Get to Know the 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

Get to Know the 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

What better places to start your historical tour of the Philippines than its renowned world heritage sites? Take your pick from churches to rice terraces, underground rivers and more.

What better places to start your historical tour of the Philippines than its renowned world heritage sites? Take your pick from churches to rice terraces, underground rivers and more.

For a landmark to be considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it should prove that it is of “outstanding universal value”, have a cultural, historical and scientific significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. It’s quite a list of requirements but the qualified heritage sites are worth it.

While Italy and China are at the top of the list with the most number of world heritage sites (with 52 and 51, respectively), the Philippines has its own sites to be proud of. If you’re looking for an interesting tour of the country, you might want to try to visit its six world heritage sites and learn more about the Philippines’s rich history:

1. Baroque Churches

philippine unesco world heritage sites

St. Agustin Church or the Paoay Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte | Image credit: Wowieology

The San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila | Image credit: Patrick Roque

The Church of Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur | Image credit: Harrybalais

Miagao Church, Miagao, Iloilo | Image credit: M0N FEDERE MD

There are four Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines which represent a whole new style of baroque architecture that mixes European and local elements. All of them were built in the late 16th century by the Spanish conquerors and were constructed to withstand the geologic conditions of the country. An interesting fact about these churches is that they were built in a fortress-like style to protect itself from pirates and marauders. These massive hundreds-year-old churches provide a glimpse of the rich religious tradition in the country.

2. The Historic City of Vigan

philippine unesco world heritage sites

Calle Crisologo in Vigan City | Image credit: Reguero87

philippine unesco world heritage sites

Image credit: cb_agulto

If you want to step into 16th-century Spanish colony, you’d want to survey the remarkable city of Vigan. Known as the best preserved Spanish colonial town in Asia, Vigan houses 233 historic buildings well intact in a grid of 25 streets. Marvel at the old Hispanic architecture and get a better understanding of how the Chinese, Spanish and Filipinos lived and traded in the colonial period. Vigan has amazingly preserved its checkered streets and rustic buildings which make it a popular destination for photography enthusiasts.

3. Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Batad Rice Terraces | Image credit: M0N FEDERE MD

Described as an “evolving cultural landscape”, the rice terraces in the remote region of the Cordillera mountains epitomizes the perfect balance of the physical, socio-cultural, economic, religious and political environment of the Ifugao ethnic tribe. This natural wonder has been thriving for two millennia, surpassing various challenges and threats of modernization. This complex design of stones and mud walls carefully followed the contour of the mountains which resulted in an architectural spectacle.

4. Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary

Nepenthes hamiguitanensis upper pitcher can only be found in Mount Hamiguitan, Mindanao | Image credit: Thomas Gronemeyer

The latest addition to the list of world heritage sites in the Philippines, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is home to threatened and endemic flora and fauna species such as the majestic Philippine Eagle, the pure white Philippine cockatoo and several species of Nepenthes. This protected forest area of approximately 2,000 hectares is also noted for its unique pygmy forest with century old trees. A fun fact is that eight flora and fauna species in the wildlife park cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

5. Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan | Image credit: Explore Palawan Philippines

One of the most breathtaking wonders of the world is the underground river at the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Its limestone karst landscape and striking cave system are pristine. It features an intact old-growth forest, a characteristic wildlife, and a river that flows directly to the sea. The unearthly rock formations carved by tidal forces, which can be seen in a public view, is truly a feast for the eyes.

6. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Image credit: Ron Van Oers

This remote and undisturbed reserve in the centre of the Sulu sea protects 100,000 hectares of high-quality marine habitat like whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles and Napoleon wrasse. This reef covers 350 species of corals, 500 species of fish and is home to a few remaining colonies of breeding seabirds. Its healthy ecosystem is a natural laboratory for the study of coral reef formation and marine species dependent on reef ecosystems. It is noteworthy to say that endangered wildlife, like the Christmas Island Frigatebird, are regular visitors of this beach.

About Author

Jihan Estrella
Jihan Estrella

Jihan is a neo-Vancouverite who is enjoying discovering her new "hometown". When she is not getting lost in this beautiful metropolitan, she is busy baking fluffy cakes, knitting warm blankets, biking through beach side trails and Netflix-ing any Anna Kendrick movie. While she has a degree in creative writing, she is (surprisingly) doing graphic design professionally. Currently, she is on the hunt (and saving up) for her next big adventure.


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