Escape from Manila II – Taal Lake & Volcano

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle that is modern Manila, but a beach destination I wrote about here is not your thing, how about visiting a volcano lake? Tagaytay at Taal lake is a little cooler than the city and you have amazing views, all just a short drive from the city! You can just enjoy the views, great food and some time at the pool or spa – or you can venture out to cross the lake by boat, ride up the hill on a horse (or walk) and get even better views from the crater rim!

Tagaytay is a very popular day-trip or weekend destination from Manila – the weather is a little cooler, there are lots of good restaurants with amazing views from the crater rim and it’s only 2 1/2 hours drive from the city, on a good day at least! It is a very unique place in that it has an island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island in the Pacific… pheew, matryoshka dolls are more fun in the Philippines! Most people visit the outer rim, which has all the hotels and restaurants and great views over the lake and island.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 3.19.34 PMMy first two visits were day trips to enjoy a good meal with family or friends, soak up the views and even get a little massage time in! When my parents visited, we chose to spend two nights in Tagaytay, giving us some extra time to explore the lake and island on a day tour! Brian, our helpful guide, picked us up in a van from our hotel and took us to Talisay, the town on the shores of the lake. From there, we took a small banka, a local outrigger boat, for a 30 minute ride across the lake. Because a hike up to the inner crater rim in the heat didn’t seem like a good idea, we had arranged for horses to take us instead. Which, on arrival, didn’t seem like that great an idea either, but my parents were game and off we went. The path is pretty steep and narrow, so we were grateful for the local guides to take us up the hill. I’m not sure that was really necessary in hindsight, as the horses seemed to know their way and pretty much did what they wanted anyway! I promised there wouldn’t be any photos of our horse ride – the horses are pretty small and at 1.91m of height myself, my feet were almost dragging on the ground. We did see a few visitors on foot and it will probably take you about as long as on horse, roughly 30-45min, and will make for a nice hike!

Taal IR View3When we arrived, the views were truly breathtaking, even better than from the outer rim! We walked a little along the rim and there were few other visitors around. I always love it when I’m at what is a tourist destination so close to a major metropolis – yet I feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere! It was certainly worth the long trip there! We enjoyed a cool drink before getting on our way back. The horses were as eager to get home as the guides and we were back in no time for the rest of our return journey. Our guides were super friendly, even by the high Filipino standards, and they certainly earned their tips. They only do the trips with the horse once or twice a week, good for the horses, not so much for the guides! Our boat ride back was a little wet with the wind blowing the spray all over us – luckily, Brian had provided us with rain ponchos, a good idea! We were back at our hotel after about 5 hours, making it a fun day trip and a great experience.

Taal IR View2If you are at Tagaytay, it’s worth staying overnight to experience the visit to the island and inner crater rim. You can buy an organized tour that includes all the transportation and arrangements, as well as useful items like the poncho and gloves for the horse back ride. If price is more important than convenience and time, you can also arrange all the components on your own. It won’t be hard to find a boat – there are touts all over Tagaytay to sell you a ride, just be prepared to haggle over the price! While I usually organize it on my own, I was glad we had the whole tour set up without any hassle – Brian did a great job delivering it flawlessly! So, if you need to get away from Manila and you are not in the mood for the beach, this is a great alternative. Check out my review of the Taal Vista hotel, the oldest and one of the best and most popular hotels in Tagaytay. It makes for a comfortable base for an overnight stay!

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