White sand beaches, the chaotic urban sprawl of Manila, the bizarre undulations of the Chocolate Hills – The Philippines is nothing if not varied.

Above all else, this archipelago of over 7,000 islands offers an extraordinary array of breathtaking natural scenery, some of it unique to the Philippines. One of the most unusual – and widely visited – natural attractions is the Chocolate Hills on the island of Bohol, a whole chain of softly curved hills so-called due to their brown colour when the grass dries out.

Equally captivating are the giant green steps of the Banaue Rice Terraces, stretching down the hills for miles and skilfully created by local tribes people two millennia ago.

For more intrepid travellers, Palawan still has many areas of totally unspoilt rivers and mountains ideal for escaping from it all – even the more accessible regions offer some unbeatable scenery such as the eerie underground river or the cliffs of El Nido.

The majority of visitors come to this chain of Pacific Islands for their gorgeous beaches – and even here they’re spoilt for choice. For anyone looking for a lively party scene to accompany their sun and sand, there are few better places to go than famous Boracay, with truly stunning white beaches and nightlife to compete with that of many of its Thai neighbours.

For pure relaxation, though, there are countless small islands offering the same white sands minus the crowds – on many of these you’ll have the whole beach to yourself.

It’s not just the wealth of natural attractions that keep tourists coming back to this magical archipelago, there’s also the friendly, outgoing people, who manage to make all visitors welcome with a universal warmth, politeness and eagerness to help. Even the most jaded of travellers will find it hard not to be captivated.

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