Located between Taiwan in the north and Borneo in the southwest, the tropical island nation of the Philippines marks the eastern edge of Southeast Asia, and consists of over 7000 mostly mountainous islands of volcanic origin. There are several major active volcanoes scattered across the archipelago, such as Mount Pinatubo, Mount Mayon, Mount Canlaon, Mount Ragang and Taal Volcano. Climate in the Philippines is hot and humid with frequent (about 20 per year) typhoons, especially during the summer monsoon which lasts from April till October. As a result the islands are all lush and green, and the remote mountain areas are covered in tropical rainforest, and pine forests and grasslands higher up.
Hiking, trekking and climbing are a popular passtime in the Philippines, especially among students, and the number of local mountaineering and outdoor clubs scattered across the Philippines is astounding.
Top region for hiking and trekking, and accessible by road from Manila, are the Cordillera mountain range in the north of Luzon island. Here you can climb trails and traverses to some of the highest mountains in the Philippines, such as Mt. Pulag, Mt. Timbak and Mt. Tabayoc. The Cordilleras are also home to a variety of indigenous hill tribes which you are sure to meet when trekking. Most famous are the Ifugao and their rice terraces, but there are many other tribes like Ibaloi and Kankaney.
A bit further east on Luzon are the Sierra Madre mountain range and Cagayan Valley, which appear to be largely unexplored by hikers. At the far southern end of the Sierra Madre range, in the region of Tagalog, is the Quezon National Forest Park. It is popular as a weekend break from Manila, with trails to caves and waterfalls. If you are in for volcanic landscapes, go hiking in Central Luzon and particularly to the crater of the recently (1991) erupted Mount Pinatubo. Or venture out to the region of Bicol in the far southeast of Luzon, to follow trails through tropical rainforests up the beautiful Mayon and Isarog volcanoes, and the restless Bulusan volcano.
Traveling south from Luzon are a group of islands called the Visayas, which form the central part of the Philippines. There are some truly challenging mountain hikes on the islands of Negros and Panay, countryside hikes on Leyte, and treks through the forests of Biliran.
Last but not least there is the large and mountainous southern island of Mindanao, home to the highest mountain in the Philippines: Mount Apo (2954 m). In spite of the somewhat instable political situation in some parts of Mindanao, it is a popular climbing destination. There are several hiking trails leading up Mount Apo, which is a sacred ancestral abode for a variety of indigenous tribes. Other mountain ranges on Mindanao include Kitanglad in the north, with its pristine tropical forests and some of the highest mountains in the Philippines. Mount Candalaga (2402 m) and Mount Pandadagsaan (2670 m) in the Davao region, offering some pretty challenging climbs from Compostela Valley. Or the remote Mount Hamiguitan on the southeastern tip of Mindanao, with its unique pygmy forest.
When hiking in the mountains of the Philippines it is common, and in some cases compulsory, to register before setting off, and to hire a local guide. Particularly on Mindanao. Check-out the wonderful website of Pinoy Mountaineer (see below).
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