Last updated on February 19th, 2019 at 11:40 am
La Muy Leal Y Noble Ciuded de Iloilo (Most Loyal and Noble City), or modernly known as the City of Love, Iloilo City is one of the highly urbanized cities to visit in the Philippines. Different Iloilo tourist spots and things to do in Iloilo City are waiting for you, so book a flight and prepare your itinerary as you read through this Iloilo City travel guide.
Iloilo City is located at the western part of Panay Island and is composed of approximately 1,721 barangays in its 43 towns. It is truly a great example of a city growing towards progress without ruining its century-old central business district. But you might be wondering and dying to ask us “why should I visit Iloilo City, Philippines?” Here’s why.
The city boasts of modern infrastructures such as malls, bars, hotels. On the other hand, well-preserved old buildings, churches, and houses from the Spanish era also abound in Iloilo. It is also surrounded by numerous beaches and resorts that will satisfy your wanderlust. Unlike some of the most crowded and major cities in the Philippines, Iloilo is more laid-back. It is perfect for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and just relax. Driving around the city is a pleasure since the traffic is not as horrible as in Manila. You can even roll your window down and get a whiff of clean, fresh air that your lungs can thank you for, as you enjoy a scenic view of the city as well. Now, doesn’t that sound great? If you’re getting excited to visit Iloilo City, continue reading to learn more about this destination.
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Read here how where to sleep in Iloilo!
Iloilo City Travel Guide
How to get to Iloilo?
How to get to Iloilo City by Plane
The fastest way to get to Iloilo City is definitely by plane. From Manila, you can fly to Iloilo for around 3,000 PHP or so for a round trip ticket that lasts an hour. You can purchase cheaper flights online if you decide to book usually 2-3 months before your planned date of visit, go ahead and check out Cebu Pacific. Also, the weather can be a bit unpredictable. It could be boiling hot during the summer, or too rainy around December to January. So it’s better if you mentally prepare yourself ahead of time, unless those are the type of climates you’re used to then, welcome!
How to get to Iloilo City from Iloilo Airport
You can hail a cab and ask to be dropped off at your destination. You can search in advance some rental cars and transportation services you can avail in Iloilo City. The Grab app is widely used in the city as well.
How to get to Iloilo City by Ship/Boat
There are regular trips to and from Manila, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Bacolod that are headed to Iloilo. The schedule and the trips can be modified and cancelled because of weather conditions, especially during rainy season. Make sure you take a look to the weather in rainy season. Check out AccuWeather’s forecasts for the latest updates on Iloilo’s weather.
Read here full blog post how to get to Iloilo!
Book your bus/boat tickets online with 12Go Asia.
Best time to visit Iloilo
As part of the Philippine archipelago, Iloilo shares the humidity and 2 seasons of the country. It is common sense to travel to a city’s dry season to explore all its best locations without worrying about the rain, but Iloilo is pretty much a year round destination. The driest months and therefore the best time to visit Iloilo is from January to June. December is also a good time to visit, but you can expect high rates from hotels during this month. If you want to visit Iloilo during its low season, August is the best time to do so, though you should expect plenty of rain. The warmest months, on the other hand, are April to June.
Whatever month you decide to visit. Make sure to have sunscreen with you as the heat of the sun is different in tropical and Asian countries like the Philippines. Stay hydrated at all times, too!
Daily budget to visit Iloilo
Fortunately, the cost of living in Iloilo is pretty low, especially compared to other island destinations. Decent meals can be afforded at 100-200 PHP and beer is also readily available at 40-60 PHP. Pretty cheap, right? Moving around Iloilo also isn’t a problem with the abundance of transportation options here. You can start your trip with the flat rate of 9 PHP on the jeepney and 40 PHP on a taxi.
There are plenty of hotels, inns and resorts in the city and all around the province. For as low as 400-1,000 PHP, you can book modest rooms at dorms, pension houses and B&Bs. Staying at a nice hotel is also inexpensive at 1,300-2,500 PHP. That’s only $24-47 USD per night! Those who want to splurge on accommodations will find establishments with rates of $55-95 USD. You can also try AirBnB in Iloilo. In fact, you can click here to get $30 USD off your first booking with AirBnB! You can also book your trips in advance and find the best deals with Booking and Agoda.
Transportation around Iloilo
Commuting around Iloilo and to other nearby locations is very easy and convenient. The province is highly accessible and is actually a transportation hub in Western Visayas. You can get pretty much everywhere without any hassle as there are several terminals dedicated to various towns and areas in Iloilo.
Transportation around Iloilo by bus
You can reach as far as Manila when you ride a bus from Iloilo. How, you ask? Thanks to the RORO, the ship vessels that carry land vehicles across the seas, it is possible. From Tagbak Terminal (the biggest one in Iloilo), you can go to Manila and Boracay. A trip to Boracay lasts around 5 hours while going to Manila costs around 765 PHP.
Buses here also have trips to other cities in the province like Anilaw, Batad, Dingle and Estancia. You can also take a minibus or van to various destinations in Iloilo.
Transportation around Iloilo by jeepney
Jeepneys are the #1 mode of transportation all over the country. These vehicles travel all sorts of routes and distances, and have the cheapest fares compared to buses and vans. As a transportation hub, Iloilo City has plenty of jeepney terminals with trips all over the province. Mohon Terminal and Iloilo Terminal Market has jeepneys headed to Southern Iloilo towns like Guimbal, Oton, Tigbauan and San Joaquin. Those visiting Alimodian, Leon and San Miguel can take the jeeps and vans at Ungka Terminal, Pavia People’s Terminal, Hibao-an Terminal, and Jaro Big Market. These terminals are bound to Central Iloilo. Prices of the jeepney are starting from 8.50 PHP in Iloilo the minimum fare.
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More Transportation around Iloilo
We used Grab to move around Iloilo since we were having luggage and we had to change the jeepney it was more comfortable. Prices going to the bus station were around 150-200 PHP.
Iloilo Tourist Spots to Visit
There are many amazing Iloilo tourist spots to visit and things to do in Iloilo, so take the challenge and maximize your precious time learning about the city’s history and culture, sampling its tasty cuisine, and seeing calm beaches. Don’t sleep—although with the hotel option I will give you below, you might find that idea hard to embrace. But here are some places and tourist spots to visit in Iloilo City!
1. St. Anne Parish Church / Molo Church
Molo Church is known to be a feminist church or Church of the Women because the images of the saints in the church are all female. Built in 1831, the structure is made of white coral and has been well-preserved since. It was declared a national landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1992. The church was so well-constructed that it withstood several strong earthquakes in the past.
2. Jaro Cathedral
Jaro Cathedral, formally known as Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles, was previously destroyed by an earthquake. It was repaired by the first Archbishop of Jaro. One of Iloilo City’s cherished icons, the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral is famous for its wonderful design and devoted church-goers.
3. Garin Farm
This is a perfect place for family, friends and people who love nature and outdoor activities. It is also ideal for those into educational travel, especially in matters like farming and agriculture. This is a great place to relax, replenish and meditate as you bring yourself closer to nature. Garin Farm is an inland resort in Purok 2, San Joaquin, Iloilo. The famous imitation of how heaven would look like is a wonderful place to pray and even take pictures. The farm also offers different leisure activities like boating, zip line and fishing. The resort also dedicated a piece of land that perfectly depicts the meaning of the traditional Filipino song “Bahay Kubo” which enumerates the many vegetables grown in the country.
4. Guimaras Island
Guimaras is considered as one of the most visited exotic places in the Philippines. Located southwest of Panay Island and northwest of Negros Island, Guimaras has a dry and wet season. Hiligaynon is the native dialect but the locals can write and speak English and Filipino very well. Guimaras mangoes are among the sweetest in the world! If you want to you try the best mangoes in the island, visit Oro Verde Mango Plantation, where more than thousands of trees are rooted in the land’s rich soil and produce these famous fruits.
You can enjoy a beautiful Guimaras Island hopping. As we mentioned Guimaras is Mango Province, you can try delicious mangoes and the Unique Mango Pizza.
5. Islas de Gigantes (Gigantes Islands)
Because of their remote location, the Gigantes Islands still offer that off-the-beaten track appeal, with uncrowded beaches, a lagoon hidden within rock formations, and all-you-can-eat seafood.
How to get to Gigantes Island
1. From the IloIlo International Airport, take a taxi or van then take another public vehicle from either SM IloIlo or Tagbak Terminal. It may take 30 minutes or so depending on the traffic.
2. From Tagbak Terminal, you may choose to take a bus or a van going to Estancia. We suggest riding a van since it is faster and cheaper compared to a bus ride. Travel time takes 2 and a half hours.
3. Once you arrive at Estancia, ride a tricycle going to the port. This trip may take less than 15 minutes.
4. You will then ride a passenger boat going to Gigantes Islands which operates daily at 1 PM. The boat ride usually lasts 2 hours.
5. Welcome to Gigantes Islands! You may now ride a habal-habal going to your resort.
You may visit the famous Cabugao Gamay Island, one of the most featured islands of Gigantes. You can definitely expect crystal clear waters here and a few tourists or visitors if you travel in their low season. Another famous place to visit in the island is the North Gigantes Island Lighthouse which gives you an amazing view of the sea through the lighthouse. It is one of the twenty-seven lighthouses that were commissioned by Spaniards during their era in the Philippines, and visiting here will feel like traveling back through time. Feeling a bit adventurous? Visit Pawikan Cave. The locals said that the cave was named “Pawikan” because of its rock formations resembling giant turtle eggs. Last but not the least, Tangke Salt Water Lagoon is a spot famous for its amazing rock formation. There’s also a really cool swimming spot in its shallow waters. The place is totally Instagram-able. Yay!
Things to do in Iloilo City
Walk around Iloilo Esplanade
You can start walking from Molo Church for a lengthy stroll to Esplanade and you might catch Iloilo’s beautiful sunset from there. It is located along Diversion Road in the Mandurriao District, and it is one of the best spots to visit in Iloilo City.
Visit Molo Mansion
The main heritage house in Iloilo located in Molo Plaza. It’s been preserved from the outside and inside. It has a daily souvenirs store and it’s perfect to buy passalubong.
Dine at The Pitstop Restaurant
This may sound odd but you have to taste their Mango Pizza and Mango Beef Bulalo. After all, mangoes are the most famous food in nearby Guimaras Island so this is one of the best food you’ll ever taste in Iloilo City. I guarantee it will become one of your favorites! You can visit the restaurant at SM Iloilo Southpoint.
Home of Batchoy
Yes, Iloilo City is the home of the famous Filipino delicacy called batchoy, a noodle soup. It is a must-try in Iloilo City and the best batchoy can be found at Netong’s Original Special Lapaz Batchoy in, La Paz Martket, La Paz, Iloilo, It is one of the greatest staple food in the province and will always be one of the favorites of every Filipino and Ilonggo.
Visiting Miag-ao Church
Considered one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in the Philippines and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site is The Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova, more famously known as Miag-ao Church. It is an architectural treasure especially because of the sculptural relief carved on the church’s facade. Miag-ao church is 30-45 minutes away from Iloilo city and can be reached through south-bound jeepneys from Mohon Terminal.
Exploring the Concepcion Islands
While the Gigantes Islands of Carles are a big hit among tourists from all over, there’s another group of islands that are yet to be discovered by most travelers. The Concepcion Islands of Bulubadiangan and Pan de Acuzar are around 3 hours away from Iloilo City but is well worth the trip for its stunning views, unspoiled beaches and, best of all, the piece and quiet of a destination that’s off the beaten path.
Seeing the Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary
A protected area that’s less than 2 hours away from Iloilo city is the Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary at San Joaquin. This hidden 2-hectare paradise are excellent swimming and snorkeling spots with a an entrance fee of only 50 PHP per person. There are cottages that can be rented for a day and for overnight stays at 50-750 PHP.
Go hiking at Bucari Pine Forest
Frequented by visitors participating in team building activities, family outings or camping trips is Bucari Pine Forest. It is also known as the Baguio of Panay Island but is not as crowded or cramped. The site has a beautiful pine forest and a 2- to 3-hour trek leading to Combong Waterfalls. There’s also a trek to the viewing deck that lasts less than 1 hour and offers panoramic views of Bucari.
Visiting Tangke Saltwater Lagoon
Reminiscent of the world-class lagoons of Palawan, Tangke Saltwater Lagoon is a hidden spot located at Islas de Gigantes Sur that’s sure to take your breath away. The lagoon is a very picturesque destination with beautiful rock formations and turquoise blue waters. Tangke Saltwater Lagoon can be reached through an hour-long ride on a pumpboat from Estancia.
Exploring Pawikan Cave
Another gorgeous destination in Islas de Gigantes Sur is Pawikan Cave, a subterranean site the got its name from from the rock formations that are shaped like a turtle (or pawikans) eggs. According to stories, this is where soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army hid their gold bars that are part of the legendary Yamashita treasure. The trail to Pawikan Cave involves very steep cliffs and a forest sits on its entrance, making the cave quite hard to reach but well worth the adventure.
Swimming in Nadsadjan Falls
Wanna go somewhere cool? Located in Igbaras is a 100-foot tall waterfall that attracts tourists from all over. Nadsadjan Falls is the perfect place to cool off during the summer and the unspoiled beauty of its waters and surroundings are worth the 45-minute trek along the river.
Visiting Pototan Astrodome
It’s always nice to find a nice place to chill with the family whenever visiting a new destination. Pototan Astrodome is just that, with its lagoon, skating rink, spacious greens and basketball court. Locals and tourists converge at Pototan Astrodome for a good time.
Swimming in Waterworld Iloilo
Another fun and exciting place for the family in Iloilo is WaterWorld. For just 350 PHP, you will have access to the most amazing slides and rides and 50 PHP gets you a spacious locker to put all your belongings in. WaterWorld is the perfect place for a fun, thrilling and carefree day in Iloilo.
Snorkeling in Sicogon Island
Ever dreamed of visiting an island with a seemingly endless stretch of sand, a lush forest and gorgeous blue waters? Then head on out to Sicogon Island, a paradise in Northern Iloilo. There are so many places to visit here aside from the beach like the ruins of a luxury hotel and Mount Opao, a beutiful mountain with a forest, a natural spring and a bare rock summit that can be reached in 1-2 hours.
Visiting the lighthouse ruins of Calabazas
Part of the Aguy Islands is Calabazas, a scenic spot that’s only an hour and 30 minutes away from Iloilo City. Here you will see the famous ruins of a lighthouse built in the Spanish era. The old lighthouse has been replaced by a tourelle tower built on top of a hill and offers gorgeous views of the Guimaras Strait.
Ziplining at Damires Hills
Damires Hills Tierra Verde Farm Resort is a popular destination in Iloilo City where you can bring friends and family and have a wonderful time. There are exciting things to do in Damires Hills like going on a canopy walk, ziplining for 200 or 300 PHP (sitting or superman position) and riding an ATV. There’s also two swimming pools in Damires Hills for those who just want to relax. The farm resort is the perfect place to stay overnight and just enjoy nature.
Food to try in Iloilo
A trip to the City of Love will not be complete without a bowl of batchoy, an egg noodle soup cooked with pork meat, intestines, liver and bone marrow mixed with fried garlic and scallions. It is also topped with chicharon (very crispy fried pork belly/rind) right before serving. The broth of batchoy is usually slow cooked for hours to achieve its unique flavor.
Travel tip: The most authentic batchoy in Iloilo can be found inside La Paz Public Market at Netong’s. You can also try other restaurants like Ted’s and Deco’s.
Molo Mansion Cafe
Walking around Molo Plaza is a must to visit Molo Mansion and Molo Mansion Cafe were you can relax and have ice cream, coffee or trying local food in a quiet spot in Iloilo City.
We mentioned above about Mango Pizza and Mango Bulalo but as it’s so closed to Guimaras Island. You will have the opportunity to try mango desserts too at Pitstop in SM Iloilo City.
One of our favorites dishes in Iloilo City. It’s a soup dish made of meat-filled dumplings, shredded chicken and a robust broth. You can combine with penauts and onions.
Locally called daraag, this chicken dish is famous for its vinegar and calamansi flavor and that one of a kind lemongrass aroma and taste. Lechon manok, or roast chicken, is famous all over the Philippines and some of the best restaurants in Iloilo serve this dish. Go to Tatoy’s to get the best tasting lechon manok in the city! It’s legit!
K.B.L. stands for kadyos (pigeon pea), baboy (pork) and langka (jackfruit), the 3 main components of the dish. This soupy dish is cooked by making the pork very tender and adding the unique ingredients, pigeon pea and jackfruit, to give K.B.L. a distinct sour flavor. Sounds weird, right? I guess you’ll just have to taste it! K.B.L. is definitely a local favorite and a must-try for tourists.
Want to try out Iloilo’s spicy vinegar called sinamak? The best way to enjoy it would be as a dipping sauce (along with soy sauce and calamansi) for talaba, or oysters. Seafood is abundant in Iloilo and is often eaten baked, steamed or grilled. Breakthrough Seafood Restaurant is a great place to sample Iloilo’s fresh catches with food like tasty angel-winged clams (or diwal), butterflied mangrove jack fish and delicious scallops. Yum!
Festivals in Iloilo
Celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of January is Iloilo’s biggest and most important festival, Dinagyang. The occasion honors Senyor Santo Niño (the child Jesus) along with the rich history of the Malay settlers in Panay. There are 3 major events during this world-famous festival. There’s the Ati Tribe Competition where “warrior” dancers perform and the Kasadyahan Cultural Competition. These events focus on the talent of the youth and the richness of Iloilo’s history and culture. The Miss Iloilo Dinagyang is another much awaited event that showcases the beauty and grace of Iloilo’s locals.
is an Ilonggo term for “merrymaking” which is true because you’ll not only be feeling merry during the celebration but also making a ton of great memories and friends on the festival. Of course, rave parties are definitely a thing and it is definitely like Cebu’s amazing Sinulog Festival. We highly recommend you book your flights and stay in advance, as most hotels are likely to get fully booked over the Dinagyang Festival weekend.
During the last week of March, Guimbal celebrates a five-day festival called Bantayan. Cultural presentations like float parades, street dance competitions, film festivals, drumbeat competitions, reenactments and tribal dance drama competitions are held during this fantastic celebration. The celebration honors the town’s founding anniversary as a civil government.
Join the fun every fourth Sunday of January to celebrate the arrival of the first settlers in the region and honors Santo Nino, and celebrate Iloilo City’s greatest Dinagyang Festival.
Where to Stay in Iloilo City: Hotels In Iloilo City Philippines
Aurora 2013 Guesthouse
We stayed at Aurora 2013 Guesthouse and to be honest it was amazing. The location was great sleeping in a quite neighborhood just one jeepney ride of Jairo Cathedral and Molo Plaza.
The rooms were quite big, the staff was very welcome and made us feel as at home. The breakfast were one of our favorite food in Iloilo. If you book in this place you will understand why the are Number 1 in Agoda and Tripadvisor Reviews. Prices are starting 1700-2000 PHP.
Book your bus/boat tickets online with 12Go Asia.
Iloilo is a province that’s rich in culture and history, and its century-old churches and heritage houses are a testament to this. Each structure has their own rich story to tell. There are a lot more places to visit and explore in Iloilo as the province continues to grow and fluorish. Whatever type of personality you have, you will surely enjoy what the City of Love has to offer. It may be a small city but the tourist destinations and activities are limitless. Traveling around the city is quite affordable, too. There’s a lot more great places, Iloilo tourist spots and things to do in Iloilo City that we haven’t covered in this article but it’s all the more reason for you to visit and explore the simple yet beautiful city of Iloilo!
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