Road Trip Hotspots For Holy Week
For the upcoming Holy Week, everyone in Manila will be in a mad rush to leave the city for a few days of rest, relaxation, and reflection. Don’t know where you should go? We’ve picked a road trip destination for every interest. So if you’re into nature, feel like going for a hardcore hike, or just feel like chilling on the beach or going on a food trip, we’ve got you covered. Read on for the best road trip hotspots for Holy Week in Luzon:
For nature and history lovers: Naga City, Camarines Sur
Photo: Geopoet / CC-BY-SA-3.0
What’s there: Naga City is famous for its historical landmarks and delicious food, as well as being the jump-off point to Caramoan, but the city itself is a haven for nature lovers. Here are the nature highlights:
- Mount Isarog National Park. This inactive volcano is surrounded by a forest which is home to a variety of flora and fauna, like wild boar, monkeys, deer, and the Mount Isarog Shrew Mouse, which can only be found in that area. There are also exotic orchids and flowers just growing wild in the park, sure to delight budding botanists. If you’re up for a hike, climbing the peak of the mountain will give you superb views of Camarines Sur. Entrance is P50 for locals and P100 for foreigners.
- Malabsay Falls. Within the Mount Isarog National Park are the Malabsay Falls, which you can get to via an ATV ride, or a 30-minute hike after a jeepney ride. The cool waters of the falls will be perfect for the hot summer day after the ride or the hike.
- Naga City Ecology Park. This eco-tourism project features topiary mazes, flower gardens, and a mini-forest.
And once you’re done enjoying the natural wonders, you can come back to the city proper and go on a food trip at the many restaurants in the area, and check out the historic churches dating back to Spanish colonial times.
How to get there: Naga is around 380 kilometers south of Manila, and you can get there via the South Luzon Expressway and the Pan-Philippine Highway. Don’t forget to pack water and snacks for a long road trip, as the drive can take around 8 – 9 hours.
Where you can stay: Avenue Plaza Hotel if you have some cash to spare (rooms start at P2,500 a night); CBD Plaza Hotel if you’re on a budget (rates start at P600 per night).
How much you’ll spend for a budget two-night stay (approximate): P4,000
For hikers: Mt. Pinatubo
Photo: ChrisTomnong / CC-BY-SA-3.0
What’s there: The beauty of the Pinatubo caldera belies the destruction it caused when it erupted in 1991. But these days, it’s a popular hiking destination, and the vistas at the peak make it worth the 3-hour trek.
After your hike, you’ll find the Pinatubo Crater Lake where the volcano’s summit used to be before its eruption. Although you can’t swim in the pristine, blue-green waters of the lake due to the sulfur in the water, you can still chill out by the beach and enjoy the scenery. The caldera surrounding the lake makes for a dramatic view, and the mirror-like surface of the water has to be seen to be believed. There are also tours available at reasonable rates.
How to get there: Getting to the Capas, Tarlac start-off point, 126 kilometers north of Manila, should take around 2 hours via North Luzon Expressway and the Subic – Clark – Tarlac Expressway.
Where you can stay: You can make this a day trip to save yourself the expense of accommodation. But if you want to stay longer, Alvin’s Mt Pinatubo Guesthouse and Tours offers rooms as well as package tours.
How much you’ll spend for a two-night stay (approximate): P3,000
For surfers: Liw-Liwa, Zambales
What’s there: La Union and Baler may be the more popular Luzon surf spots, but for those looking for a little more solitude while still getting some surfing in, try this hidden gem in San Felipe, Zambales. It’s also a lot closer than those places, being only a 2-hour drive away. The swell is best at Liw-Liwa from October to March, so Holy Week is your last chance to catch 6-foot waves here. If you’re a total newbie to surfing, the friendly local instructors will give you lessons.
How to get there: Only 166 kilometers from Metro Manila, it should take you just under 3 hours to get there via NLEX and SCTEX.
Where you can stay: The Circle Hostel is a surfer- and backpacker-friendly hostel, with rates from P250 to P500 a night. You can save more by choosing to sleep in a hammock rather than a bunk bed. There are a lot of cheap food places nearby, too, and if you ask nicely, they’ll deliver to you on the beach.
How much you’ll spend for a two-night stay (approximate): P1,500
For food trippers: Angeles City, Pampanga
Photo: FoxLad / CC-BY-SA-3.0
What’s there: Some of the best dishes in the country have origins in Pampanga. Sisig, that perennial pulutan favorite, was invented right in Angeles City! The strong culinary tradition of this city continues to this day. Visit (and eat at) the birthplace of sisig at Aling Lucing Sisig, try authentic Kapampangan food at Binulo Restaurant, or enjoy Filipino classic cuisine with a modern twist at the retro Downtown 1956 Cafe. Angeles City also boasts good international cuisine with C’ Italian Dining, Purple Pad Thai, and many others.
How to get there: Just 84 kilometres north of Manila, you could drive there in less than 2 hours via NLEX and SCTEX.
Where you can stay: Make it a day trip and save yourself the accommodation expense. But if you want to stay for a couple of nights, Tune Hotel is a good budget pick, with rooms starting at P1,000 a night per head.
How much you’ll spend for a day trip (approximate): Depending on where you eat, you can spend as little as P1,000.
For Visita Iglesia: Rizal Province
Photo: Hannachiever07 / CC-BY-SA-3.0
What’s there: For those wishing to adhere to tradition, there’s no place better than Rizal to make your Visita Iglesia pilgrimage. If you’re hoping to complete the traditional seven churches, here are our picks for churches that combine history and religion:
- Cainta Church. Completed in 1716 and also known as Our Lady of Light Parish Church, this church was burnt down during the Filipino-American war in 1899. It was restored in the late 60’s and is an important historical destination today.
- Baras Church. Also known as St. Joseph Church, this church was completed in 1686, making it one of the oldest in the region still standing. The architecture bears the marks typical of Franciscan mission churches, with its dark stones and mixture of fortress features with Baroque architecture.
- Morong Church (pictured above). Completed in 1620, this church of Franciscan origin is one of the most popular churches in Rizal. Its greatest feature is the elaborate Baroque Revival façade, completed in 1853.
- Tanay Church. Another Baroque church, this was declared a National Cultural Treasure in 2001, having been completed in 1783 and still serving as one of the region’s most prominent churches.
- St. Mary Magdalene Parish Church. Completed in the 1670s, its simple adobe facade may look simple, but inside this church in Pililla is full of colorful tiles and an impressive altar and sacristy.
- Taytay Church. The Philippines’s second saint, St. Pedro Calungsod, was an altar boy at this church, which was completed in 1630. Reduced to ruins after the Second World War, it was reconstructed and expanded in the 1970s.
- Binangonan Church. Completed in 1830 and also known as Sta. Ursula Parish Church, it serves as a historical landmark indicating the spread of the church in the region.
How to get there: Rizal province is only 16 kilometers east of Manila via Ortigas Avenue, so if you beat the traffic it could take as little as half an hour to get there.
Where you can stay: You’re better off making this a day tour, since it’s so close to Manila anyway.
How much you’ll spend for a day trip (approximate): under P1,000
So what are you waiting for? Next week, grab your friends, get in a car, and hit the road! You’re sure to find a destination to love with our suggestions. Bon voyage, and drive carefully!