2 weeks in the Philippines – a complete itinerary
November is a great time to travel to the Philippines. The wet season’s over, more or less, and the humidity’s also more bearable.
The month’s also a period when the country begins gearing up for Christmas — you read that right, Christmas, in November. If you’re thinking about visiting this month, or have already booked your ticket, this 2-week itinerary is for you.
A 2-week itinerary for the Philippines — start in Manila
Like many busy capitals in southeast Asia, Manila isn’t the most tranquil of cities. It’s busy, energetic, with activity on every corner, and you’ll either love it, or you won’t. Lines of traffic seem to greet you wherever you turn, and the city plays out like its own TV show.
However, among the smog and disorder, are also places of beauty and great potential. Many areas in the metro Manila area have been developed, with modern apartment buildings and shopping malls transforming the skyline.
I recommend spending a maximum of 2 days in Manila. It’s enough to see the main sights, and not tire of the traffic!
Get familiar with the country’s history
Many first-time visitors to the country are unaware that the Philippines was a Spanish colony for more than 300 years. Signs of the country’s former colonial past are everywhere.
From the people and the names, to the religion and the architecture, its influence is evident. In fact, the country sometimes seems to have more in common with Latin American countries than its nearby neighbors.
The skyline of Makati, Manila at dusk ©Janis Narvas
Find out about Spanish rule at Intramuros
There’s nothing more evident of the Spanish colonial rule than taking a tour of Intramuros. The Spanish used the enclosed city as its fortress during its domination. ‘Intramuros’ loosely translates to ‘within the walls’. It was used to defend against outside invasions as well as the local people.
Inside, you can walk around the grounds and visit the original buildings as it was then.
One of the most notable structures is Fort Santiago. It was built on order of the Spanish governor and navigator, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The citadel was constructed to be the new city of Manila within the fortresses’ walls.
Fort Santiago has been occupied by different forces over the centuries, including the British, the Japanese and the Americans.
What to see at Intramuros
Within Intramuros is the beautiful Catholic church of San Agustin, and a classic house of the period, called Casa Manila. This Spanish colonial period building houses a museum inside, which gives visitors an idea of life in the colonialized city.
The old-style Spanish streets within the fortress and architectural style make you forget momentarily that you’re in the Philippines.
A tour of Intramuros can easily take up half a day. The attraction’s a good starting point to understanding the city’s history, and the country too.
Manila Cathedral — Philippines 2-week itinerary
While in Intramuros, be sure to also stop by Manila Cathedral. This Spanish-style church dates to the 16th century and is an important point of interest for many Filipinos. Catholicism is a big deal in the Philippines, and the cathedral is an important symbol of this. Its full name is The Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Along with the names, architecture, and to an extent, the food, the Spanish also brought with them religion. No matter what day of the week, or time of day, you’ll always find people praying inside the church.
Manila Cathedral has been reconstructed several times over the centuries, as a result of earthquakes and wars. It doesn’t grab your attention like the cathedrals I’ve visited around Italy, but this is irrelevant to churchgoers. Filipinos are devout Catholics, and they come to the church, first and foremost, to pray, not to admire the architecture.
While it’s not strict, ladies should cover their shoulders when entering Manila Cathedral, as they do in Palermo. You may see some ladies wearing a white lace veil on their head that also covers their shoulders. These are called ‘mantillas’, which women wear during mass.
Still standing: Manila Cathedral in the city of Intramuros
“Once you step onto the powdery soft sand at El Nido, the ride will be a distant memory.”
A map of the places to see in 2 weeks in the Philippines
Shopping and sunset at Manila Bay
This place of interest in Manila is one that combines history, romance and plenty of shopping.
The bay area of Manila gives you an idea of life in the city. Local folk arrive daily to set up their stalls along the promenade, selling everything from fruits to chips. On a larger scale, Manila Bay is also known for being an area of economic activity.
It’s a region where different types of industry, like shipping, tourism and commercial, co-exist in one space.
The number one reason most people come to Manila Bay, is to visit the Mall of Asia. This monster structure of a mall has more than 700 shops under its roof, as well as an amusement park.
However, if like me, malls just aren’t your thing, come to the Bay to watch one of its magnificent sunsets. Deep reds and tones of ruby orange blend together to create sunsets that are mesmerizing, and also memorable.
In August 2019, a huge clean-up of the trash on the bay was organized; something locals are hoping to maintain. It’s great news not just for Manila Bay, but also for the visitors that come to enjoy it.
Sit down to a traditional Lechon — Philippines 2-week itinerary
I apologize in advance to any vegetarians vegans reading this, because this section is all about pork. It’s a choice of meat for many Filipinos, particularly because of this one dish: Lechon.
In short, Lechon is a whole roasted pig. The meat is juicy, tender, and full of flavor, while the crackling top is crunchy, and not fatty. It’s the star feature at family celebrations and special occasions and it’s delicious.
Given its prize place in the hierarchy of Filipino cuisine, many restaurants battle it out to serve the best lechon. And in Manila, there are several excellent choices that will satisfy your Lechon fix. These include General’s Lechon, elarslechon and Sabroso.
Where to stay in Manila?
Finger licking good — the Filipino favorite, Lechon
Escape to the heights of Tagaytay
After spending 2 days in the dizzying capital of Manila, it’s time to swap the commotion for the calm. Tagaytay (Ta-guy-tie) is a city 59km (37m) from Manila and is a literal breath of fresh air.
Many areas of Tagaytay are covered by forests, pine trees and grasslands.
Given its high altitude, the climate’s much cooler in Tagaytay and the humidity is bearable. Rainfall is common, so it’s advisable to bring an umbrella or raincoat. However, this shouldn’t put you off from visiting. The lush green scenery embracing the volcano and the lake, makes Tagaytay a city worth seeing.
By far, the number one attraction to see in Tagaytay is Taal Volcano and the surrounding Taal Lake. There are several viewing points where you can take in the views, but they can be easy to miss. My advice is to drive slowly around the lake and pull into a parking lot at one of the restaurants. You can also find other points around the city where you can grab an uninterrupted view.
The volcano’s the second most active in the Philippines. There have been 33 recorded eruptions, but today remains dormant.
Taal Lake — Philippines 2-week itinerary
The body of water that’s home to the mighty volcano is called Taal Lake. This freshwater lake fills Taal Caldera, a volcanic caldera formed by large eruptions between 500,000 and 100,000 years ago.
If you’ve time, consider taking a tour of the lake. You’ll get to travel to the top of Volcano Island and will also see mesmerizing views of the landscape.
2 weeks in the Philippines — the awesome Taal Volcano crater
Lunch with a view in Tagaytay
After a morning of exploring Taal Volcano and lake, stop in for lunch at Balay Dako by Antonio’s. This traditional Filipino restaurant serves up local dishes in a Spanish-style villa, with an unbeatable view.
Meaning ‘big house’ in the local dialect, Balay Dako serves up Filipino homestyle cooking in a picturesque setting. The calamari here is very good, as is a sour fish and vegetable soup called ‘Sinigang’.
I also recommend trying one of the fresh fruit shakes or smoothies. The fruits in the Philippines are unique, tasty and make a really mean smoothie.
Philippines 2-week itinerary — check into a wellness retreat in Tagaytay
The green surroundings and nature of Tagaytay are a perfect location for a spot of wellness. It’s known for being home to several retreats where the focus is on you and your well-being.
Nurture Wellness Village is one place in Tagaytay where you’ll easily forget about the outside world. As you walk up the stairs to the main entrance, you’re greeted by smiley members of staff.
Music and petal throwing accompany this unique welcome, and you instantly know, you’re in for a treat.
Don’t visit here without booking a treatment. Having a massage in the outdoor (tented) areas does something amazing for the mind and the body. Diet’s also on the agenda at the retreat and eating clean and well takes number one priority.
Where to stay in Tagaytay? Philippines 2-week itinerary
If you want to spend the night in Tagaytay, and in a little luxury, these places may be just right.
Check into the fabulous Anya Resort in one of their suites with a marble bathroom. There’s also a spa on site, just in case you’re looking for a little extra pampering.
A night at The Carmelence View means waking up to views of Taal Volcano and the surrounding lake. Enjoy a room with a private terrace, and even a hot tub, depending on your room type. The garden at the hotel is the icing on the cake at this luxurious Tagaytay hotel.
Add a wellness retreat to your 2-week itinerary for the Philippines
Visit the culinary capital of the Philippines in Pampanga
Gastronomes reading this will want to pay close attention to this next part. The province of Pampanga (Pam-pan-ga) in central Luzon is known as the country’s culinary capital.
It was the first Spanish province in the Philippines created in 1571. The Spanish named it ‘La Pampanga’ after the native people they found living near the river banks.
What to eat in Pampanga — Philippines 2-week itinerary
Unless you’ve some prior knowledge of the food, these dishes will more than likely be unfamiliar. While there are some dishes suitable for vegetarians, unfortunately, many do contain meat or fish.
This classic favorite consists of chopped pig’s head, chicken or pork liver and is served on a sizzling dish. Additional ingredients include Filipino lemon, called calamansi, and onions. The best way to eat Sisig is straight off the sizzling plate and with an ice-cold beer.
Angeles City in Pampanga is home to some top Sisig restaurants. Aling Lucing’s and Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy are just 2 of many. The former’s popular for being the home of the modern-day version of the dish.
The latter is famous for creating a twist on the classic favorite. The pig’s head is deep-fried rather than grilled, making it crunchier that the traditional method.
Guava sour soup
Similar to the sour soup we tried at Bulay Dako, this Pampanga dish uses native guava as well as tamarind. The result’s an aromatic blend of sweet and sour. You’ll also typically find some prawns and maybe even pork in this flavorsome soup.
No list about the food in Pampanga would be complete without this icy dessert. Halo Halo (Ha-lo Ha-lo) is a shaved ice sundae consisting of a number of ingredients. Its name translates as ‘mix mix’ because of this concoction.
Varieties differ depending on where you are in the Philippines. In the Pampanga version, you’ll likely find sweet banana, baby coconut and Leche flan (crème caramel). Carabao milk is also another unique ingredient that’s used to make Halo Halo.
The easiest way to reach Pampanga from Manila is by car. It’s about 80km (50m) from the capital.
A view of Mount Arayat in the culinary capital of Pampanga in the Philippines
Escape to the Caramoan Islands
It’s safe to say that the Philippines is a country for beach lovers. But, with over 7,000 islands in this archipelago, 2 weeks is definitely not long enough to see them all. Rather than try and cram it all in, instead take the time to fully enjoy 2 or 3 destinations.
I’m a big advocate of slow travel, and a country like the Philippines should be savored like a fine wine.
The Caramoan Islands are a group of islands and islets southeast of Manila. By plane it’s a short and comfortable flight time of 50 minutes from the capital. Once you arrive at Naga, it’s another 3.5-hour car ride to the port. The last leg of the journey is a 2-hour boat ride to reach the main island.
Most of the islands around the Philippines take a little time and effort to get there. However, once you first catch sight of the crystal blue waters and scenery, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
Island hopping around Caramoan — Philippines 2-week itinerary
Along with plenty of R&R, island hopping is the number one activity in the Caramoan. Our resort arranged our hopping excursions during our time, which also included a picnic lunch.
The Caramoan Islands aren’t yet as widely visited as El Nido and Coron, so tours here are limited. There are 10 islands to see, and it’s also possible to see them in 2 days. Several that we saw during our visit include Pitogo and Catanhawan.
Some of the islands also have small communities living there — people who are open and sincerely welcoming. The beaches are laden with fine white sand, and the sea water’s also the perfect temperature for swimming. It’s probably one of the reasons why US TV show, Survivor, has been filmed here several times.
Respect the environment and take any trash you have with you. The locals are fiercely proud of their islands and strive to maintain it for future generations.
Where to stay in the Caramoan Islands — Philippines 2-week itinerary
There’s only one place I’d recommend checking into when visiting Caramoan, and that’s Tugawe Cove Resort.
The grounds comprise of a private beach, bungalow and garden villas, and gorgeous surrounding gardens. On site is also an incredible infinity pool that’s so relaxing, you’ll find it hard to leave.
Other perks include in-room massage and a candlelit dinner by the lake area. We had the most memorable stay at Tugawe Cove Resort, and I’m sure you will too.
I recommend staying in the Caramoan Islands for 3 days. This factors in travel time, and should also be enough to see the islands and find time to relax.
Take in views like this in the Caramoan Islands
Explore Mount Mayon in Legazpi
On the way back to Naga Airport, we decided to spend 1 night in the city of Legazpi. It’s the capital city of the province of Albay, and there’s more to it than meets the eye. Among its many attractions to see in the city, there’s one sight that tops them all.
The mighty Mount Mayon volcano is the first thing you see when landing at Naga airport. It’s a sight that never tires, and one that’s visible from different angles on the island.
This active stratovolcano last erupted in January 2018. Thankfully, people that live near the volcano were quickly evacuated and nobody was hurt.
Where is the best place to view Mount Mayon? Philippines 2-week itinerary
For uninterrupted views of the volcano, I recommend heading to Ligñon Hill Nature Park. It’s a viewing point where you can capture clear shots of the entire volcano.
There are some viewing points where you do have to pay a small fee. However, I’d say save your money and find free spots elsewhere.
Head to Ligñon Hill Nature Parkin Legazpi for views of Mount Mayon like this…
What else is there to see in Legazpi? — Philippines 2-week itinerary
Sumlang Lake is another attraction I recommend visiting in Legazpi. Bamboo rafts with modern seating are ready to take you around the lake, with Mount Mayon sitting in the background.
Close to the lake are some good restaurants and the chance to also see local cultural products being made.
Two historic churches and ruins also worth visiting are Daraga Church and Cagsawa Ruins. The former is an 18th century church first built by the Franciscan priests in 1773. After heavy bombing during WWII, the church was renovated using Renaissance Gothic and Mexican Baroque architectural styles.
Cagsawa Ruins are the remains of a church that date to the 16th century. Like Daraga, this church was also built by Franciscan priests, and was destroyed 2 times. From here, you can also see Mount Mayon in the background.
Where can I stay in Legazpi?
Experience the best Filipino hospitality at Casa Simeon. This Spanish style townhouse in Albay is authentic, inviting and it also gives some insight into local life.
Rooms are generous in size, and include all the amenities to make your stay a comfortable one. I also highly recommend having dinner at Casa Simeon. The chefs dish up local dishes — that you can also watch them make — using fresh local ingredients.
The icing on the cake’s the fabulous dining room. Tables and chairs made from Philippine mahogany adorn the large room. The floor-to-ceiling windows open onto the verandah in which sits a traditional wooden rocking chair.
Casa Simeon is just one example of the fine Filipino hospitality you can expect during your travels around the country.
Sit down to a traditional dinner at Casa Simeon
Fly to Coron
Coron frequently appears as one of the must-see places to visit in the Philippines, and for good reason too. It’s a municipality in the province of Palawan and is located in the south of the country.
When we traveled from Naga to Coron, there were no direct flights available. Instead, we flew back to Manila and took another flight to Francisco B. Reyes Airport. It’s the closest airport to Coron, and is about 12.6km (7.8m) from the center.
What can I see in Coron? 2 weeks in the Philippines
The vibe here is laid-back, and ideal for all types of travelers. Party-goers may prefer the lively nightlife in El Nido over the chilled ambience in Coron. Personally, I prefer the latter, but maybe that’s just me showing my age!
You should know that Coron is the name of the municipality, and also the name of the 3rd largest island. Aside from its dramatic rock formations and rich turquoise-green waters, Coron Island is known globally for its diving sites.
Japanese wreckages from the aftermath of WWII have become popular diving sites around Coron Island. You can even find some of the wrecks in waters as shallow as 10 to 30ft. However, if you too aren’t a confident diver, there’s still plenty to explore with the trusty snorkel.
Kayangan Lake — Philippines 2-week itinerary
Most visitors come to Coron to see one attraction.
Kayangan Lake currently holds the title of the cleanest freshwater lake in the Philippines. However, with the growing number of visitors arriving each year, this might slowly change.
The easiest way to visit here is by booking a group tour. You’ll get to visit Kayangan Lake plus other sights, like Twin Lagoon and Barracuda Lake. Another method — if you’ve the budget — is to go private. There are companies that can take you to the lake, and without anyone else around.
There’s a 10 to 15-minute steep climb to reach the viewing deck. You can stop along the way to grab that must-have photo, but others will have the same idea. Once you reach the lake, leave your belongings at the side of the wooden pathway and dive in.
2-week itinerary in the Philippines — sailing around Kayangan Lake in Coron is a popular attraction
Is Kayangan Lake overrated?
In my opinion, no. Kayangan Lake is absolutely worth seeing, and is as beautiful as it is in the photos. The biggest downside is the large number of tourists, but sadly this comes with the package.
The earlier you arrive at Kayangan Lake, the better. Other tips to observe include:
- Take your trash with you and leave nothing behind
- Wear your life vest when swimming in the lake
- Take a portable battery to charge your gadgets.
If you’ve time, also try to visit Banul Beach and Siete Pecados.
Where to stay in Coron Town? Philippines 2-week itinerary
Accommodation choices in Coron Town range from the very budget friendly to mid-range. We spent 1 night in one, and 2 nights in the other, to experience both.
Corto del Mar is a 4-star property in a central location in Coron Town. Rooms are spacious, very clean and there’s also a good-size swimming pool on site. If available, book one of their rooms with a terrace and sea view — you won’t be sorry.
Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel is another 4-star hotel, which is just 5km (3m) from Kayangan Lake. If your budget allows, I also recommend booking the Panorama Suite. With plenty of natural light and views overlooking the bay, it’s the only way to wake up when in Coron.
Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel is also an easy 3-minute walk to the port; perfect if arriving from El Nido.
I recommend a total of 3 days in Coron. This includes travel time, and also if you want to see other attractions on the island.
Wooden walkway to the boats at Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel
Last stop: El Nido
Reaching El Nido from Coron takes longer than you might think. Traveling by (fast) ferry is the most popular way to get to El Nido. The journey takes about 3 to 4 hours, which is pretty good considering the distance. Two fast ferry companies include Montenegro and Phimal. Some of these carriers also arrange private transfers from Coron.
If, like me, you don’t have the best sea legs, I advise taking a sea sickness tablet 1 hour before. The waters are usually calm, but it can also be choppy at times.
Once you step onto the powdery soft sand at El Nido, the ride will be a distant memory. This town in Palawan is the gateway to the remarkable Baculit archipelago.
El Nido — one of the most beautiful destinations in the world
When you come to El Nido, you come for one of two reasons. The first is for the diving and scuba diving activities. The second is for island hopping.
There are tour companies galore waiting to take you around Baculit Bay. Shop around for the best prices and packages. Beaches are the buzzword of El Nido, and there are a handful here calling you to its shores.
Swim in a lagoon —2-week itinerary in the Philippines
A visit to El Nido means exploring some of its lagoons. Tours typically include a visit to the Small and Big Lagoon.
The former, as its name suggests, is a shallow body of water, whose entrance is between 2 limestone rocks. Big Lagoon is the larger version and a short ride away. While shallow at the entrance, the water gets deep quickly so be aware of this. You can also kayak around the lagoon, rather than swim — if it’s included in your package.
I also want to inform you to look out for sea snakes near the shallow part when entering the water. I did see some, but honestly didn’t realize it at the time. I also didn’t bring any water shoes with me but I was fine. That said, it was a little unnerving to find this information out only after the trip!
Head to the beach — Philippines 2-week itinerary
Nacpan Beach is just one of many paradise beaches you can discover in El Nido. There’s a shuttle service that will take you directly from the town center. At the time of our visit, it cost P600 (€11 / $12 / £9) per person for a return trip.
The beach is a dreamy scene of 4km of sandy white shore with palm trees swaying in the background. Swim, sunbathe or snorkel; how you spend your time here is up to you.
In case you plan on staying overnight, Nacpan Beach Glamping wins for accommodation. The resort consists of luxury tents on the beachfront, and brings you closer to nature. What’s more, they also take guests out on a complimentary sunset sail.
Las Cabañas Beach is another beach, about 10 minutes away, from the town center. A tricycle (motorbike and passenger carriage) is the cheapest option at PHP150 (€2.64 / $2.89 / £2.30)* for 2. Come here for the usual beach activities, and for the legendary sunsets.
Add the popular Las Cabañas Beach to your 2-week itinerary in the Philippines
Where should I stay in El Nido?
Like most island destinations, there’s accommodation in El Nido to suit every type of traveler and pocket too. Many of the hostels are located near the seafront, with the majority of travelers consisting of backpackers.
However, there are several reasons why I advise choosing luxury over any other type in El Nido. Hot water, and sometimes even electricity, isn’t always a given in some mid-range hotels. Of course, if these factors don’t bother you, there are some decent choices right on the seafront.
El Nido Resorts — Lagen Island Eco-Sanctuary resort
On the private islands are several resorts that will make your El Nido trip that more memorable. El Nido Resorts have several properties in their portfolio, each one on its own island.
The stupendous Lagen Island Eco-Sanctuary resort is one of those images cherry-picked straight out of a glossy magazine. A backdrop of rich-green forest surrounds the property, placing you right at the heart of nature.
There are 51 rooms in total, consisting of forest rooms and suites, water cottages and beachfront cottages. The water cottages are built on stilts above the water, while the beachfront rooms come with a panoramic view of the cove.
Lagen Island Eco-Sanctuary is a resort that also embraces eco-tourism and sustainability. Floors and furnishings in the rooms and suites are made from recycled timber. Activities like birdwatching and hiking around the resort also reflect its eco ethos.
A boat ride from the El Nido Resorts jetty to the resort takes about 50 minutes depending on the weather.
Three days is a good amount of time to explore El Nido.
Arrive at El Nido Resort in Lagen Island to this sight — Philippines 2 week itinerary
What’s the weather like in the Philippines in November?
I really enjoyed the climate of the Philippines in November. It’s can be a little cooler, with much less humidity. It’s an ideal time of the year to visit, especially if you don’t handle high temperatures so well. To give you an idea, daytime figures ranged from 25°C (77F) to 27°C (81F).
That said, the sun shone daily around the Caramoan, Coron and El Nido, all bar one day of heavy rain.
What are your thoughts on this 2-week Philippines itinerary? Are there other places you’d prefer to see in the country? Let me know in the comments below!
Till next time, happy boutique travels x
*Prices correct at the time of visit
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended. Thank you for your support.
Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience; a demographic (late 20s onwards) that enjoys glamping over camping, staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels, sampling the local food and wine, cultural activities, and indulging in a spot of wellness on their travels. Read more here…