A brief travel guide to Albay in the Philippines:
It may not be as popular as Palawan, or as frequently visited as Cebu – no thanks to its unstable weather – but Albay holds its own allure to all travelers who are looking for the right mix of solace, adventure, and fun. Albay is a province of three districts that span beaches and mountains, and it boasts of the world-famous and perfectly shaped Mayon Volcano. When you visit this place, you are sure to enjoy the sun-soaked beaches of the first district, the vibrant landmarks of the second district, and the lush mountains and verdant environment of the third district.
How to Reach Albay
If you are coming from the Philippine capital, Manila, there are several ways to reach Albay. The fastest would be by plane, a one-hour flight to the Legazpi airport. When the plane reaches Legazpi, just before landing, don’t forget to take a peek out of the airplane window to enjoy the entire view of Mayon as it comes around. Another means, albeit a little bit longer (approximately 10 hours), would be by bus through the Southern Luzon Expressway
. Just recently, one other means of transportation to Bicol has been re-established – the train. The length of travel is comparable to that of a bus ride, although it offers more convenience. At present, though, the train only reaches Naga. Upon arrival in Naga, you still have to take a bus going to Legazpi City.
The Best Time to Visit Albay
As mentioned above, one reason Albay is not as popular as many of the tourist destinations in the Philippines is its unstable weather. Albay is a part of the Bicol region, a region that is located in the pathways of many typhoons and storms that develop in the Pacific Ocean. There is an estimate of 20 typhoons that hit the Philippines every year, and many of these pass through the Bicol region.
Although there is no typhoon season in Bicol, most typhoons hit during the later part of the year. So, if you are visiting Albay and you would like to be sure that the weather will be agreeable, it would be better to go during the summer.
Aside from the weather, another factor that you may want to consider when visiting Albay would be the different festivities celebrated in the various places in the province. You might want to check out Tabaco’s counterpart to the famous Masskara Festival – the Tabak Festival. During summer, Albay also celebrates the month-long Magayon festival with a wide array of activities like street dancing, live band performances, art exhibits, and contests such as the famous sili-eating (chili-eating) contest that brought an Albayano into the Guinness Book of World Records as the First Sili King of the World. Meanwhile, sometime in the later part of the year is the Ibalong Festival in Legazpi, a celebration commemorating the epic of Ibalong, which celebrates the three ancient heroes Baltog, Handyong, and Bantong. When you visit Albay during the celebration of its many festivities, you’ll be able to explore more of the culture of the Albayanos.
Modes of Transportation
Exploring Albay is very easy because there is a wide range of transportation means that you can choose from. When you arrive at the airport, you’ll find taxis that can take you to any part of Albay. You can also rent vans to take you to the places that you plan to visit – rates differ according to your itinerary. It’s also easy to explore Albay through the local public transport; jeepneys are everywhere, and there are also tricycles for short rides.
Where to Stay in Albay
You won’t run out of options when it comes to accommodations in Albay – the choices range from boutique hotels for luxury travels to inns and pension houses for affordable backpacking.
If you want to spend most of your stay at the beach, there are various resorts for you to choose from. If you want the ultimate beach getaway, try the Misibis Bay Resort that is located in the Cagraray Island. This resort is famous not only because of its exclusivity and the luxurious experience that it provides – it is more remembered by travelers because of the pleasant and attentive, almost pampering, attitude of the staff. This is ideal for those with money to spend, those who want to just tuck themselves away from daily worries for a day or two and just relax. There are pools to enjoy, as well as activities tailored to your needs – from kayaking and riding the zipline to snorkeling and spelunking. Many call this resort as an Eden, and there are complete resort packages available for you to choose from. If you are interested, you can check out www.misibisbay.com or call (63 52) 821.3800, (63 2) 661.8888, or (63 2) 666.4790.
If you plan to do more during your visit in Albay, it would be a great idea to stay in the main district, Legazpi, because it offers complete access to the different places in all three districts. There are different hotels in Legazpi, Albay – some of which are as follow:
Phone: (052) 4810801
Phone: (63 2) 6838338 or (63 52) 4810877),
Phone: +6352 480-8334 to 35, 820-1428 or 821-6684
Hotel St. Ellis
Phone: +63 (52) 480 8088
The said hotels boast of a homey ambiance and a wide range of amenities, offering a convenient stay right at the heart of the city. If, on the other hand, you are on a budget and prefer a more affordable accommodation, there are also various options for you.
Jennifer’s Kababayan Hotel
Phone: (052) 480-1086
Legazpi Tourist Inn
Phone: (+6352) 820-4880
Vista Al Mayon Pensionne
Phone: (+6352) 820-5814 or (+6352) 481-0308
Sampaguita Tourist Inn
Phone: +63 (52) 4806258
When you check online, you’ll find different review sites to give you an idea as to the quality of the service provided by each hotel or inn. Book in advance, especially during peak seasons, to avoid the hassle when you reach the area.
Places to Visit in Albay
Once you reach Albay, you’ll never run out of options as to the places that you can visit. Whether in the first, second, or third district, there are various destinations that are sure to please different kinds of travelers.
Most people visit Albay for the Mayon Volcano, hailed as the most beautiful volcano in the world because of its perfect cone shape. But, there’s actually more to Albay than just Mt. Mayon.
You can do a Visita Iglesia of the different churches in Albay – the St. Dominic de Guzman church that is located in the Cleanest and Greenest town in Bicol, Sto. Domingo; the St. Rafael church right at the heart of Legazpi; the St. Gregory the Great Cathedral in Albay; the picturesque Daraga Church that is located atop a hill and is famous for its magnificent architectural design; as well as many others.
Aside from churches, you can also enjoy the beach. Beach resorts line the shores of the first district, and there are also pools and springs in various places in Albay. The Busay Falls is famous in Malilipot and is considered one of the most beautiful in the place and the highest in the Philippines. It is actually composed of smaller falls that form seven tiers of drop, a beautiful sight to look at. Just be careful in climbing the falls as the path could be slippery when the weather is not good. Another place that you may want to check out is the Ligao River. All around, you’ll see huge rocks that came from Mayon during its past eruptions.
You may also want to check out the Kawa Kawa Hill in Ligao City, a hill that offers a scenic view of the third district. Aside from being close to nature, it is famous for the life-size Stations of the Cross built and located in the path going atop the hill. The place is ideal for picnics and many other activities that you can enjoy such as horseback riding.
Of course, you have to see the Cagsawa Ruins and what’s left of the Cagsawa Church today after a huge part of it has been covered by lava during the Mayon Volcano eruption back in 1814. The place is now a park that offers a full view of the volcano. Ligñon Hill is another place that you can visit, which overlooks Legazpi City and offers a charming view of the city at night while being a joggers’ hub in the morning.
And for your needed souvenirs, just visit the souvenir stalls in Tahao Road – you’ll find here a wide array of local goods, ranging from Bicol delicacies (especially pilinut) to native bags and slippers made from abaca. And don’t forget to haggle when you do your shopping, the price of many of the products can still be reduced if you know how to bargain.
Meeting the Albayanos
And now that you already have an idea as to the places that you can visit in Albay, it’s time you get a picture of the Albayanos. Like many Filipinos, the Albayanos are a hospitable and a friendly people. If you need help finding your way in Albay, you can ask for directions and you’re sure to find somebody who will help you.
The different places in Albay feature different dialects, which sometimes overlap. However, expressions like “Marhay na aldaw” (Good day) will surely be understood by everybody. Or, simply use the Filipino or the English language to talk with the locals.
Now, with all these guidelines in mind, you’re ready to explore Albay and have fun!