3 weeks itinerary for backpackers in the Philippines if you're looking to avoid the crowds

Last May, we spent 3 weeks in the Philippines. But because the country has over 7,000 islands all absolutely stunning, it was hard to make up our minds about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see.

As nature lover, we knew we wanted to avoid the crowds as much as possible, see some beautiful nature and have an as authentic as possible experience, meaning no big hotels or cities. After hours of research and discussions with people we knew who had visited the country recently, we finally had an itinerary for our trip. Now that we are back, we would have liked to have spent a bit more time in some places and a bit less in others but overall we were extremely happy with what we were able to see and experience in this magical archipelago.

ps: when arriving in the Philippines, chances are you’ll be either landing into Manilla or Cebu. Connections are really easy within the PH so don’t worry about that!

So, here’s where we went during our 3 weeks trip!


  1. Moalboal, Cebu Island, 4 days

Why? Moalboal is a sleepy little beach town on the west coast of Cebu Island. It’s the perfect base to explore this adventure island full of waterfalls, canyoneering activities and beautiful coastline. Moalboal is also one of the only places in the world to witness a regular sardines run where thousands of sardines gather to swim in circles!


How long to stay? We stayed 4 days but 5 could also be good if you’re into diving and discovering waterfalls as some of there can take up to 2 hours by scooter to reach.

Read more here about what to do do, where to stay and eat in Moalboal.

2. Siquijor, 5 days

Why? Often overlooked by travellers, Siquijor is a beautiful island 1h30 from Dumaguete in South Cebu. Thing stunning beaches lined up with palm trees, beautiful marine reserves filled with underwater life, incredibly friendly locals, delicious food and enough culture to never get bored. That’s what Siquijor is all about.


How long to stay? We could have stayed much longer in Siquijor because of its “douceur de vivre”. Time passes extremely slowly but also very fast on this little island and a 5 to 7 days is the minimum we would recommend.


Read more here about what to do, where to stay and eat in Siquijor.

3. Cebu city 1 day

We had to go to Cebu city for one day before heading out to Siargao. Honestly, we would recommend to avoid it if you can. It’s highly polluted and didn’t feel safe.

4. Siargao, 6 days

Why? Philippines’ capital of surfing! If that’s your thing, Siargao is a must on your itinerary. if you don’t surf, no worries, it’s also an island packed with things to see and activities to do including island hopping (some of the best in the country according to me), beach clean ups and other sustainability initiatives, getting lost into palm tree forests and exploring by bike the raw nature of Siargao. Also, the vibe is really nice and chilled and we felt like the island was definition of tropical paradise! We didn’t party but if you’re into that, Siargao has an amazing party scene!

How long to stay? 6 days was enough for us to explore everything we wanted to see but i’m sure you would not get bored on Siargao even after 10 days or 2 weeks.

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Read more here about what to do, where to stay and eat in Siargao.

5. Coron, 5 days

Why? Some of the best island in the Philippines without the crazy backpacker crowd of El Nido. Cheaper too. World class wreck diving and the highlight of our journey: Black Island!


How long to stay? 4 days would be enough if you were to pack them (1 day diving/snorkelling, 1 day island hopping, 1 day Black Island and 1 day rest). We felt that 5 was a bit too much especially since there isn’t much to do within Coron Town.


Read more here about what to do, where to stay and eat in Coron.

6. Manilla, 1 day

We only went to Manilla because we had to spend a night there before taking our flight home the next morning. We usually try to avoid big cities especially in Asia because of the pollution. If you’re able to, we would suggest skipping Manilla to spend more time on the islands.

Hope that was helpful and that you’ll enjoy your stay in this incredible tropical beauty that is the Philippines!

With love,