By Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 5, 2013 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines – “Sorry, Maldives… We love you, but we’ve got a new flame.”
The Conde Nast Traveller magazine has set its sights on the Philippines, listing it among its top 10 destinations for 2013. The London-based luxury travel magazine described the country as having “around 7,000 of the most heavenly islands in the world.”
“It’s becoming particularly popular among serious divers, who come for the incredible underwater life, unspoilt coral gardens with rainbow-bright fish, green sea turtles and dugongs,” according to Conde Nast.
It added: “In Bicol you can swim with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark. While fish-fans of a different nature can go deep-sea fishing in one of the deepest trenches in the oceans, not far from the little-known island of Siargao.”
Particular mention was made of Palawan, which the magazine said “ticks all the boxes: palm-fringed white-powder beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, natural lagoons for wild swimming on Miniloc Island… all of it protected by UNESCO. Its Bacuit Bay is something like Halong Bay in Vietnam, only without all the tourists… for the time being, at least. There are just a handful of resorts, which are tasteful and deliberately low-key.”
Palawan was featured in the final scene of the movie “Bourne Legacy,” starring Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz. Weisz and her husband, Bond actor Daniel Craig, spent a few days in Palawan after the filming, and raved about it on Twitter.
Also mentioned are the “super-stylish” new Dedon Island on Siargao, owned and designed by celebrated furniture brand Dedon, based in Cebu; and “perennial favorite” Amanpulo, on Pamalican Island, which has hosted many of the world’s rich and famous, including the late John Kennedy Jr. (who came with then flame Darryl Hannah), Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Robert de Niro and super model Naomi Campbell.
Despite all the bad press, Manila got a positive mention as well: “As the gateway to these private-island retreats, the Philippines capital of Manila is also having a moment.”
Other destinations cited among Conde Nast Traveller’s top ten are Brazil, Amsterdam, The Congo in Africa, Galapagos Island, New Zealand (think “Hobbit”), Kashmir, Mexico, Panama and Oman.
Palawan was also chosen by a popular international travel guide as one of the top ten regions of the world in its “Best in Travel 2013.”
Describing Palawan as “the ultimate archipelago for adventurers,” Lonely Planet said the island province “incorporates thousands of sparkling, rugged islands and is fringed by 2000 kms of pristine coastline.”
“So far Palawan’s natural marvels have only been sampled by plucky backpackers. Not for much longer. The trail these pioneers have blazed is set to explode, with regional airlines waking up to Palawan’s potential and clambering to schedule direct flights to the capital,” Lonely Planet wrote, concluding, “you can feel that Palawan is ready to hit the big-time in 2013.”
Palawan ranked eighth, with Corsica in France topping the list. Other Asian destinations on the list are Mustang in Nepal (3) and Inland Sea, Japan (9).
Meanwhile, Luzon, Cebu, and Mindanao were voted among Asia’s top ten islands in Conde Nast Traveller’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards.