It’s no surprise that the Philippines is on everyone’s bucket list of must-visit countries. The country has so much to offer from pristine beaches and natural wonders to historical and cultural sites. Whether its century-old structures, breathtaking mountains, thriving coral reefs, or the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Philippines, indeed, is full of places everyone just has to see. 

The recognition greatly helps identify Filipino heritage sites that highlight our culture and the wonders of nature. But more than giving an identity, it also helps in the preservation and protection of these man-made structures and natural wonders. 

9 Must-Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

Here’s a list of heritage sites in the Philippines that every traveler must visit!

9. Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary 

Location: Davao Oriental

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 2014

Type: Natural

landscape view of Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

This mountain in Davao Oriental is home to 1,380 threatened and endemic species of animals and plants. One exciting thing about visiting Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is the sightings of rare animals such as the Philippine eagle, the flying fox, tarsier, and civet. 

Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is an important environmental treasure and the only heritage site in the region.

According to UNESCO, among the top reasons for Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary’s inclusion in the list of heritage sites in the Philippines is because it represents a complete, substantially intact, and highly diverse mountain ecosystem, in a significant biogeographic region of the Philippines.

8. Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva – Miag-ao, Iloilo

Location: Miag-ao, Iloilo

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993

Type: Cultural

facade of Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva
Photo source

One of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Philippines is the church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao. It is among the best examples of the “fortress baroque” style in the country. Built of local yellow-orange sandstone, the church stands on the highest elevation of the town and was completed in 1797.  The church withstood typhoons and earthquakes and was burned twice: first was during the revolution against Spain in 1898 and the second was during the Philippine-American War.

ZEN Rooms Quarantine Hotels

Filipino master carvers incised the church’s entire surface. The church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva is one of the best examples of the fusion of the western Baroque style embellished with Filipino folk motifs. With that being said, it’s not surprising why this church is among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Philippines.

7. Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion – Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

Location: Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993

Type: Cultural

facade of nuestra senora de la asuncion
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Another baroque church that’s among the 5 examples of tangible cultural heritage in the Philippines recognized as one of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Philippines is the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Ilocos Sur.

Built in 1765, the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion exhibits a monumental brick facade and reinforced walls to protect it against earthquakes. Its appearance evokes a Mediterranean hill town, the only example of such in the Philippines.

Its key features include an 85-step stairway that leads to a carving of the Virgin Mary atop a tree, and a bell tower which was added in 1810. The power and simplicity of its geometric forms, and its location, make this UNESCO World Heritage Site Philippines an outstanding example of Peripheral Baroque architecture.

6. Paoay Church (Church of San Agustin) – Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Location: Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993

Type: Cultural

facade of paoay church

Church of San Agustin or Paoay Church is known for its extravagant coral-block buttresses and ornate stone finials and is among the 5 examples of tangible cultural heritage in the Philippines. The construction of this world heritage site began in 1604 and was completed in 1710. Its coral stone bell tower, standing at some distance from the church, was finished in the second half of the 18th century. For your information, Philippine bell towers were constructed at a distance from the main church structure to avoid its falling on the church during earthquakes. Paoay Church’s bell tower was said to have been used as a Filipino watchtower during the 1898 uprising against the Spaniards.

This is one of the most notable “earthquake baroque” structures in the country where the primary concern was to design the church for earthquake protection. 

Being one of UNESCO world heritage sites in the Philippines, Paoay Church has become a top tourist destination in the region.

5. Church of San Agustin in Manila – Intramuros, Manila

Location: Intramuros, Manila

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993

Type: Cultural

interior of san agustin church in manila

Like the other baroque churches that are cultural heritage sites in the Philippines, San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila exhibits its remarkable features such as retablos (altars) of high Baroque style and wall buttresses separating cripto collateral chapels. What makes this world heritage site unique is its ceiling paintings in the tromp l’oeil style.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site San Agustin Church, built between 1587 and 1606, is considered the oldest and longest-standing church in the country. The church was the only structure left intact in Intramuros during World War II.

4. Historic City of Vigan 

Location: Ilocos Sur

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1999

Type: Cultural

a kalesa passing through the cobblestone streets of vigan

Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia according to UNESCO. One of the reasons for its inclusions in the cultural heritage sites in the Philippines is that its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.

Next to Manila and Cebu, Vigan was the third most important city during the height of the Spanish colonial era in the 18th and 19th centuries. Vigan was the center of Spanish colonial power in northern Luzon. The range of structures along the plazas and streets reveals the story of the town. The large buildings evoke political or religious power; grand homes speak of wealth, while others show more modest means; and cobblestones streets speak of history. This world heritage site is a living testament to the Spanish colonial era that exerts a strong cultural influence on the modern Philippine nation.

3. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park 

Location: Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1999

Type: Natural

a group of tourists in the boat exploring puerto princesa underground river

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is one of the world’s most impressive cave systems. What makes it to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Philippines is its uniquely and impressive features of spectacular limestone karst landscapes, pristine natural beauty, and intact old-growth forests and distinctive wildlife.

With an underground river measuring up to 8.2 kilometers, it is said to be among the longest in the world. The highlight of the heritage site Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is that it flows directly into the sea, with its brackish lower half subjected to tidal influence, distinguishing it as a significant natural global phenomenon. 

2. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park 

Location: Palawan

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993, 2009

Type: Natural

divers with schools of fish in tubbataha reef

One of the most remarkable heritage sites in the Philippines is the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Most people consider this UNESCO World Heritage Site as every diver’s dream as it covers 130,028 hectares, including the North and South Reefs. 

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is one of the Philippines’ best diving spots where you can see over 350 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish. The reserve also protects one of the few remaining colonies of breeding seabirds in the region.

1. Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Location: Ifugao Province

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1995

Type: Cultural

majestic view of banaue rice terraces

Topping the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Philippines is the Cordillera Rice Terraces. It is an outstanding example of an evolved, living cultural landscape that can be traced as far back as 2,000 years ago.

While this UNESCO World Heritage Site was built a thousand years ago, the traditional farming technique is still practiced to this day. That’s why the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are an important part of the Philippine culture and identity. It is also a living testament to the sophistication of pre-colonial Filipinos because the Cordilleras were hardly affected by colonization.

Its beauty continues to draw attention, even the international film industry has noticed, making it a setting for the blockbuster Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War

Among the world heritage sites in the Philippines, the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras have such a powerful presence that makes them one of the most outstanding places in the country. It also shows the harmony between humankind and the environment.

If you’re planning to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Philippines, we’ve got budget hotels near these areas. Make sure to book at www.zenrooms.com to enjoy a comfortable and hassle-free trip!

Frequently Asked Questions About UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

Q: How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are there in the Philippines?

A: There is a total of nine (9) UNESCO World Heritage Sites found in the Philippines.

Q: What are the world heritage sites found in the Philippines?

A: The nine (9) UNESCO World Heritage Sites found in the Philippines are:

  1. Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary
  2. Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva
  3. Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion
  4. Paoay Church
  5. Church of San Agustin in Manila
  6. Historic City of Vigan
  7. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
  8. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
  9. Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Q: What is important to the Filipino culture?

A: Filipinos value their strong ties to the family as part of the rich Filipino heritage. They are very hospitable, loving, and caring. They respect their elders so much and the beliefs that have been passed on to generations.

Q: Where are the Philippine rice terraces located?

A: The most popular rice terraces in the Philippines are found in Ifugao Province na isang mahalagang yaman ng Pilipinas na ginawaran ng UNESCO bilang world heritage site. But aside from this, you can also see beautiful rice terraces in the province of Bohol.

Q: Anong UNESCO sites ang makikita sa Cagayan?

A: Kung naghahanap kang world heritage sites sa Cagayan Valley, sa ngayon ay wala pang naitatala ang UNESCO Philippines na heritage site sa rehiyon. Pero ngayon ay mayroon pa lang na tentative list ang UNESCO ng Paleolithic Archaeological Sites in Cagayan Valley.

Q: Anong UNESCO sites ang makikita sa Iloilo?

A: Ang UNESCO site na makikita sa Iloilo ay Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva.

Disclaimer: ZEN Rooms claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on ZEN Rooms, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

If you’d ask scuba divers where’s the best place to dive in the world, for sure, the Philippines is on their list. With 7,641 islands to explore, it makes sense that the Philippines is one of the best diving destinations in the world because there are many great diving spots in the Philippines.

What invites the divers across the world is the Philippines’ water treasure. They have spectacular reefs, whale sharks, mantas and underwater UNESCO World Heritage sites. No wonder the Philippines has been recognized as the world’s leading diving destination in the 2019 World Travel Awards.

Here are the top 10 best diving spots in the Philippines!

1. Tubbataha Reefs, Sulu Sea

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Palawan, in the heart of the Sulu Sea. It is rich with such great underwater creatures and reefs that’s why many would agree that Tubbataha is the best diving spot in the Philippines.

However, Tubbataha is only for experienced divers as the currents can be dangerous. The rewards are great, though—sightings of white and blacktip reef sharks, whale sharks, mantas, turtles and hammerheads.

This definitely tops the 5 diving spots in the Philippines.

2. Anilao, Batangas

One of the country’s most popular diving spots is Anilao, Batangas. Anilao is rich with beautiful sightings of colorful coral reefs, fishes, turtles, sharks, barracuda, pygmy seahorses, and rare critters. It’s a great diving spot in Batangas because it’s literally a heaven-on-earth for muck diving, blackwater diving, and macro photography. 

3. Coron, Palawan

If you’re the kind of diver who seeks history underwater, then Coron is the best place to be! Coron is home to several World War II wrecks; Japanese supply ships that were sunk by American forces in the battle of Coron Bay in September 1944.

Vessels like Akitsushima, Iraku and Olympia Maru are big, ghostly and fascinating to visit. And to add to Coron diving spots, make sure you also dive the famous Barracuda Lake and Gunter’s Cathedral. 

4. Apo Reef, Mindoro

Often referred to as “little Tubbataha,” Apo Reef Natural Park is a 27,469-hectare natural marine park between Mindoro and Palawan provinces.

Apo Reef is home to the world’s second-largest continuous coral reef, and the largest atoll in the Philippines. You’ll see plenty of sharks, turtles, bumphead parrotfish, huge schools of snappers and tuna, manta and eagle rays, as well as other pelagic species. That’s why many divers consider this as one of the greatest diving spots in the Philippines.

5. Dauin, Dumaguete

Another world-class diving spot in the Philippines is in the province of Negros Oriental. Most of the best diving spots in the Philippines are located along the coastline of Dauin in Dumaguete City.

The place is best known for its excellent muck diving, great coral reefs nearby, and its assortment of luxurious beachfront dive resorts which are relatively affordable compared to other diving destinations in the world. 

Dauin closes the list of our top 5 diving spots in the Philippines.

6. Moalboal, Cebu

Don’t be surprised when millions of sardines welcome and swim with you when you dive in Moalboal. Seeing the huge school of sardines is the highlight of diving there, making this one of the best diving spots in the Philippines.

Another great diving spot in Moalboal is Pescador Island, just a 10-minute boat ride off the beach. There’s also a sunk Cessna plane wreck at Rhonda Bay with some massive gorgonian fans at 30 meters best for morning dives.

Moalboal delivers a good array of great diving with little effort required to access it. This is perfect for backpackers and scuba diving newbies.

7. Malapascua Island, Cebu

Aside from being one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines, Malapascua is also a great Cebu diving spot.

It is most famous for the almost certain chance to see Thresher Sharks. You can also see whitetip reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, devil rays, mandarin fish, pygmy seahorses, ornate ghost pipefish, frogfish, blue-ringed octopus and a huge variety of nudibranchs and shrimps.

The best diving spots in Moalboal are Monad Shoal, Gato Island, and Kemod Shoal.

8. Donsol, Sorsogon

Swimming with the whale sharks is the most famous activity in Donsol, Sorsogon but it is now emerging as one of the top diving destinations in the Philippines. It boasts of an impressive mix of corals, rock, and sandy bottom formations.

Donsol has become famous to the tourists because of its abundance of marine life and fish species. There are also some wrecks in the area but only those with technical diving experience can go there.

9. Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

Just like the diving spot in Batangas, Puerto Galera is just close to Manila. It’s just a 2-hour drive which makes it frequented by tourists in search of diving spots without hopping on a plane.

Puerto Galera is a diving paradise boasting its crystal clear waters and abundant marine life. While there are several dive sites worthy to be noted, the most sought after spot is Canyons where currents sweep divers through three beautiful canyons covered in a variety of soft corals and sponges. And while inside these structures, you’ll find large schools of fish including barracudas, batfish, snappers, emperors, and trevally.

10. Bohol

Bohol is mostly known because of its Chocolate Hills but aside from this, the province is also becoming famous for its great scuba diving spots that include the islands of Balicasag, Cabilao, and Panglao. 

What attracts scuba divers there is the great diversity of marine life there. You can find eels, octopus, sea snakes, many different species of fish, hammerhead sharks, and of course, the coral reefs.

BONUS!

Suba Lagoon, Siargao

To complete the list of diving spots in the Philippines, we’ll close it with Siargao’s Sugba Lagoon. It is a famous Siargao diving spot because of its great view and turquoise waters. Although it’s one of the famous diving spots in the Philippines, tourists go here just to take photos for the fear of heights. Whatever the case is, Sugba Lagoon is a great place to be!

If you’re planning to visit these areas, we’ve got properties for you. Book budget hotels in the Philippines at www.zenrooms.com.

Disclaimer: ZEN Rooms claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on ZEN Rooms, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.