Philippines banks on UNESCO heritage
The Philippines is laying claim to the title of South-east Asia’s centre of UNESCO World Heritage sites, with more listed locations than any other country in the region. Six UNESCO sites are located in the Philippines, including three cultural sites and three in the category for natural significance. The country’s Tourism Attaché to Australia and New Zealand Norjamin Delos Reyes highlighted the sites as alternatives to resort destinations. “Most people now know that our islands in the Philippines offer some of the most stunning beaches on the planet,” she said. “However, in many ways the Philippines is still a largely mythical and undiscovered mystery.” Among the most spectacular of the UNESCO sites are the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, an ancient system of sculpted mountain landscapes older than the Colosseum of Rome. Created by the Ifugao people between 2,000 and 6,000 years ago, they rise to an altitude of 1,500m and would span more than 22,000km if laid end to end. On the same island of Luzon, another UNESCO listing covers the superbly preserved city of Vigan with its concentration of Spanish colonial architecture dating from the 16th century. From a similar period, four of the Philippines’ baroque churches share a joint UNESCO listing and date from the Spanish era between the 16th and 18th centuries, including the San Agustin Church in Manila built in 1586. The natural UNESCO sites include the PuertoPrincesa Subterranean River National Park, an intricate cave system with an underground river that emerges directly into the sea. Also in a marine environment is the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Sulu Sea, a home to sealife including whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles and more than 350 species of coral. The sixth listed site is the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in the east of Mindanao, home to endangered plant and animal species including the Philippine eagle and Philippine Cockatoo. Intrepid’s 11-day Philippine Discovery itinerary traverses the spectacular mountains and picturesque rice terraces. Setting out from the lively city of Manila, travellers will spend three days trekking through rice fields, forests and villages, staying in local communities. There’s the chance to wind down along the way with a swim in a river, enjoy a massage from one of the locals and learn about traditional customs and culture. Next the tour heads into the scenic alpine mountains by jeepney, pausing in Bontoc, the capital of the Mountain Province before reaching Sagada. A three-hour walk will take visitors to the unique Hanging Coffins in Echo Valley, past a coffee plantation and to the Sagada weaving factory. During the tour travellers will also trek to the stunning Mt Pinatubo and spend a night camping by the summit crater lake. The 11 day trip is priced from $2,265 per person.
Sagada Rice Terraces, image courtesy Intrepid