48-Hour Tour of the Archipelago

Some 48 hours or so is all it takes to see the whole Philippines in a single car trip. The whole thing—from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao—seen in one adventurous sweep of a long driving escapade. And this is probably the longest, most daring car trip possible in the country.

The trip is from Ilocos in the north to Davao in the south—an exciting 1,364-mile drive or about 3,000 kilometers. Called the Philippine Tourism Highway (Maharlika Highway before), it is vivid with rustic life and color.

The trip starts in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. A short visit to Vigan, Ilocos Sur can be rewarding. Then proceed to Cagayan Valley. Along the coastal roads are patches of scenic beaches like Pagudpud and Patapat. There are caves to see in Penablanca but that could extend the trip too much. Maybe next time.

From Cagayan continue towards Manila, though a short stop over Salinas Salt Springs and Dalton Pass in Nueva Viscaya probably wouldn’t hurt. While at it, see Biak-na-Bato and Bustos Dam in passing Bulacan.

After Manila comes the Southern Tagalog region and the first sceneries would be those of Laguna’s towns of local arts, crafts, and sweets, and a crazy burgeoning of hot spring swimming pools everywhere.

Then old fashioned Quezon Province, and much later the Bicolandia, where a short rest in Legasapi City would afford a good view of the famous Mayon Volacano. Then, onwards the road leads to the port of Matnog, Sorsogon, the end tip of the Luzon road.

A ferry ride from the Matnog port takes the adventure to the Visayas, landing in Allen or San Isidro in Samar. There, a stop to view the landing site of General Douglas MacArthur in Palo is recommendable.

From there to the famous San Juanico Bridge connecting Samar and Leyte. Then finally, Tacloban, where the night can be spent in comfortable inns.

Liloan, southern Leyte is the next stop the next morning, where another ferry ride takes the trip to Mindanao. Watch for welcoming dolphins during the ferry trip—one of its amusing features. After some two hours, the trip is continued on the roads of Surigao Del Norte.

Now, why not drop by Butuan City, a mere 7-mile (15 kilometers) deviation from the main route? By taking the Cagayan De Oro road, one cannot miss Butuan. From there, try to view Lake Mainit as you proceed to your last stop, Davao City.

The Automobile Association Phillipines (AAP) promotes this tourist route that takes visitors from tip to tip of the Philippine archipelago via land travel—in one sweep. No other land trip in the country can afford the eager tourist with a comprehensive survey of how diverse the Philippine Islands really are.

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