Top 18 Tourist Spots and Best Things to do in Iloilo, Philippines
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I can’t recall how many times I’ve been to Iloilo, but this city just keeps on enticing me to come back. Thanks to its unlimited no-frills adventure and inspiring natural beauty, Iloilo is now one of the favorite destinations in the Philippines. I also love how the genuine and soft-spoken Ilonggos assure that all their tourists are safe and that they feel at home.
You’ve probably read dozens of articles on what to see and exciting activities to try in the city of love, but let me share with you my top 18 best things to do in Iloilo that you should add on your travel itinerary. Read along!
Visit Jaro Cathedral
No Iloilo trip is ever complete without dropping by at the popular Jaro Cathedral. Hailed as Iloilo’s oldest churches, Jaro Cathedral’s architecture is very distinct where the bell tower is located across Jaro Plaza.
It is one of the must-visit places in the city if you’re into architecture and history. As a matter of fact, religious devotees around the Philippines flock here to visit the miraculous 400-year-old image of Mother and Child. But not just that, it is also called the ‘Male Church’ of the Iloilo because there are male saints that stand on the two rows of pillars inside the church.
Jog at Iloilo River Esplanade
If you want to take a downtime to unwind or witness the Iloilo sunset, then it’s best for you to visit the Iloilo River Esplanade. It’s a multi-functional place that serves as an eco-park, fitness and recreational venue perfect for local and newcomers in the city. The city has put a major effort not only to rehabilitate the Iloilo River but to also promote active lifestyles amongst its locals.
Visit Molo Church
The Molo Church or Saint Anne’s Parish is one of the most visited and photographed landmarks in Iloilo. It is also dubbed as the feminist church because of the all-women ensemble of saints are represented in 16 statues perched on the pillars. It is said that the church was built in 1831 using white coral rocks and egg whites. Interesting!
Whenever I see batchoy stalls in Manila, it only brings back my fondest memories in Iloilo which is why the first thing I do every time I visit the city is heading over at Ted’s Batchoy which is just located near the airport. What makes this a standout is that it’s the soup is usually mixed with round noodles, liver, kidneys and heart, chicken stock, beef loin, shrimp and garnished with chicharon and toasted garlic for a savory aroma.
Of course, I also visit my ultimate favorite Batchoy place in La Paz Market – Netongs Original La Paz Batchoy.
Visit Camina Balay nga Bato
If you want to immerse and enter the beautiful houses built under a colonial Spanish influence, then the Camina Balay nga Bato situated at Osmeña Street in Villa de Arevalo Iloilo City is the place to be.
Here in this house, you’ll see relics, antique furniture, old photographs, and religious altars. To add more excitement, this ancestral house offers its guests a hot chocolate and pancit molo. As a matter of fact, you can also buy some tablea and local artisanal products on the lower floor of the house. If you’re planning to visit this place, you can ride a jeepney and tell them to drop you at Panaderia de Iloilo.
Visit Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA)
With the recently opened Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA), tourist have now more reasons to travel the city of love. ILOMOCA, housed inside the three stories of the Casa Emperador Building is the first art institution in the region that exhibits the works of both Filipino and foreign modern and contemporary artists. Other than artworks, there is also an exhibit for personal collections, a theater and an events facility with state-of-the-art audio technology.
Admission at ILOMOCA is Php 100 for regular visitors, Php 80 for senior citizens, and Php 50 for students.
Aside from the famous Iloilo batchoy, you also can’t miss on their biscocho as well! It’s a crunchy bread which is either coated with butter and sugar, or garlic. As a Filipino who loves coffee, biscocho is best eaten with coffee especially during breakfast or just a snack for any time of the day.
Other than most bought items like keychains or shirts, biscocho tops the most popular pasalubong in Iloilo. For more pasalubong options, you may visit the Original Biscocho Haus.
Address: Don Aguedo Del Rosario Bdlg., Lopez Jaena St., Jaro, Iloilo City
Operating hours: 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Contact numbers: (033)329-0862 / (033)329-0864
Facebook page: Original Biscocho Haus
Visit Garin Farm
Who would have thought that heaven is found in Iloilo? If you’ll traverse on the southernmost town of the Province of Iloilo, you’ll get to visit Garin Farm; where the popular pilgrimage site in San Joaquin is located. The site features a holy installation from the huge sculptures, saints, and nothing but white elements to portray the heaven-like feels of the place. To get to the top, one must enter the dark tunnel to reach the all-white end. Just make sure you bring your cap and sunglasses to protect you from the heat especially at noon.
Experience Dinagyang Festival
Celebrate and be in one with the free-spirited Ilonggos when you take part in the world-class Dinagyang Festival, held every fourth Sunday of January. Some of the highlights of this festival include a street dance competition, cultural competition, and a firework display to cap off the event.
Explore Calle Real
Delve into the historic area of Iloilo and visit JM Basa Street or popularly known as Calle Real. Here you’ll see old buildings that survived World War II, some of which are turned into shopping centers and residences. Don’t forget to bring your cameras as some of the areas here are picture-perfect!
Try Robertos Siopao
Iloilo is not only known for its biscocho, pansit molo and batchoy, but is also popular with their Siopao! Try visiting Roberto’s at JM Basa St. Their siopao varieties range from regular, jumbo, king, and queen. Go try the chunky and sweet pork adobo siopao.
Discover the beauty of Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll include Gigantes Islands in your itinerary. It’s a paradise like no other and one should really visit to know why it’s a popular destination in Iloilo. Situated at the northernmost part of Iloilo province, Islas de Gigantes is a must-visit paradise if you love the beach and picturesque view. To get here, you may get a ride via Carles and Estancia.
Visit Miagao Church
Dubbed as an architectural wonder, Miagao Church is also included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. If you want to visit here, it will take you about a 30-40-minute drive from the city center. It’s a beautiful church with ornament carvings and two huge watchtower belfries on each side.
Side trip to Guimaras
If you’re feeling spontaneous, then why not take a side trip to Guimaras? All it takes is a 15-minute ferry ride from the city port and you’re in for an exciting adventure. You can either snorkel at Ave Maria Islet, take a photoshoot at the Guisi beach and Tatlong Pulo Beach, visit the Baras Cave, or stroll at the Alubihod Beach.
Did you know that the sweetest mango in the world can be found in Guimaras? Depending on the season, you visit the Guimaras Mango Farm and pick some mangoes for pasalubong. Whether its Mango season or not, don’t forget to try Mango Pizza. It may sound weird but your taste buds will surely crave for more.
Exciting adventures await you in Guimaras!
Iloilo Nightlife at Smallville Complex
No Iloilo trip is complete without having to experience its vibrant nightlife. In fact, the city is brimming with bars, coffee shops, restaurants (Ilonggo, Seafood, Filipino, and Western themed ones), and KTV bars most locals and newcomers drop by to have fun and spend the rest of the evening. It’s a popular entertainment and lifestyle hub you shouldn’t miss!
Bucari Pine Forest and Campsite
If you want to be closer with nature and seek adventure away from the city, then traveling from Jari to Leon should probably be included in your itinerary. The Bucari Pine Forest and Campsite is a perfect venue for guests who want to commune with nature anytime of the day. Guests can pitch their tent, bike their way to the campsite, and climb atop to see the breathtaking panoramic view of the mountain ranges of Alimodian and Leon.
Shop at the Festive Walk Mall
Before you leave the city, another option would be dropping by at the Festive Walk Mall and shop ‘til you drop! This is a perfect meeting place in case your squad want to go on separate ways and meet afterwards. It is also located between Richmonde Hotel Iloilo and McDonald’s IBP.
Visit the Molo Mansion
One of the popular landmarks in Iloilo is the Molo Mansion which is now a popular place for pasalubong. There’s the Kultura stall and souvenir shop on the ground floor and a painting exhibit at the second floor. This glorious mansion is indeed Instagram-worthy! It’s also facing the Molo District Plaza which makes it accessible for all tourists.
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