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28 Dec 2021 - 13 min read

Take A Historical Journey to Iloilo for Your Next Domestic Travel Plans

Iloilo is a province located in the region of Western Visayas in the Philippines. Positioned in the heart of the Philippines, Iloilo plays host to some of the country's historical landmarks, pristine islands, and quaint beaches, heritage home as well as some of the world's tastiest cuisine. Its picturesque natural beauty, as well as the heart-warming hospitality of the locals, makes Iloilo one of the most popular destinations within the country.

Iloilo occupies a major southeast portion of the Visayan island of Panay and is bordered by the province of Antique to the west, Capiz to the north, the Jintotolo Channel to the northeast, the Guimaras Strait to the east, and the Iloilo Strait and Panay Gulf to the southwest.

Just off Iloilo's southeast coast is the island province of Guimaras, which used to be part of Iloilo but is now an independent province. Across the Panay Gulf and Guimaras Strait is Negros Occidental, occupying the northwestern half of the larger island of Negros.

Iloilo City, serving as the provincial capital, is famous for its traditional savory food, rich history, vibrant festivals, and its laidback yet progressive lifestyle. Despite being the capital, the city itself is independent and not governed by the provincial government. The city is also the sixth-largest city Philippines.

Upon exploration of the province, travelers will find that towards the north lies stunning islands with sparkling waters and gleaming beaches as well as hidden coves and lagoons. Towards the South, travelers can travel back in time by visiting centuries-old churches as well as meticulously preserved heritage sites that date back to the Spanish-colonial era.

Nature lovers will also be thrilled to find scenic mountains which have homes to countless species of flora and fauna.

How to Get to Iloilo?

Travelers will find that it is easy to get to Iloilo due to its accessibility via the Iloilo International Airport. However, travelers can reach Iloilo in a variety of different ways. There are ferries traveling to Iloilo through the roll-on-roll-off (RoRo) routes coming from major cities in the Philippines. Its location in the heart of Visayas also makes it accessible from neighboring destinations like Boracay, Guimaras, Bacolod, and Cebu.

Traveling to Iloilo by Flights

Iloilo International Airport hosts a number of airlines that fly directly to the city from various cities in the Philippines (Cebu, Clark, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Puerto Princesa, Cuyo, and Sipalay).

Leading airlines such as Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, and Air Asia are now making Iloilo airport one of the major hubs in the country. By plane, the travel time for flights from Manila to Iloilo takes around 1 hour from Manila, 30 minutes from Cebu. Promo fares are frequently announced by these airlines for travelers looking for a good deal on flights. The Iloilo Airport is located approximately 19 kilometers or 20 minutes away by taxi from Iloilo City.

Top Airlines Operating to Iloilo

There are several airports within the Philippines that have domestic flights to Iloilo City with different airlines servicing different routes. Travelers flying into Iloilo from Angeles City, Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa, Davao City, and Manila can choose to fly with either AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, Cebgo, or the Philippines Airlines.

Direct flights from Puerto Princes via Cebu Pacific will also only be operational in January. Most flights to Iloilo are operated by Cebu Pacific as they connect nine airports. Travelers need to take note that currently, all flights to Iloilo are from Manila due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Flight tickets can range from PHP5200 to PHP 6700 for low-cost airlines such as AirAsia and Cebu Pacific, as any additional services and amenities will come with extra charges.

Tickets for Philippines Airlines, on the other hand, can cost up to PHP9300, which include 20 kg luggage allocation, in-flight meals, and entertainment. The travel time between Manila and Iloilo by flight is 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Traveling to Iloilo by Ferry

Depending on where you're traveling from, the journey to Iloilo can range from 15 minutes (from Guimaras) to as long as 27 hours (from Manila). The four main seaports servicing routes to Iloilo are the Domestic Port in Fort San Pedro, the International Port in Loboc, the Ortiz Port (which serves Guimaras to Iloilo and vice versa), and the Muelle Loney Port (serving Iloilo to Bacolod trips, around 1.5 hours of travel time).

The main shipping company that provides ferries to Iloilo would be 2Go which sails from Manila, Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, and Cokaliong Shipping from Cebu, Weesam Express, and Oceanjet from Bacolod.

Travelers can also opt to take the RoRo (roll-on-roll-off), which can combine both land connections and ferries. Those interested to take the ferry to Iloilo can get their tickets from there.

Traveling to Iloilo by Bus

Iloilo being in the heart of the Western Visayas region has quickly become the transportation hub of Panay Island with various bus companies such as Ceres Bus traveling directly from Boracay (4-5 hours), Kalibo in Aklan (3 hours), Roxas City in Capiz (2 hours) and San Jose in Antique (3-4 hours).

Travelers looking for a more adventurous traveling option can opt for the RoRo (roll-on, roll-off). A RoRo bus service connecting Manila to Iloilo also operates daily with a travel time of around 20 hours.

What are the Best Places to Visit in Iloilo?

Iloilo is located in the province in which the sweet-sounding words of the Hiligaynon language are commonly spoken. Apart from this unique language, Iloilo also offers scenic countryside sights, white sandy islands, and heritage towns.

Miagao Church (Saint Thomas of Villanova Church)

The Miagao Church, also known as the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church, is a Roman Catholic church located in Miagao, which is around a 30 to 45 minutes drive from Iloilo City. Built in 1786 and completed in 1797, the Miagao Church was used as a fortress against Muslim raiders during that time which led to the church also being known as the Baroque fortress church. It is now one of the most visited tourist attractions in Iloilo.

One of the unique features of the church is its unique natural yellow color due to the materials used to make it: limestone and corals. The baroque features of the church are complemented with touches of Chinese and Filipino style imposing designs, ornaments, and motifs, making it a one-of-a-kind church and considered by many to be among the Philippines’ most beautiful architectural sites.

Throughout the years, the church has withstood many wars and revolutions, fires, and earthquakes. Due to its old structure and history, the church was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 11 December 1993, together with San Agustin Church in Manila; Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; and San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

Those who are interested to learn more about local Filipino history, especially that of Iloilo, should make it a point to visit here. Miagao Church now stands as a living legacy of the culture and way of life of the people of Miagao centuries ago.

Location: Miagao, Iloilo
Admission fee: FREE
Operation Hours:Monday: 7 AM – 5 PMTuesday: 10 AM – 5 PMWednesday: 8AM – 9AM, 11AM – 4PMThursday: 7AM – 8AM, 10AM – 5PMFriday: 9 AM – 6 PMSaturday: 7 AM – 5 PMSunday: 6 AM – 6 PM

Islas de Gigantes

Islas de Gigantes is a remote group of islands located off the coast of Carles and Estancia towns in northeastern Iloilo. It is composed of two big islands, Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur, and other beautiful islets, from the Cabugao Gamay, Pulupandan, Bantigue Sandbar, and the Antonia Beach.

The island is famed for its long stretch of white sand, jagged rock formation, and sparkling turquoise waters. From Iloilo City, Islas de Gigantes is a five-hour trip, so proper planning is highly recommended before making the trip.

For travelers looking for an off-the-beaten-path holiday experience, the trip here is highly recommended. Apart from basking in the beauty of the island, there are plenty of other activities to while away the time, such as island hopping, visiting the old lighthouse, cave exploring, snorkeling, and spelunking too.

Island hopping, however, would be the primary activity for travelers. Upon chartering a boat, the tour will take travelers to Cabugao Gamay Island to see the famous white sand beach, snorkel at Antonia Beach, relax and leisurely swim at the Bantigue Sandbar, and go for another round of swimming and photo ops at Tangke Lagoon. Island hopping tour packages can range from PHP1500 to PHP2000 for up to 10pax per boat.

Travelers intending to stay on the island must take note that the electricity on the island is not 24/7. Travelers are advised to bring power banks for emergencies. Apart from that, the phone signal is minimal on all major networks.

Only Smart and Sun Cellular have signals at Gigantes Island. If you are a postpaid subscriber to other telecom networks, you can simply buy prepaid Sim cards from Smart or Sun Cellular. Travelers who prefer a fuss-free visit to the island can always opt for a tour package that will help organize everything that you need throughout your stay there.

Location: Carles, Iloilo
Admission fee: Environmental Fee PHP75
Operation Hours: Not Applicable

Molo Church (Saint Anne’s Parish Church)

One of the most significant places of worship in Iloilo is the Molo Church, a national landmark featuring Gothic architecture. Withstanding the passage of time, it has been an irreplaceable historical and religious legacy lovingly preserved and cherished by the people of the region.

Molo Church can be found beside Molo Plaza, the central landmark in Molo District. Easily recognizable by its prominent red spires that crown its tall bell towers, Molo church has had a unique history leading to its current status.

In honor of Saint Anne, this church was known to be a feminist church because of the two rows of sixteen female saints line on both sides of the altar. Molo Church was visited by Dr. Jose Rizal in 1886 because of its biblical paintings, and it served as the evacuation center during World War II.

Due to its neogothic style, the church has now become one of Iloilo City’s most familiar landmarks and top tourist attractions. To this day, the church remains the only Gothic church outside of Manila. The church was declared a national landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1992.

Location: Iloilo City, Iloilo
Admission fee: FREE
Operation Hours:8 AM – 6 PM daily

Honorable Mentions: The Dinagyang Festival

Festival. The festival is a religious and cultural festival in Iloilo City, held on the 4th Sunday of January, or right after the Sinulog in Cebu and the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan.

Dinagyang was also voted as the Best Tourism event three times in a row among many other festivals in the Philippines. It is also the most awarded festival in the country because of its legacy, popularity, and innovation. It received the honor and was regarded as a World-Class Festival. Due to its renown, the festival attracts thousands of locals and tourists from all over the world who come especially to be part of this unique cultural experience.

The Dinagyang festival is held for two reasons – the Roman Catholic significance when the celebrants pay homage to Santino Nuevo de Cabo, the holy child based on baby Jesus of Cebu City, and for its historic signalization celebrating the beginning of the settlement on Pany Island and the sale of the island to the new settlers by the Aeta’s tribe.

The Dinagyang Festival is reminiscent of the Carnivale in Rio, where local residents are dressed in colorful costumes and masks, dancing to the rhythmic, upbeat music. As dance is a major part of the festival, celebrants will be able to show off their skill in competitions such as the Ati Tribe Competition, Kasadyahan (cultural dance competition), and the Miss Diengyang competition.

The Dinagyang festival recently has been put on pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic; however, the annual festival is set to resume in February 2022 (subject to change).

What are the Travel Tips When Traveling to Iloilo?

Although natives to Iloilo tend to converse in Hiligaynon, Ilonggos understand English and Filipino well, so travelers need not worry about any communication breakdown.
Wear breathable clothes if you're doing city tours or island-hopping tours in Iloilo, especially during the dry summer season. Bring an umbrella or wear sunglasses and hats as well if you're planning to do a lot of walking.
The busiest month for tourism in Iloilo is in March, followed by October and January. Prices for hotels and flights will be most expensive during these months, though you can save if you purchase well in advance. Tourists are unlikely to visit Iloilo in August. Those willing to visit at these times will likely find it the least expensive month.
If you're going to Iloilo for the Dinagyang Festival in January, use a compact bag where you can easily secure your belongings because there will be big crowds during the events. Wear comfortable footwear as well, as you'll be spending a lot of time standing up and walking.
Travelers interested in some Pasalubong shopping can opt to take home famous delicacies like pinasugbo (banana brittle), barquillos (local wafer), and Biscocho (buttered, toasted bread) from Jaro district, as well as hojaldres, banadas, kinihad, and other baked goods which are sold fresh at Panaderia de Molo and Biscocho Haus.
Most of the tourist attractions within Iloilo city are within walking distance. Travelers are encouraged to pack comfortable walking shoes and explore the city on foot in order to enjoy the full charms of Iloilo City.

What are the Latest COVID-19 Travel and Safety Requirements to Iloilo?

As of now, the restrictions can still change over time depending on the surge/fall of COVID-19 cases. For more information, you are best to check government official websites or our Traveloka COVID-19 Travel Regulations and Information:

Travelers who are fully vaccinated are no longer mandated to submit themselves to RT-PCR testing upon arrival.
Travelers need to obtain an S-PASS.
Travelers are required to submit an electronic copy of their Vaccination Card and duly issued Certification from the City, Municipal, or Provincial Health Office that the incoming travelers are fully vaccinated coupled with the presentation of a valid ID, OR whenever accessible, a Vaccinated Certificate.
Travelers who are fully vaccinated are exempted from upon arrival quarantine.

If Iloilo is not enough, we have more domestic destinations in store for you to reconquer the Philippines. There is plenty to explore, start here - with us!

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