more, with more friends in tow.
Island hopping in El Nido is a thriving industry, with all-in packages for a full-day tour. Prices may vary from operator to operator, but the routes and sets of islands you can visit range from Tours A, B, C, and D. These island hopping tours are pretty standard. Each tour features different destinations, so expect to be with other people in your group and an average of 10 other boatloads of people going in the same destination.
Resist the temptation to go on a private tour with a boat charter. The only difference is that you will not have other people in your boat but because the Coast Guard monitors all movements, your chartered boat will still ply the same routes to the same destinations with no alterations or deviations from the prescribed itinerary.
The Crown Jewel of Philippine Tourism, Boracay is a haven for tourists who keep coming back to soak in the island’s cosmopolitan vibe. Travelers engage in many activities that are as varied and diverse as the interests of visitors from around the globe. Premium hotels are aplenty, as well as humble lodgings.
With the convenience of a nearby airport and seaport connecting to major transport hubs, getting to and from Boracay is a breeze. An international airport is just over an hour away, making it very expedient for tourists. Perfect for local and international tourists lining to travel, Boracay in the Philippines is a must-destination visit during January for its accessibility and weather.
Things to do in Boracay
Fun in the sun is what Boracay is about. Its beaches and coves have coral sand that surprisingly remains cool to the touch even at high noon. But should it rain, there are still other activities for tourists to take part in. Activities such as staying fit in an indoor sports center, relaxing in a spa, or going to a shooting range and emptying a couple of clips are all worth your time. The more adventurous go windsurfing and/or kiteboarding or helmet diving. And retail therapy is always an option.
If you are staying for more than just a weekend, try to make that around the 3rd Sunday of January. Go and have a day trip to Kalibo for the Kalibo Sto. Niño Ati-atihan Festival, one of the top festivals in the world.
Laid Back Siargao
Siargao is synonymous with surfing, but there is more to Siargao than sun, sand, and surf. Siargao is also an ideal place for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. No wonder tourists still come even when the surf is not raging. The island’s vibe, like Boracay, offers a respite from the constant rush experienced by a city dweller.
Conde Nast hailed Siargao as the world’s most beautiful island in 2018. New resorts and restaurants were built to cater to the influx of visitors. Tourists, primarily surfers, and some who just want to go off the grid and enjoy the small island’s many delightful natural features such as beaches and coves, spelunking and recreational bird watching, and just strolling along the beach and taking a dip in its turquoise waters, are its main source of income.
Surfing enthusiasts will enjoy the now world-famous Cloud 9, the “IT” place to be in terms of surfing. For those who would rather watch the surfers catch the perfect wave and “get barreled” there is the boardwalk for optimum viewing pleasure. It is also the perfect place to watch the sunset.
Must visit in Siargao
One of the most fascinating Siargao seascapes that is a must-see and experience is the Magpupungko Rock Pools. Not just for swimming, it is recommended for those with the courage to go and try cliff jumping. Before you venture out to this place, which is over half an hour away by motorcycle, check with local authorities if it is open because sometimes, they close this area.
There are four caves for spelunkers to explore and enjoy. There is Hagukan, Magkukuob, Balitas, and Crystal Cave, each one unique, requiring different approaches and levels of difficulty. Explore all hidden caves as you cross them out on your January travel list in the Philippines.
Allow a full day to go island-hopping, visiting three islands: Guyam, the smallest which you can explore in less than 15 minutes; Daku, as the name suggests, is a bigger island where lunch is usually served; and Naked Island, so-called because it is barren, just white sand, where some playful tourists think of playfully mooning their friends.
Engage With The Locals
Bear in mind that Filipinos are generally friendly, able to speak English, and genuinely happy to be of help. Feel free to ask questions or otherwise engage them in conversation. But just like anywhere else in the world, some readily take advantage of a foreigner. Be friendly, but never let your guard down, and no matter what happens, allow the other person to save face.
It is a very Asian thing, and they will appreciate the consideration. Sometimes, there is no ill will, just a failure in communication owing to language or simply a cultural thing.
Enjoy your January Philippine Travels.