Iloilo Travel Guide: Home of Gigantes Islands and Heritage Churches
- Iloilo Travel Requirements and Guidelines | COVID-19 New Normal
- 1. Who are allowed to go to Iloilo?
- 2. What are the entry points in Iloilo?
- 3. What travel requirements do you need to prepare?
- 4. What are the guidelines and protocols to follow when you're in Iloilo?
- 5. What activities can you do in Iloilo during quarantine?
- Best Time to Go to Iloilo
- Dry and Summer Season | November to May
- Dinagyang Festival | January
- Paraw Regatta | February
- Climate and Weather
- What to Wear
- How to Get to Iloilo
- By Flights
- By Ferry
- By Bus
- Getting Around Iloilo
- Where to Stay in Iloilo
- Types of Accommodations
- Neighborhoods and Areas
- Accommodation Highlights
- What to See and Do in Iloilo
- Go Island-Hopping in Islas de Gigantes
- Stroll Along Calle Real
- Hang Out at River Esplanade
- Visit Heritage Churches
- Go Inside the Old Mansions
- See the Beauty of Garin Farm
- What to Eat and Drink In Iloilo
- Local Cuisine
- Recommended Best Restaurants and Bars
- Practical Tips and Information
- What to Shop
- Sample Itinerary in Iloilo
- Day 1: Ancestral Houses + Garin Farm
- Day 2: Islas de Gigantes
- Day 3: Heritage Churches + Esplanade + Calle Real
Explore the heritage attractions, unique cuisine, and islands of Iloilo. Read this guide to know about the best time to go, where to stay, what to eat, places to visit, and how to plan your itinerary.
Living up to the sweet-sounding words of the Hiligaynon language commonly spoken in the province, Iloilo offers scenic countryside sights, white sandy islands, and heritage towns.
- Discover the attractions and culture of this province with Iloilo tours
- Check out our article on other top Visayas tourist spots
- Explore other islands in the Visayas region. Check out our Bacolod Iloilo Guimaras itinerary.
Aside from the many eye-popping attractions dotting the province, a rich trail of culture and history, in addition to a list of savory local cuisines, also awaits visitors exploring Iloilo.
Make the most of your trip to Iloilo with this travel guide that can help you plan the ultimate holiday.
See our popular Iloilo Tours and Activities
Iloilo Travel Requirements and Guidelines | COVID-19 New Normal
Iloilo City and the rest of Iloilo province are open for leisure travels, but tourists must follow the safety guidelines and health protocols set by the local government in order to enjoy the province’s tourists spots and attractions.
1. Who are allowed to go to Iloilo?
Tourists can enter Iloilo provided they have the complete requirements. Fully vaccinated individuals or those who have had their last dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks prior to their travel are exempted from presenting a negative COVID-19 test result. Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travelers need to present a negative RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours from arrival.
2. What are the entry points in Iloilo?
Travelers can enter the city and the province via the Iloilo International Airport or via the several seaports in Iloilo, including the Iloilo Domestic Port and the Iloilo River Wharf. Those traveling from within Panay island can reach the province by land aboard public buses.
3. What travel requirements do you need to prepare?
The entry requirements for Iloilo City and Iloilo Province differ, so make sure you prepare what is needed for entry to your destination. Tourists are allowed to enter provided they have the following requirements:
Fully vaccinated* individuals are exempted from presenting a negative COVID-19 test, but they must present a vaccination certificate from vaxcert.doh.gov.ph or a vaccination card issued by their LGU. Those vaccinated abroad must present a vaccination card issued by a competent foreign authority.
Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals need to provide a negative RT-PCR test result issued not later than 72 hours before the date of travel.
Fully vaccinated individuals are exempted from presenting a negative COVID-19 test result. They should instead present a vaccination certificate to prove their fully vaccinated status.
For unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals, a negative RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours prior to arrival is required. Children 5 years old and below are exempted from this requirement.
See our popular Iloilo Vacation Packages
4. What are the guidelines and protocols to follow when you're in Iloilo?
Once you're in Iloilo, make sure you follow these safety requirements:
Minimum health standards
All residents and domestic tourists must wear face masks, wash hands regularly, and practice proper social distancing, especially in public establishments to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19.
Those who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms after entry into the city or the province must submit themselves for testing and/or quarantine.
5. What activities can you do in Iloilo during quarantine?
You can visit some of the best Iloilo tourist spots which include historical and cultural sites, gorgeous islands, lush forests, and unique cafés and restaurants. Make the most of your visit by going on an Islas de Gigantes island hopping tour.
Best Time to Go to Iloilo
Iloilo is a perfect destination almost year-round. However, you might not be able to enjoy the experience during the typhoon months from June to August, especially if you plan to go to the beaches or go island hopping in the Philippines.
Make sure to check the weather update for incoming typhoons. If you want to combine seeing the tourist spots of Iloilo with a festive event, then you better time your visit during the Dinagyang Festival.
Dry and Summer Season | November to May
Most attractions in Iloilo are outdoors or will require you to ride a boat. That’s why the best months to plan your Iloilo trip is during the months where it’s sunny almost every day, from November to May. This covers the summer season in the Philippines which starts in March until mid-May.
Dinagyang Festival | January
Rock and dance to the stomping drumming beats of this festival, known for its lively music, graceful dances, and colorful costumes.
Dinagyang Festival, celebrated every third or fourth Sunday of January is one of the most popular and oldest festivals in the Philippines. This is a good time to experience Iloilo as everyone is in a jovial mood celebrating the festival by dancing in unison to the lively rhythms.
Paraw Regatta | February
Believed to be Asia’s oldest traditional sea craft, the Paraw Regatta gathers seafarers for a race over the waters of Iloilo Strait from Iloilo City to the island of Guimaras, an island province beside Iloilo.
Aboard colorful Paraw sailboats, in dozens and sometimes numbering to a hundred, it dishes a spectacular sight as each Paraw glides smoothly over the sea.
The design of modern-day Paraws still possesses the original design of the Paraw sailboats of the first settlers of Iloilo who came from the island of Borneo in the early 13th century. First started in 1973, the Paraw Regatta is celebrated every 3rd weekend of the month of February.
Climate and Weather
Iloilo has a tropical climate and only has two seasons, dry and wet. The average temperature is 27.1 °C. The driest month is February, while the rainiest is August. The warmest month is during May, and the coldest temperature is felt usually around December to January or the holiday season.
What to Wear
Wear breathable clothes if you’re doing city tours or island-hopping tours in Iloilo especially during the dry summer season. Bring an umbrella or wear sunglasses and hats as well if you’re planning to do a lot of walking.
If you’re going to Iloilo for the Dinagyang Festival in January, use a compact bag where you can easily secure your belongings because there will be big crowds during the events. Wear comfortable footwear as well as you’ll be spending a lot of time standing up and walking.
How to Get to Iloilo
Iloilo is one of the easily accessible provinces in the country because it can be reached by both domestic and international flights (Hong Kong and Singapore) going to the Iloilo International Airport.
There are also ferries traveling to Iloilo through the roll-on-roll-off (RoRo) routes coming from major cities in the Philippines. Its location in the heart of Visayas also makes it accessible from neighboring destinations like Boracay, Guimaras, Bacolod, and Cebu. Here are your options on how to go to Iloilo:
Iloilo International Airport hosts a number of airlines that flies directly to the city from various cities in the Philippines (Cebu, Clark, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Puerto Princesa, Cuyo and Sipalay) and even from a few international destinations such as Hong Kong and Singapore. There are also flights to Manila from Iloilo and vice-versa (flights to Iloilo from Manila).
Leading airlines such as Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia are now making Iloilo airport one of the major hubs in the country. Travel time by plane for Manila to Iloilo flights is just around 1 hour, while it will take only 30 minutes for Cebu to Iloilo flights. There are also available Clark to Iloilo flights and Cagayan de Oro flights. From Hongkong, it’s 2.5 hours away, and from Singapore, it’s 3.5 hours away.
- For more destinations to visit, check out other flights to the Philippines
See our popular Iloilo Vacation Packages
There are four main seaports in Iloilo: the Domestic Port in Fort San Pedro, the International Port in Loboc, the Ortiz Port (which serves Guimaras to Iloilo and vice versa for just 15 minutes) and the Muelle Loney Port (serving Iloilo to Bacolod trips, around 1.5 hours of travel time). Giant transport shipping company 2Go also sails from Manila to Iloilo City for around 20 hours.
Iloilo is the transportation hub of Panay Island with various bus companies such as Ceres Bus traveling directly from Boracay (4-5 hours), Kalibo in Aklan (3 hours), Roxas City in Capiz (2 hours) and San Jose in Antique (3-4 hours).
A RoRo (roll-on, roll-off) bus service connecting Manila to Iloilo also operates daily (around 20 hours).
Getting Around Iloilo
You have a number of options when traveling around Iloilo City’s tourist spots and other attractions or destinations outside the city proper. When exploring the city, the primary mode of transportation is the jeepney and taxicabs. For shorter distances, you can ride tricycles or pedicabs.
For longer distances like traveling outside of the city, there are buses and vans. Car and van rentals are also available within the city, which you can travel in the province or other places in the Panay Island where Iloilo is a part of.
See our popular Iloilo Transfers
Jeepneys in Iloilo City are called passad and do not look like the typical Philippine jeepney that you see plying the roads of Manila and other places in the country.
They resemble sedans and pickup trucks, have a lower profile, and have an elongated body. They travel around the major roads of Iloilo City and is the most widely used transportation system by locals.
To explore Iloilo City by jeepneys, you have to find out first which route will pass by your destination. Most likely, you will need to make multiple jeepney transfers since they have a fixed route.
If you’re approaching your destination, say “lugar lang!” (stop at the unloading area) to notify the driver that you want to alight the jeepney at the nearest stop.
A more convenient transportation option in Iloilo City is the taxicab. You can flag them down in most major roads or line up in the Taxi Bay of malls. Taxicabs can drop you off at any point in the city, or even outside the city if you prefer to hire one instead of riding the bus or vans.
They are also available at the arrival area of the Iloilo International Airport and can also drop you off at the departure area from the city.
The bus is your main mode of transportation if you’re traveling outside Iloilo City to other destinations in the province like Islas de Gigantes in Carles or neighboring provinces in Panay Island like Antique, Kalibo in Aklan, or Capiz. You have the option to tide a regular (non-AC) bus and air-conditioned buses.
The major bus company that connects Iloilo City to other destinations is the Ceres Liner. There are a number of terminals in Iloilo City servicing different routes, so make sure to find out first which terminal you should go to depending on the destination.
Tagbak terminal services routes going to Central Iloilo and North Iloilo which includes Carles, Aklan (Kalibo and Boracay), and Roxas in Capiz. The Molo terminal services buses going to San Jose in Iloilo to Antique.
An alternative to buses are vans that ply the same route. These are air-conditioned and usually, have a faster travel time because they make fewer stops and pick-ups along the way. These, however, don’t have as much legroom as buses and don’t have compartments for big luggage.
Most vans also have to be filled completely before they depart so it might not be the best option if you’re on a tight schedule. You can also hire or rent a private van if you’re a big group.
For shorter distance travel within the city, you can ride tricycles (automated rickshaw) or pedicabs (cycled rickshaw locally called trisikad in Iloilo).
They’re not allowed in major roads and only ply small roads like those connecting residential houses to the major roads. It can only accommodate 2-4 passengers at a time.
Where to Stay in Iloilo
Iloilo City has seen massive development in recent years and along with it came a number of hotels catering to various types of travelers. From hotels for every budget, backpacker hostels, and vacation rentals, you have plenty of options for your home away from home in Iloilo.
Choosing the location of your accommodation is also crucial since it will be a factor in how easy or hard your commute will be to tourist spots or terminals.
Types of Accommodations
Depending on your budget, preference, and the number of travelers in the group, you have plenty of options for accommodations in Iloilo. Read on to find out which type of accommodation best fits your needs.
There are budget-friendly, mid-range, and luxury hotels in Iloilo City that you can choose from. These are usually located in major roads and have easy access to attractions, malls, and restaurants. They offer complete amenities and facilities, varying on the classification of the hotel.
For backpackers or budget-travelers, there are a number of hostels, inns, and guesthouses scattered in Iloilo City. These are cheap accommodations that offer basic amenities like a fan or air-conditioned room with sharing or private bathrooms.
If you want a private home in Iloilo City for a big group complete with a kitchen, vacation rentals will be perfect for you. There are a lot of condominium units available for rent in Iloilo City that can accommodate small to big groups.
These vacation rentals offer the comforts of hotels with additional amenities like streaming services but without the service provided by staff in hotels.
Neighborhoods and Areas
Choosing where to book your hotel in Iloilo is crucial so you can lessen the transfers of public vehicles or the fare for taxicabs when going around tourist attractions.
It’s best to identify where you want to go in Iloilo first and check which hotels or accommodations have the best access. Here are some of the top areas in Iloilo where you can book a hotel:
Iloilo City Proper
Also known as Iloilo Poblacion, Iloilo City Proper is located at the center of Iloilo City. Most established hotels and accommodations are found here.
This is where you will find the government buildings of Iloilo province including the Iloilo City Hall. The City Proper is also the area where Calle Real is located. During the Dinagyang Festival, the main highlights of the event are held here.
This district is part of Iloilo City’s three major commercial areas, aside from Molo and Jaro. You can find mid-range to luxury hotels in this area. Here you can find Smallville Complex where the Iloilo nightlife scene is, Riverside Esplanade, and malls of Iloilo.
There are plenty of hotels in the area because it’s a hub for entertainment and shopping. This area is also highly accessible to main tourist spots in Iloilo City because of its locations.
This district is known for being the birthplace of La Paz Batchoy, with the most famous one found at the La Paz Public Market in a restaurant called Netong’s.
This area is home to major schools, terminals, hospitals, and residential subdivisions. There are a number of budget, mid-range to luxury hotels and accommodations in La Paz that you can choose from.
This district in Iloilo City is where you can find Molo Church (St. Anne Parish) and the Molo Mansion, also known as the Yusay-Consing Mansion, which are just walking distance from the River Esplanade in Mandurriao.
Just right outside the Molo Church and Molo Mansion is the plaza where you can buy the unique bibingka (baked rice cake) of Iloilo. Residential subdivisions are abundant here and provide a more peaceful vibe and easy accessibility to the City Proper and Mandurriao areas.
The largest district in Iloilo City is also called the Mestizo Town because this is where prominent Spanish Filipino families in the province come from. It is also the area where you can find some of the top Iloilo tourist spots like the Jaro Cathedral and Belfry, the Lopez Mansion, Casa Mariquit, and Lizares Mansion.
If you’re traveling to neighboring destinations in the North of Panay Island, you can book accommodation in this area because Tagbak Terminal is located here.
If you want to be closer to the beach or coastal area of Iloilo City, you can book a hotel in Villa Arevalo. Also known as Villa or Arevalo, this area houses several resorts and open-air seafood restaurants and bars. It’s farther from Iloilo City Proper though but can still be accessible by riding a taxicab or jeepney.
Now that you know which types of accommodation and areas in Iloilo City where you can book your hotel, it’s time to choose which ones can fit your budget and meet your needs. In this section, we list some of the top recommended accommodations to suit any budget.
You don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket to enjoy the tourist spots in Iloilo City. Here are some of the top-rated budget hotels and accommodations in easy to access locations that you can choose from.
Ong Bun Pension House
Photo by Ong Bun Pension House
They offer one of the most affordable rates perfect for smart travelers who wants to stay in the center of the city. It's strategically located at the business district of Iloilo City, walking distance from local restaurants, banks and major city malls (Robinsons Mall and SM Delgado).
Jeepneys (local transport vehicle) going to Ortiz Wharf (to Guimaras) and other city attractions, such as Casa Real and Museo Iloilo, can also be found just outside the building. They offer standard quality room facilities and wifi access for all their guests.
One Lourdes Dormitel
This 3-story dormitory-style accommodation is also located at the heart of the city, surrounded by local restaurants, banks, and malls. It is also accessible to local transport vehicles that can take you to Ortiz Wharf and other city attractions.
Guest rooms are complete with refrigerator, airconditioning, a desk and wifi access, suitable for budget travelers who need to rest and still stay connected.
A little on the upper-end of affordable selections, People's Hotel is recommended for family travelers who want to stay comfortable while exploring the center of the city.
Aside from the close proximity to local eateries, banks, and malls, guests can also easily visit nearby attractions, such as Santa Maria Parish and The Molo Mansion.
Rooms are equipped with air conditioning, LCD TV and wifi access. Late check-ins will not be a problem with their 24-hour front desk concierge and room service.
If you are a bit more flexible with your accommodation expenses for more comfortable facilities, your best bet is to book a room in one of these mid-range hotels in Iloilo. These are not just value for money but are highly rated for their locations as well.
This comfy and modern hotel located in downtown Iloilo is perfect for leisure and business travelers. It’s conveniently located near the Central and Terminal Market if you opt to ride jeepneys to get around the city.
For shopping trips, it’s also a near Robinsons Place Iloilo. They also have an in-house restaurant called Prima Bistro, serving local and international dishes.
District 21 Hotel
This hotel is conveniently located along Diversion Road and walking distance to Smallville Complex in Mandurriao. It’s part of the Stay 21 hotel chain which is known for providing affordable but comfortable accommodations in Iloilo City. They have their own convenience store an in-house restaurant.
Go Hotels Iloilo
Also located at the busy city-center, Go Hotels Iloilo, the 3-star hotel chain's 7th branch, is a match for travelers who equally value both comfort and convenience.
It stands beside Robinsons Place Iloilo, where visitors can shop, eat and find reliable public utility vehicles (taxis, jeepneys, tricycles) to take them around the city.
Their rooms are known to be clean and comfortable, complete with air conditioning, a flatscreen TV, a telephone, a desk, hot and cold showers, and wifi access. Guests can also check-in at any time and request assistance for luggage storage and laundry services.
Circle Inn Hotel & Suites
If you're certain to travel to Guimaras, then you should check out Circle Inn Hotel and Suites, a newer city center hotel that is 500m away from the Ortiz Wharf. The hotel is also conveniently located near local restaurants, banks and city malls and is within walking distance from Iloilo City Hall and Plaza Libertad.
They offer standard rooms that are relatively more spacious and modern-looking, complete with air conditioning, flatscreen TV and wifi access. Outdoor amenities such as swimming pool and children's play area are also available for guests to enjoy.
Injap Tower Hotel
Travelers who long for good views of Iloilo City often opt to stay in Injap Tower Hotel, the tallest building in Western Visayas. This 3-star hotel, managed by Hotel 101, also boasts of its location at the heart of the busiest commercial district right across SM City Iloilo and Plazuela de Iloilo, and 20 minutes away from the Iloilo International Airport.
Their fully air-conditioned spacious rooms are furnished with flatscreen TV, a mini kitchen with microwave, hot and cold showers, and wifi access. Guests can also enjoy the hotel's swimming pool, fitness center/gym, and discounted services at The Spa.
See our popular Iloilo Vacation Packages
Willing to shell out more cash for the best home base in Iloilo City? Here are some of the best luxury hotels that you can choose from known not just for high-end facilities but for top-notch customer service as well.
Seda Atria Hotel
One of the newest luxury hotels in Mandurriao is AyalaLand's Seda Atria Hotel. This 4-star hotel is strategically located in the commercial district of Iloilo City, with nearby must-try restaurants such as Tatoy's Manokan and Seafood, Netong's Original Special La Paz Batchoy, and Felisha's Pastry Shop, and only around 30 mins away from Iloilo International Airport.
Rooms feature high-quality facilities including an executive desk, a mini bar, electronic in-room safe, 40-inch HDTV, IDD phone and wifi access, and other special amenities such as walk-in closet and a bathtub. Guests can dine in Misto Restaurant by the lobby and cap off the night with a few drinks at Straight Up rooftop bar.
Located in the middle of Iloilo Business Park, this 4-star hotel offers world-class accommodation facilities and services that attract both business and luxury travelers. Aside from its 16-km distance from Iloilo International Airport, across the hotel are the Iloilo Convention Center and the Festive Walk Mall, perfect for the work-play balance of the guests.
Room amenities include writing desks, a mini bar, in-room safe, 40-inch TV, hot & cold shower, telephone, iron and board, walk-in closet, bathtub, and wifi access. Guests can dine at the all-day dining restaurant The Granary, chill at the Biz Bar entertainment lounge and enjoy the fresh breeze at the Zabana Bar beside the rooftop swimming pool.
Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo
Also located at the center of metro's posh business district, Courtyard by Mariott is the first international hotel in Iloilo City. Sharing the same strategic location with Richmonde Hotel, it's a five-minute walk from Iloilo Convention Center, the Festive Walk Mall and other hip commercial areas.
They offer modern-designed rooms complete with living/sitting area, floor-to-ceiling windows, 40-inch TV, mini bar, hot & cold shower, desk, bathtub, iron and board, and special connection rooms for selected areas/ type of accommodation.
They also boasts of their international dining and bar selection, from brunch at the Runway Kitchen, fancy drinks at the Lobby Bar and outdoor barbeque at the Pool Bar and Grill.
What to See and Do in Iloilo
Iloilo offers unique historical, cultural, and natural tourist spots and activities that both local and international travelers will surely enjoy.
Whether you’re a beach person, a foodie, or someone who appreciates architecture and history, we’ve got you covered in this quick guide to some of the must-see places to see and things to do in Iloilo.
Go Island-Hopping in Islas de Gigantes
When visiting Iloilo tourist spots, you shouldn't skip the Islas de Gigantes or Gigantes Islands at Carles in Iloilo. Traveling here requires around three hours of land travel from Iloilo city, and another hour on board a boat to reach one of the main islands.
- Browse Islas de Gigantes island-hopping tours for your trip
The Islas de Gigantes island-hopping tour will take you to these island destinations:
Also known as Selfie Island is the most popular destination in Islas de Gigantes island hopping tours. It’s a small white sand island with crystal clear waters and lined with palm trees in the middle, making for the perfect tropical getaway. At one end of the island is a viewpoint that you can climb to where you can take selfies or group photos with the island in the background.
Tangke Saltwater Lagoon
This enchanting natural pool hidden behind towering limestone cliffs in one of the islands looks like an untouched paradise. The natural pool was filled up because of the waves crashing onto the cliffs during high tide or typhoon season.
This island with a long sandbar is a perfect spot for a relaxing swim or just sunbathing by the powdery white sand. It’s one of the island stops for lunch buffets where you can feast on scallops and other fresh seafood for a very cheap price.
Another island where you can have your fresh seafood buffet lunch during Islas de Gigantes island hopping tours. It has two beaches on both sides where you can choose to lounge in to enjoy a cold bottle of beer with friends or take a dip in the crystal clear waters.
A small island famous for its lone coconut tree in the center. The beach isn’t ideal for swimming though because of the rocky shore but it’s still a stunning sight that’s great for photos or just enjoying the view.
See our popular Islas de Gigantes Tours
Stroll Along Calle Real
Iloilo City is one of the oldest cities in the country and it still retains a heritage vibe thanks to the many old colonial buildings still standing in the downtown area. Take a relaxed photo-walk or stroll in Calle Real, or J.M. Basa Streets, where Spanish-era structures from the 1800s still stand.
Some of the buildings used to be the homes of the elite families in the province. It’s one of the busiest and most iconic streets in Iloilo City that is also sometimes called Heritage Street. This is also where you can buy the famous Queen Siopao of Roberto’s Siopao.
Hang Out at River Esplanade
Walk along the stretch of the River Esplanade (or Esplanade for short), the brainchild of the local government to protect the Iloilo River and promote a healthy lifestyle among the locals. It’s a great spot for early morning or sunset jogs and runs or for kids to play.
It is also known for being the spot of the “I am Iloilo” signage that has become a photo-op tourist spot. It’s easily accessible from the Molo Church and Molo Plaza and jeepneys or taxicabs.
Visit Heritage Churches
Iloilo is home to a number of heritage churches that feature unique classical styles of architecture. The centuries-old Spanish colonial churches are scattered around the city and can be visited in just a day. Must-visits include the following:
Miagao Church (Saint Thomas of Villanova Church)
A UNESCO World Site Heritage in the town of Miagao, about 30 to 45 minutes away from Iloilo City. Completed in 1797, the Miagao Church served as a fortress against Muslim raiders during that time. It’s known for having a natural yellow color because of the materials used to make it: limestone and corals.
Molo Church (Saint Anne Church)
Just right in front of Molo Plaza and near the Molo Mansion is this Gothic-Renaissance church. The Molo Church is made of corals and limestones and features two distinct red spires. Inside the church you’ll see women saints displayed on its pillars.
Jaro Cathedral (Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary)
This historical cathedral was visited by then Pop and now St. John Paul II in 1981 where he said mass and canonically crowned the miraculous image of Our Lady of Candles.
- Check Jaro Cathedral tours in Iloilo to explore this historical attraction
The Jaro Cathedral is the only cathedral in Iloilo province and is one of the oldest in the Philippines. It was proclaimed as a historical landmark in 1976 by the National Historical Institute.
See our popular Jaro Cathedral Tours
Tigbauan Church (St. John of Sahagun Church)
The facade of this church has a Latin-American architecture and is known for having colorful stone mosaics in the interiors. The mosaics portray the Stations of the Way of the Cross, Our Lady of Fatima, and Adam and Eve getting banished from the Garden of Eden.
Guimbal Church (Parish of St. Nicholas of Tolentino)
A 400-year old church that has a distinct yellow color made of adobe and coral stones. It has a 4-story high belfry that served as a watchtower during the Spanish-era in the Philippines.
Go Inside the Old Mansions
Aside from century-old churches, you can also find grandiose old mansions in Iloilo where prominent families of sugar barons in the province lived.
A number of these mansions have been preserved and can be visited by tourists, turned into a commercial space, or can be rented as venues for special occasions. Here are some of the must-visit ancestral houses in Iloilo City:
Nelly’s Garden (Vicente Lopez Heritage House)
This white mansion with a vast lawn in Jaro’s “millionaire’s row” is the so-called Queen of Heritage Houses in Iloilo and dates back to 1928. The National Historical Landmark was named after Nelly Lopez y Hofileña, the eldest daughter of Ilonggo statesman Don Vicente Lopez.
Molo Mansion (Yusay-Consing Mansion)
Located in front of the Molo Plaza and just walking distance from the Molo Church is this house built in the 1920s. It was owned by the Lacson-Yusay family then passed on to the Consing family.
This over 200-year-old house is one of the oldest in Iloilo. It was used as a bank and a residential house in the old days by owner Ramon Javellana.
Casa Mariquit is known as the former home of his granddaughter Maria “Mariquit” Javellana and her husband Fernando Lopez, Sr who was a former Vice President of the Philippines.
Camiña Balay nga Bato
This house built back in the 1860s is owned by the Camiña family and is known as a restaurant serving authentic Iloilo cuisine. They’re popular for the pancit molo and their tasty tsokolate eh.
See the Beauty of Garin Farm
Garin Farm in San Joaquin is one of the top tourist spots in Iloilo that you shouldn’t miss, especially if you like pilgrimage tours. It’s an in-land resort that combines attractions and activities for recreational, religious, and agri-tourism. Here you can try fun activities like kayaking, swimming, fishing and riding ziplines.
It’s most famous for having a pilgrimage site where there are 9 biblical scenes depicted in life-size diorama and the all-white blinding Heaven on Earth. To get there, you need to climb about 500 steps.
Garin Farm is accessible by private and public transportation or by booking Garin Farm tours. It’s best to go here early in the morning or before sunset.
What to Eat and Drink In Iloilo
The highlight of any Iloilo trip is feasting on the local cuisine. The province has access to fresh affordable seafood and is home to unique dishes like La Paz Batchoy.
Sticking to your diet will be difficult when you’re in Iloilo because of all the tasty dishes that will be served to you. Here’s your guide on what foods you need to try in Iloilo.
When it comes to gastronomic delights, the province of Iloilo has a lot to offer. The province of Iloilo is famous as the home of La Paz Batchoy, a clear noodle soup with pork cracklings, beef, chicken stock, and round noodles.
Seafood is also an Ilonggo feast staple and is highly affordable. When in Iloilo, don’t miss the chance to feast on buckets of oysters and scallops (sold for as low as PHP1.00 each), best experienced during island-hopping tours in Islas de Gigantes.
Another unique seafood to try in Iloilo is diwal, an angel’s wing-shaped clam. It’s seasonal so when you find one, make sure you load up on these.
Other must-tries include native roasted chicken with the special marinade of famous local restaurants, Pancit Molo (savory wonton soup), and KBL or Kadyos, Baboy, Langka (a local soup dish made from pigeon peas, jackfruit, and pork).
The nightlife scene is very much alive as well in Iloilo City’s Smallville Complex. You can find here bars where you can party or watch live bands. It’s also home to local restaurants where you can feast on Ilonggo dishes.
Recommended Best Restaurants and Bars
Ilonggo dishes are widely available in most Iloilo restaurants, but there are a number of local establishments that are regarded as the best places to get your fill of Iloilo specialties. Here are some of the highly recommended restaurants you should visit when in Iloilo.
Netong’s Original La Paz Batchoy
For the best La Paz Batchoy in Iloilo, head to La Paz Public Market to get a taste of the iconic noodle soup at Netong’s Original La Paz Batchoy.
Still standing at the very same place where it first opened in the 1940s, Netong’s has become a food institution in the city by consistently serving its original recipe of the much loved Batchoy dish.
Do yourself a favor by ordering a mega bowl of La Paz Batchoy and feast yourself to happiness. Order a pack of the puto (steamed rice cake) and dip it in the pork broth.
Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood
An automatic inclusion in every “Where to Eat in Iloilo” listicle articles is Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood where they cook and serve a medley of sumptuous Ilonggo native cuisines.
Try their signature native lechon manok (roasted chicken), baked oysters, scallops, blue marlin, shrimp, fishtail soup and more. This place is perfect for dining with the whole family or a large group of friends because of its fiesta-type manner of preparing their food.
Madge Café remains an integral part of Iloilo’s coffee culture because it has retained its quaintness vibe for more than 50 years. Screaming of authenticity despite its fading wall paint and flooring, this is the best place to enjoy a hot cup of coffee and socialize with the locals in the early morning.
Also situated inside La Paz Market, Madge Café is a must-visit for travelers wanting to experience a genuine coffee experience in a no-frills and stripped back environment.
Another old-time favorite in Iloilo City is Roberto’s Siopao. Serving huge pieces of siopao stuffed with various combinations of recipe such as Queen Siopao (Chinese sausage, pork adobo, bacon and egg), King Siopao (ham, chicken, pork adobo, egg and Chinese sausage), Jumbo Siopao (chicken sausage, chicken adobo and egg) and the Regular Siopao (pork adobo and egg).
Located right smack at Iloilo’s heritage district at Calle Real, Roberto’s also serves other savory dishes.
Street Stall Bibingka at Molo Church
Bibingka is a local rice cake that’s popular in the Philippines, especially during Christmas-time outside churches. In Iloilo City, you can find bibingka (baked rice cake) sold year-round in front of the Molo Church and Molo Mansion. It’s a popular snack among mass-goers. It is best eaten warm with grated coconut, butter, and sugar sprinkled on top.
The craft beer craze has hit Iloilo and it is all good. Thanks to Brewery Gastropub which serves some of the finest locally brewed beers in the country such as Dinagyang Pale Ale, Guimaras Goose, Boracay Blonde and more.
Drinking these fine tasting beers should also come with a tasty side dish and Brewery Gastropub takes care of it with their sumptuous menu consisting of fancy dishes like Beer Can chicken, rack of skewers, boneless crispy pata and more. There is no better way to cap off your Iloilo trip by visiting this place.
Practical Tips and Information
Just like any other destination, it’s best to arm yourself with important information for a hassle-free trip like currency and availability of ATMs and languages spoken by locals. To maximize your time and budget, you should also find out where the best souvenir shopping spots are.
Establishments in Iloilo City and neighboring municipalities and towns accept cash in Philippine Peso (PHP) only. Majority of restaurants, bars, and hotels in the city accept credit card payments as well but it’s best to bring enough cash with you.
ATMs are also accessible in the city and the town centers outside the city. If you’re going to remote locations like Islas de Gigantes, it’s better to pay in cash so make sure you’re bringing enough for your activities.
The main language of Iloilo locals is called Hiligaynon, although some refer to it as Ilonggo. Ilonggo is actually an ethno-linguistic group that refers to the people in the southeastern Panay island. Majority of locals in Iloilo can speak and understand Filipino and English so communicating will not be a problem.
What to Shop
If you’re looking for the best pasalubong (food souvenir) to bring home, head to Biscocho Haus and get some of their famous biscocho, a type of toasted bread with butter and sugar. It's the best eaten as a snack with coffee or Pancit Molo.
Sample Itinerary in Iloilo
A trip to Iloilo can be as quick as 3 full days if you’re pressed for time. You can extend it to 4 days or more if you want to travel to neighboring provinces in Panay Island like Guimaras, Antique, Capiz, Bacolod, and Boracay. Here’s a sample itinerary that you can take inspiration from:
Day 1: Ancestral Houses + Garin Farm
06:00 AM - Arrival in Iloilo International Airport, travel to hotel for check-in
07:30 AM - Breakfast at Netong’s Original La Paz Batchoy and coffee at Madge Cafe
09:00 AM - Go on a city tour to explore the ancestral houses of Iloilo
12:00 NN - Lunch at Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood
01:00 PM - Continue city tour
03:00 PM - Eat Pancit Molo at Camiña Balay nga Bato
03:30 PM - Travel to Garin Farm
04:30 PM - Explore Garin Farm
06:00 PM - Travel back to the city
7:00 PM - Dinner and drinks at Smallville
Day 2: Islas de Gigantes
04:00 AM - Early breakfast
05:00 AM - ETD to Carles Port
08:00 AM - ETA in Carles Port, register and start Islas de Gigantes island-hopping tour
12:00 NN - Scallops lunch at one of the islands
01:30 PM - Continue the island-hopping tour
03:00 PM - ETD to Carles Port
04:30 PM - ETA at Carles Port, travel back to Iloilo City
07:30 PM - ETA at Iloilo City, wash up
08:30 PM - Dinner and drinks at Smallville
Day 3: Heritage Churches + Esplanade + Calle Real
07:00 AM - Breakfast
08:00 AM - Start city tour to explore heritage churches
12:00 NN - Lunch at Breakthrough
01:00 PM - Continue heritage church tour
03:00 PM - Try Molo bibingka in front of Molo Church
04:00 PM - Stroll along River Esplanade
05:00 PM - Explore Calle Real and taste the Queen Siopao at Roberto’s
06:00 PM - Dinner and drinks at Smallville
07:30 PM - Shop for souvenirs
09:00 PM - Travel to Iloilo International Airport for late night flight
Start Planning Your Iloilo Trip Now!
The Heart of the Philippines, Iloilo, has plenty of tourist spots that will satisfy the wanderlust of any type of traveler. It’s home to unique historical landmarks and grandiose ancestral houses, pristine beaches and islands, and tasty local cuisine.
If you’re a history buff, architecture fan, island lover, and foodie, you should add Iloilo to your travel bucket list. It’s also easily accessible to and from other top destinations in the country like Guimaras, Bacolod, Antique, Capiz, and Boracay if you want to explore more of the Philippines.
Explore the many wonders that Iloilo offers. Check out Iloilo tours and activities that you can add to your itinerary.
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