4 new PH destinations to consider for your next trip

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There are four new sites in Luzon — three in Ilocos Sur and one in Nueva Ecija — that have been declared by the government as new tourist destinations. Illustrations by AGU CRISOSTOMO

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The Philippines prides itself as a sustainable eco-tourism hub, populated by beaches, forests, and mountains. Our native soil is unique in its own way. It is replete with natural wonders and rich historical landmarks, an amalgamation of different cultures, a melting pot of Chinese, Spanish, and American — the byproduct of centuries of colonization.

Usual destinations favored by local and foreign tourists are Boracay, Palawan, and Siargao, three iconic islands that have put Philippine tourism on the global map and continue to power the economy. But for travelers seeking new places to explore, there are four new sites in Luzon — three in Ilocos Sur and one in Nueva Ecija — that have been declared by the government as new tourist destinations. These places are a clear indication that the Philippines has more to offer.

Illustration by AGU CRISOSTOMO

Mount Bulaylay, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija

What to do

Mount Bulaylay is an accessible destination for those who seek adrenaline and who are ready to engage in physical activities and experience nature at the same time. The mountain’s four peaks — the highest at 209 meters and the lowest at 86 meters above sea level — are suitable spots to hike. You can also jog and bike at the concrete paved road encircling the mountain trail.

If you’re one to look for more excitement, brave a thrilling 500-meter zipline as the wind rushes past your face. The zipline, high above the green expanse of the mountain, was constructed by the government in a bid to attract more travelers.

How to get there

The Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway Carmen exit provides a faster route to Cuyapo. From Metro Manila, it can be easily reached in a span of 2 to 3 hours.

Illustration by AGU CRISOSTOMO

Candon Ecotourism Zone, Ilocos Sur

What to see/do

Dubbed as the Tobacco Capital of the Philippines, Candon has several farms that produce large amounts of Virginia-type tobacco. Tourists, especially those interested in cigar-making, can take a short tour to witness firsthand how tobacco is manufactured from start to finish.

History buffs will also appreciate strolling along the streets of Candon, where its heritage landmarks have stood the test of time. One of these is the Candon Church, which was built in honor of the city’s patron saint, John of Sahagun, and dates back to the 17th Century. Featuring beautifully painted ceilings that depict The Last Supper and the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, the church is a site of solemn reflection.

Not far from the church is the Sakada Workers Monument, which pays tribute to the 15 local workers who were sent to Hawaii to work in sugar cane plantations. The monument was installed in Dec. 10, 2006, exactly 100 hundred years after they left the country in search of a better life.

When you’ve had enough of history lessons, you may swim at Darapidap Beach, which is a stone’s throw away from the city. Its three-kilometer stretch of white-yellow sand, the widest in Ilocos Sur, is what beguiles locals and foreigners alike.

Of course, a trip is not complete without pasalubong. Bring home Candon’s special kalamay, a delicacy made from sticky rice, coconut milk, and sugar, the heaviest and largest in the country.

How to get there

Candon City is accessible via McArthur National Highway. 25 de Marzo and San Juan Street are both parallel to the National Highway. Quirino Boulevard connects the city proper to the upland barangays and municipalities of Ilocos Sur.

Four bus lines — Partas, Santa Lucia Express and Martinez Trans, Dominion Bus Lines, and Candon Bus Lines — can take tourists to Candon City from Manila.

Pinsal Falls, Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

What to see/do

If you’re looking for a more secluded destination to unwind, the Pinsal Falls, the largest waterfall in the Ilocos region, is a great alternative. The picturesque scenery of the rock formations is a refreshing respite to the urban-exposed eyes. The soothing flow of the cool, crystalline, cascading waters makes it the perfect location to swim. Behind the falls is a main cave, a clandestine spot where you can take pictures.

How to get there

From Manila, ride Partas, Philippine Rabbit, or Viron buses going to Abra, Vigan, or Laoag. These buses will pass through Santa Maria where travelers can take a tricycle to bring them down the falls. Pinsal falls is 11 kilometers away on paved road from the municipal hall, and can be reached in 20 minutes by car.

Illustration by AGU CRISOSTOMO

Santiago Cove, Santiago, Ilocos Sur

What to see/do

Time stands still in Santiago Cove. Known as the “Boracay of Ilocos Sur,” its beauty becomes more pronounced in the morning and afternoon, when the sun is high, as the sand gleams against the light.

Santiago Cove is an idyllic paradise to retreat to — a painting brought to life. Relax to the sound of the waves as they lull you to sleep. After basking in the sun, there are rows of cabanas near the shore that can accommodate if you opt to sleep and eat.

Relax in a villa and book a cottage at Vitalis Villas, which sits on a cliff overlooking Santiago Cove, offering a spectacular view of the sea. Because the villas are painted in a wash of white and blue, it was dubbed the “Santorini of the North.”

At the cove’s southern tip is the Ilocos Marina Beach Resort where swimming and diving gear is available if you want to plunge to the depths of the ocean. You may also explore the vicinity of the cove by renting motorized water vehicles.

How to get there

To get to Santiago Cove, take the bus going to Vigan and inform the driver to drop off at Santiago. Once travelers arrived at the town proper, they will take a tricycle to Barangay Sabangan. The trip takes about eight hours from Manila.

If guests have a private car, take the road going to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. They’ll reach the town of Santiago after passing Candon. Once they get to the town proper, turn left and ply the 1.5km road going to Barangay Sabangan.