Albay is one of the six provinces in the Bicol Region situated about 460 kilometers south of Manila. The province takes pride of its diverse natural attractions, delectable cuisine and fine handicrafts. Aside from Mayon Volcano, its crown jewel, Albay has many great sights and activities to offer.
1. Get Up Close with Mayon Volcano
A visit to Albay is not complete without the proverbial moments with the magnificent Mayon Volcano. Hiking up to the crater is a popular activity among outdoor enthusiasts and is usually conducted by registered local guides (for a hefty price). If trekking is not an option, drive along the scenic road towards Mayon Skyline also known as Mayon Rest House. It is the closest you can get to this alluring volcano.
For the photo junkies, head to Barangay Busay in Cagsawa for the classic shot of Cagsawa Church Ruins and Mt. Mayon. Embarcadero in Legaspi City offers a stunning view of the volcano and a glowing cityscape at night. For a more rustic scenery, explore the surrounding towns at the foothills of Mt. Mayon and delight yourself with the boundless photographic opportunities.
2. Cool Down at the Waterfalls
If you fancy nature tripping, check out the province’s lovely cascades and bask in its rural countryside charm. Swim in the refreshing water of Vera Falls or cool down in the splendid cascades of Palale Falls in the quaint barrio of Malinao. For the adventurous, hike up Busay Falls and explore the seven falls tucked within the verdant forest of Malilipot. The natural springs flowing from Bugsucan Falls is another alternative for a day trip picnic while in Tiwi Albay. Alternatively, head to Mataginting Falls in Jovellar for an off-the beaten path adventure.
3. Feast on the Local Cuisine
Sample the fiery Bicol Express from the local eatery and have a takeaway of the famous Pinangat of Camalig. Try the cheap and tasty snacks sold on the streets like the sinapot, ginamsan, balisongsong, dila-dila, puto sa abab or if you are feeling a bit adventurous, savour a bowl of pancit rinuguan, a noodle dish simmered in meat broth, spices, and stew of cubed pork, tripe, various innards and pork’s blood.
Top: Pancit Rinuguan and Sinapot, Bottom: Balisongsong and Puto sa Abab
4. Bury Your Feet in the Volcanic Black Sand Beaches
No need to fly to the island of Santorini or across the Pacific to the islands of Hawaii to experience the rare beauty of the best black sand beaches in the world. The province of Albay, because of its volcanic origin, is home to the most unusual jet-black sandy beaches in the country.
Head to Sogod Beach in the rural town of Bacacay and enjoy the lengthy coastline of mostly black volcanic sand or take the scenic drive to Tiwi and end your road trip with a refreshing dip in the black sand beaches of Joroan .
5. Shop for Native Products and Pasalubong
For the shopaholics, head to the local market for a wide choice of great value native products, pili nut candies and other sweets. Take home some dried fish, pancit (fresh egg noodles) and fresh alamang (small shrimp) which is the distinct ingredient in an authentic Bicol Express.
The Satellite Market near the Central Bus Terminal in Legaspi has clusters of shops selling all manner of take home goods and native handicrafts from the finest abaca products like bags, wallets, footwear, colourful home decorations as well as cutlery and pottery. There are also a few souvenir shops in Cagsawa Ruins, Albay Pasalubong Center in Albay Astrodome compound and in every town center. Make sure to haggle or better yet buy in bulk to get the best deal.
6. Explore the Caves
Feel the gentle breeze that blows through the numerous openings of Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave in Camalig and marvel at the interesting rock formations and the small bats that inhabit it. For some serious spelunking, pack your gear and head to the nearby Calabidongan Cave also located in Camalig. A bit of trekking, some river crossings and swimming across a seven-foot lagoon will lead you to its spacious and imposing cathedral. The grotto-like Del Rosario Cave in Jovellar and the seaside cavern of Minaroso Cave in Rapu-Rapu Albay both offer remote and unexplored spot.
7. Hike up Lignon Hill
Climb up Lignon Hill early in the morning before the day gets too hot and the clouds roll in to hide Mayon’s tip. Alternatively, visit late in the afternoon to catch the sunset and the sparkling night lights and enjoy the 360 degree panoramic view of the city. You can also try the exciting activities on offer here like zip lining, rappelling, paintball and airsoft as well as adventure sports like ATV riding (Four-Wheel-All Terrrain Vehicle) and biking on dried up gullies at the foot of Mayon.
8. Explore the Wild Off-Shore Islands of Albay
For the seasoned travellers who prefer to explore the unspoilt and dramatic part of the country, check out four of the Philippines’ wild islands off the Pacific shore of Albay. San Miguel Island, Batan Island, Rapu-Rapu Island and Cagraray Island all offer pristine waters, powdery beaches, and a bucolic atmosphere perfect to get away from it all. Except for Cagraray Island where the luxurious Misibis Bay Resort is located, there are no hotels available on the islands. If you want to stay overnight, you can either camp or ask the locals if anyone can put you up for the night for a small fee.
Check out the remains of a seventeenth-century Spanish galleon three kilometers off the coast of Buhatan Beach. The galleon was one of the Spanish trading ships that sailed between Manila and Acapulco (now Mexico) and is now home to colourful corals, clams, fans as well as tropical fish, one or two sea snakes and nudibranchs. You can also dive at San Miguel Marine Reserve, one of the top 5 dive sites in Bicol Region and awarded as the 2nd Best Managed Reef in 2001 by PhilReefs.
10. Visit Century-Old Churches
If you’re a culture and architecture junkie, delight yourself with the province’s century-old religious structures and their rich history. Old churches are present in almost every town and municipality. Although many of them had been altered and renovated, some are still worth visiting. Drop by at San Juan Bautista Church in Tabaco City, one of the two churches in the region declared as National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum. It was first built in 1616 while the present church was completed in 1879. San Juan Bautista church has an impressive belfry and the stones used to build the church bear the unique markings of the Masons.
Pay a visit to Daraga Church (Our Lady of the Gate), another cultural treasure highly regarded for its indigenous Baroque architecture, richly decorated façade and intricate images carved out from volcanic stones. This massive structure is perched majestically on a hill overlooking Mayon Volcano. And don’t forget to check out Camalig Church (Church of St. John the Baptist), one of the province’s strongest, most massive and best-preserved churches. Marvel at the ingenuity of the skillful stonecutters who built this church from solid blocks of lava rock.