Luzon Philippines
map of Luzon Philippines
The Luzon Region takes it name from Luzon Island, the largest island of the Philippine archipelago, and includes Mindoro Island and the Palawan group of islands.
Luzon is the home of Philippine capital, Manila, and the seat of government and commerce. It is a magnet that attracts hundreds of thousands of individuals from all over the Philippines each year. Each seeking the promise of future and fortune, making Manila a thriving metropolis of 12 to 14 million people (depending on the day or month) and a melting-pot of Philippine commerce, culture, and cuisine. Manila is also a vibrant international city, the home of the Asian Development Bank and a large expatriate population from all corners of the globe, a focal point of Philippine arts and entertainment, and one of the most culturally eclectic cities in Asia.
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Manila is a sprawling city reaching out around Manila Bay and can trace its roots back far beyond the Spanish colonial occupation, that began almost 500 years ago and ended in 1898 with the arrival of the Americans. The Americans were followed by the Japanese during WWII and the Philippines finally became a nation under self rule in 1946. The old Spanish city of Manila and the fortifications of Intramuros still stand - a city within a city - its moat now a popular inner-city golf course. The modern, glass and steel high rise of the twin CBD’s of Makati and Ortigas tower over both sides of the Pasig river, challenging each other for supremacy: their vast shopping malls and ordered streets are stark contrast to the clutter of centuries-old churches, public buildings and private homes that rub shoulders with new office & apartment blocks throughout the older sections of the city.
All roads, air and shipping routes lead to and from Manila. Air-conditioned buses run North and South on modern expressways, Super Ferries sail from Manila Bay day & night and several domestic airlines fly to more than 100 airports across the nation.
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Travelling North takes you over the agricultural flatlands of Pampanga either, to the rugged ranges of Mountain Province, Baguio, Sagada, and the famed Banaue Rice Terraces or, along the western route to the Freeport of Subic Bay - once home to the US 7th Fleet - on to the resort beaches of Zambales, past the scenic beauty of ancient Bolinao & the Hundred Islands, to La Union's sand and surf spots. Further North, the historic Chinese & Spanish city of Vigan, the beaches of Pagudpud, the dramatic Cagayan Valley and the windswept island province of Batanes wait to be explored.
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Just south of Manila, past the historic hinterland surrounding the shores of Laguna de Bay, lies the dramatic vista of Taal Lake, a live volcano within a massive volcanic lake & crater, overlooking the rugged Batangas coastline with its many beaches and resort areas. Further South, the port of Batangas City is the jumping off point for Mindoro and the islands of Catanduanes, Marinduque, Masbate and Romblon. Further South still is the Bicol region, its white sand beaches, vast areas of coral reefs and sheltered seas, offering new discoveries to adventure travellers. There the perfect cone of the Mount Mayon volcano simmers and dominants the landscape; snorkelers swim with the whale sharks of Donsol and surfers come from far and wide to ride the ‘Majestic’ breaks off the island of Catanduanes.
Back in Batangas you can hop on a ferry to get to the sleepy islands of Marinduque, Masbate and Romblon. Well off the beaten tourist track, these islands offer a wealth of natural beauty and an enormous diversity of rare and exotic species of flora and fauna. Hiking, mountain climbing, scuba diving and windsurfing are developing attractions in these islands, and the fine marble work of Romblon is an increasingly sort-after prize.
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Just across the Verde Island Passage from Batangas is the island of Mindoro, the seventh largest island in the Philippines and home to Mount Halcon, the country’s third largest mountain, which rises 7,460 feet above the white sand beaches and coral reefs of Puerto Galera. This bustling tourist mecca rivals Boracy in popularity and is a renowned international scuba diving destination, spanning 42 kilometers of sandy coves and beaches. It offers world-class scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing and sailing, plus serious hiking and nature treks in the mountains above. Puerto Galera also offers a unique mountain golf course, carved out of the side of the steep foothills rising above White Beach, a challenge to both serious and casual golfers alike; the golf course delivers spectacular views across the Verde Island Passage to Batangas and beyond.
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Mindoro is geologically separate from Luzon and is home to a number of endemic species of wildlife found nowhere else on the planet, the largest of which is the Mindoro Tamaraw – a diminutive, wild, water buffalo with a fierce temper. Mindoro is also the home of the minority Mangyan tribe, who still live the loincloth lifestyle in the high rainforests, as they farm the steep mountain slopes. The tiny eco-tourism island of Pandan is located just off the shores of West Mindoro and is popular for its friendly turtles, snorkeling and the scuba diving action at nearby Apo Reef. For pristine beauty, and the variety offerd by beaches of every sand colour (except black) backed by mangroves and virgin rainforests, Bulalacao, on the southeast tip of Mindoro, is perfection.
Palawan, National Geographic's "best island destination in East and Southeast Asia 2007", lies to the west of Luzon island and is comprises a group of islands dominated by the long island that gives the group its name.
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Words like "pristine" only come close to being an overture to the special beauty of the islands of Palawan. From Coron and El Nido islands in the North, the Balabac Islands to the South and out East to the Tubbataha Reef, the scuba diving inspires beyond most imaginings. This is the Philippines as it is popularly conjured in travelogues and magazine articles. Palawan offers a sometimes overwhelming choice for the eco-tourist: untouched nature, endemic wildlife, remote deserted islands, tranquil white sand beaches, 5-star resorts and spas, backpacker lodges, dive camps & live-aboards, and even an island where Giraffes, Zebras and other African species roam free along side indigenous Mouse Deer and other protected Philippine wildlife. The Palawan island group has it all.
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