One of the summer’s most anticipated holidays is coming up, so don’t waste the opportunity to travel! Have you figured out where you’re going yet? If not, we can help you with that.
With countless travel opportunities opening up for Filipinos, the world is indeed, just waiting to be discovered. More than 60 countries now allow Filipinos to visit without a travel visa, so get your passport ready and make sure to pack light, because you’re going far and wide with this itinerary. Here are five visa-free travel destinations you might want to explore.
1. Country: Mozambique
Length of no-visa stay: 30 days
(Time stands still in Ilha de Mozambique)
Would you be able to point out Mozambique on a map? You can stop making guesses and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this African country that faces the Indian Ocean (it’s nestled near the Southeastern tip of the country, by the way).
Filipino travelers will be able to relate to the multi-cultural influences found in Mozambique’s food and historical sites (the country was under Portuguese rule for 500 years, while the Philippines was under Spanish rule for more than 300 years). Take for instance Ilha de Mozambique that’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On its three-km. long and 500-m. wide space sit some of the world’s oldest European architecture like the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte built in 1522 and a 16th century stone fort. Many other interesting buildings will surely call out to the historian in you. In between selfies when a snack break is called for, keep in mind that Mozambique’s cuisine is on the spicier side when glossing over a menu!
Peri-peri chicken and prawns — Mozambique is one of the countries they originate from. Seafood mixes of shrimp, crayfish and clams that are commonly served grilled or stewed in chilli peppers, garlic and lemons and served with rice are also local favorites every tourist must try (Matata is a particularly popular dish).
For those who prefer spending vacations in the water, Mozambique’s proximity to nutrient-rich waters make for lovely up close and personal experiences with diverse marine life. It is advised that you visit in September to February to snorkel and get a chance to dive with whale sharks and dolphins, and glide with the rare manta ray, shy turtle and elusive dugong. To end a day in Mozambique, visit the luxurious Polana Hotel in Maputo that’s known for its fresh sushi and cocktails you can sip on while watching the sunset.
From budget-friendly destinations and activities to five-star treats, Mozambique has it all.
2. Country: Mongolia
Length of no-visa stay: 21 days
(Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar rests in a peaceful valley protected by ice-capped mountains)
Yes, there is more to Mongolia than steaming bowls of rice that emerge from your favorite Mongolian grill station.
Brimming with natural wonders, Mongolia is best enjoyed by travelers who love visiting sites that are off the beaten path and prefer to explore new horizons on foot (with only a light backpack and camera in hand). Outdoor-loving tourists can start their trip at Bayanzag — also known as The Flaming Cliffs — where Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the first ever fossilized nest of dinosaur eggs. The cliffs are famous for the fiery red-orange glow its rocky cliffs borrow from the sunset.
Much cooler to the eye but equally fascinating is the Tsagaan Suvarga — or The White Stupa — whose towering structures expose limestone bedrock previously engulfed by oceans and seas, and have now been shaped and reshaped by the elements over millennia. Mongolia also has a UNESCO world heritage site to call its own in the form of the Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape, which represents the progression of Mongolia’s strong nomadic and pastoral traditions that many of its people still practice today.
Similarly, the Uushgiin Deer Stone Complex boasts of 14 beautifully preserved megaliths dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages carved with ancient writing and symbols.
3. Country: Costa Rica
Capital: San José
Length of no-visa stay: 30 days
(Costa Rica’s wildlife is as colorful as its culture)
Beauty queens aren’t the only thing Costa Rica is known for; the country has been heavily promoting its eco-tourism, and for good reason.
A trip to Costa Rica is a well-balanced holiday spent in rugged terrain and in the city. Something you can’t miss is the country’s tradition of bull riding held in their many stadiums that are part and parcel of the country’s biggest festivals.
Be one with the locals and cheer on those who dare ride a bull or, better yet, join the gleeful crowd that enjoys getting chased around city by a whole herd of bulls! Stepping outside of the city, you’ll find yourself at the Osa Peninsula, home to Finca 6 — an unusual world heritage site consisting of the unexplained stone spheres of Costa Rica. It’s an eerie collection of about 300 polished stone orbs discovered in the 1930s whose origins and purpose have not been discovered up to this day, attracting both curious onlookers and a multitude of conspiracy theorists every year!
Additionally, one of the best things about vacationing in Costa Rica is the existence of several package tours that combine all the best outdoor activities the country has to offer at reasonable rates. A popular one for sporty tourists is the Guachipelin at the Rincon de la Vieja National Park tour that has a jam-packed itinerary of zip-lining, horseback riding, river tubing, hot spring dips and mud baths!
Overall, Costa Rica is bound to be your new favorite holiday destination if being up close and personal with nature is your ideal vacation. Countless hiking spots, trekking trails, white water rafting routes, waterfall exploring, surfing, spelunking and wildlife watching adventures are begging to be discovered in this relatively unknown Central American paradise.
4. Country: Brazil
Length of no-visa stay: 90 days
(Experiencing Carnival do Brasil will redefine everything you know about partying)
Allow us to convince you that the whole of Brazil is as beautiful as the top models it produces (and whom Filipinos have shamelessly swooned over).
Set your eyes on Jericoacoara, also known as The Brazilian Maldives, world famous for its breathtakingly clear waters. What makes it unique is that it’s not a beach — it’s a freshwater lagoon dotted with hammocks hanging right above the water and open-air villas, with sand dunes and a rocky beach right next door. ATVs, anyone?
Also unknown to most is the Chapada Diamantina — a park that’s a treasure trove of mountain ranges, cave complexes within underground waterfalls, ponds and streams, and even climbable cliffs that will call out to the Indiana Jones in you. And then, of course, there’s Rio de Janeiro, the epicenter of Brazil’s unique blend of European and African influences. There you’ll find the Lonely Arches in Lapa, the Christ the Redeemer Statue, the crazily colored steps of Escadaria Selarón, awesome street food and Samba dance schools.
Brazil’s Carnival, locally known as Carnaval do Brasil is also an adventure of its own. The costumes, the music, the atmosphere, the smiles — it’s time to stop making this an overused theme for office Christmas parties and see the real deal for yourself!
5. Country: Samoa
Length of no-visa stay: 60 days
(Get up close and personal with green sea turtles when you visit Samoa)
Anyone who has watched Disney’s Moana will admit to getting curious about the story’s cultural origins. It’s a well-represented tale of shared culture and folklore of a handful of island nations in the Pacific, one of them being the less traveled Samoa (yes, the island is definitely as pristine as the movie depicts).
Samoa is island life like you’ve always imagined it, but with even more vibrant colors and sites to see. Picture yourself in the Togitogiga Waterfall that was once a swimming hole for great Samoan warriors. Visitors go there to float in the pool of water at the bottom of the falls, stepping onto the shore only for a sip of fresh coconut juice and a bite of fresh fish.
And then there’s the Sua Ocean Trench, whose photos are sure to get a dizzying number of reactions. A unique natural formation, it’s a volcanic pool filled by ocean tides not usually visited by many due to its steep entrance. Only the brave of heart get to enjoy its cooling waters, so you’re sure to get a good day’s uninterrupted swim without bumping into other tourists while completing a breaststroke.
Almost cartoon-like are the geyser-like Taga Blowholes whose hot, steamy water intermittently blows up into the sky to the glee of tourists — make sure to just look at, and not touch the formations! — Sara de los Reyes
This article was originally published in PeopleAsia‘s April – May 2017 issue.