Iloilo – 20 Places to visit in the “Heart of the Philippines”
Iloilo – Crown Jewel of Panay Island
Dubbed as the “Heart of the Philippines,” Iloilo province is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Visayas. When I visited this province, I instantly fell in love. Why not? The people there are very welcoming and the atmosphere is very calm. If I were to choose to live somewhere else beside from my hometown, I would definitely choose Iloilo. Situated by the banks of the province is the City of Iloilo, known as the “City of Love” or “La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad,” the “Most Loyal and Noble City.” #IAmIloilo
This historic destination is the 38th province I have been to in my personal quest in visiting all 81 provinces in the Philippines. I can tell that Iloilo is full of experiences and places (not to mention, their delicious food!) waiting to be discovered. Who would have thought that this province has so much to offer than its usual reputation as the home of the Dinagyang Festival? The province has proved to be a premier destination in Western Visayas.
In this blog, I have listed 20 of the most sought after tourist destinations that you, too, should visit when exploring the province of Iloilo. Hala bira!
Top 20 Tourist Spots in Iloilo
Angelicum School (Lizares Mansion)
One of the prominent structures in Iloilo is the Lizares Mansion, that has been transformed into the Angelicum School – Iloilo. This structure showcases a wide lawn and its striking façade can be seen easily as it is near the road. The mansion named after Don Emiliano Lizares was also used as a headquarters of the Japanese forces during World War II and the property was later sold to the Dominican priests in 1962. This is one of the heritage houses that still stands, bearing witness to the rich history of the province.
Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral (St.Elizabeth of Hungary Church) and Belfry
This baroque-style church is one of the churches that define the rich history of Iloilo. Situated along a busy district, The Jaro Cathedral is also known as the site of Our Lady of Candles – who was declared as the patroness of Western Visayas during the Papal Visit of Saint John Paul II in 1981.
Its belfry is situated a meters away from the main structure of the church and is towering the near the cathedral grounds. To reach the Jaro cathedral, you can ride a jeepney with a “Jaro CPU” sign. Fare is around ₱ 8 – 10.
La Paz Public Market
Want to have an experience of the different flavors of Iloilo City? The La Paz Market is the place to be! Whether it be from pasalubong-buying to local market experience, and to eatery-hopping, the La Paz market is one of the places you might want to visit. You can find several batchoy eateries here and the also-famous Madge Cafe! This is the perfect place to chill!
Netong’s La Paz Batchoy
Your Iloilo trip will never be complete if you have not tasted their famous La Paz Batchoy! Yes! This original Filipino cuisine originated in the city’s La Paz District. When I went here with my partner, blogger-friends told me to go to Netong’s as they have the best Batchoy in town. Well, it did not disappoint! I give this a grade of 11/10! The owner of the eatery also told us that Batchoy is best paired with puto (steamed rice cake).
The eatery is situated right in the middle of the La Paz Public Market. You can ask the stall owners about the directions going there as the pathways may be tricky.
|Address||La Paz Public Market, Rizal Street, La Paz, Iloilo City|
|Budget||Depends on your order! 🙂|
|Business days and hours||0600 – 2000 H, Daily|
|Social Media Account/s||Facebook: Netong’s Original Special La Paz Batchoy|
|Contact number/s||+63 47 459 1163, +63 33 501 6035|
This family-owned coffee shop is known for its locally-sourced coffee and coffee products since the 1940s. Right at the heart of La Paz Market, Madge Cafe is pretty hard to miss! Enjoy their cup of coffee for ₱ 50 or less!
|Address||Lapaz Public Market, cor. Rizal-Huervana Streets, La Paz, Iloilo City|
|Budget||₱ 50 – 250|
|Business days and hours||0530 – 1900 H, Daily|
|Social Media Account/s||Facebook: Madge Cafe|
|Contact number/s||+63 33 509 3737|
Museo Iloilo is the first museum to be commissioned outside of Metro Manila. This museum has a number of interesting artifacts showcasing the rich culture of Western Visayas. A popular sight in this museum is the Santo Entiero – a sculpture of the dead Christ. What I like about this place is that it is situated in the heart of the city, and is near the Provincial Capitol!
|Address||Iloilo City Proper, Iloilo (beside new provincial capitol)|
|Entrance Fee||₱ 50 (adults), ₱ 15 (students with valid ID)|
|Business days and hours||1000 – 1630 H, Tuesday – Sunday|
|Social Media Account/s||Facebook: Museo Iloilo|
|Contact number/s||+63 33 337 2986|
Casa Real (Old Iloilo Provincial Capitol) and Arroyo Fountain
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Located at the very heart of the Capital City of Iloilo is the Old Provincial Capitol, a.k.a. “Casa Real” and the Arroyo Fountain. The wood-and-stone Casa Real was once the seat of the government of the province (from 1901 to 2001) and was also once used by the Japanese forces during World War II. Meanwhile, the sculpture of the Arroyo fountain represents the richness of the province’s history and marks the Kilometer Zero of the province. The new provincial capitol of the province is located just behind Casa Real. It is also located near Museo Iloilo!
Dubbed as the “Cultural Core of Iloilo,” Calle Real would definitely bring you back to the colonial past. This strip dons several Spanish-style architecture and is considered to be the main artery of the City. Historic and heritage shops and structures grace the place and is a perfect place to stroll after a long day exploring Iloilo.
Camiña Balay nga Bato – Internet
Translated as “stone house,” this heritage structure has more to offer than its rich history. Built in 1860, it is strategically located near the Iloilo river to easily transport the Avanceña-Camiña family’s textiles business during that time. It is called Balay nga Bato because its walls were built using the river sand and limestone that helped reinforce the base of the house.
When visiting Balay nga Bato, I suggest that you indulge in their hot cocoa (tsokolate) and their hearty bread offerings during their no-time-limit-tour! You can also have a bowl of Pancit Molo if you wish to!
|Address||20 Osmeña Street, Sta. Felomina Arevalo, Villa Arevalo District, Iloilo City|
|Entrance Fee||₱ 150 (regular), ₱ 200 (with pancit Molo), ₱ 500 (buffet)|
|Business days and hours||0800 – 2100 H, Daily|
|Social Media Account/s||Facebook: Camiña Balay nga Bato in Iloilo|
|Contact number/s||+63 33 336 3858|
San Jose Church (birthplace of the Dinagyang Festival)
Located in Plaza Libertad, the San Jose Placer Church is the home of the world-famous Dinagyang Festival, which is celebrated every January, in honor of the Child Jesus (Sto. Niño). The church has an arcade of Corinthian columns and a maroon façade. This site is also believed to be the place where the first church in Iloilo was constructed by the Jesuits in 1607. You know what they say when you visit a church for the first time – make a wish and eventually that wish would come true!
If you are fond of the Spanish language, Libertad means ‘Liberty’ or ‘freedom.’ Iloilo City’s historical square was the site where the Philippine flag was first raised in the island of Panay in 1898 when Spain surrendered Iloilo as its last capital / stronghold in the Philippines. Formerly known as “Plaza Alfonso XII,” the Plaza is surrounded by notable structures such as the Iloilo City Hall, San Jose Church, the Masonic Temple, and the Lacson Clan Ancestral House. To go there, you may ride these jeepney routes that go to the plaza or pass near it: Jaro CPU, City Proper, or Molo Baluarte.
St. Anne Parish Church (Molo Church) and Molo Plaza
Known as a feminist Church, St. Anne’s Parish is known as ‘Church of the Women‘ as the images of saints inside the church are all female. This white coral structure that was built in the 1830s is also recognizable because of its 2 pinkish spires and concrete façade. This Church was declared a National Landmark by the National Historical Institution in 1992 and is one of the most-visited churches in the province.
What I like about this place is the cool breeze that greets every visitor (as it is near the Iloilo river) and is strategically located to where jeepneys unload and pick-up passengers. The Molo Plaza is also located in front of the church where you can get to unwind after hearing mass.
Molo (Yusay-Consing) Mansion
Another heritage site located right across the Molo Church is the Molo Mansion. This Spanish-style architecture building is very unique that its façade is just as striking. Its simple yet elegant structure houses a museum for local art pieces from homegrown Iloilo artists and it also has a souvenir shop where you can buy your pasalubong. You can reach the Molo Mansion and Church by riding a ‘Villa Arevalo‘ or ‘Molo‘ sign.
|Address||Yusay-Consing Mansion, Locsin Street, Molo, Iloilo City|
|Entrance fee||Free of Charge|
|Business days and hours||1000 – 2000 H, Daily|
|Social Media Account/s||Facebook: @themolomansion | Instagram: @themolomansion|
Iloilo River Esplanade
If you want to have a walking trip from Molo Church and Molo Mansion, why not pay a visit at the Iloilo River Esplanade? This strip is one of the best spots to see the sun set from a distance. Walking past the Carpenter’s Bridge that separate Molo from Mandurriao, the esplanade gives you a refreshing view of the Molo District right across the river. Several food stalls can also be found along the strip.
One of the oldest houses in the province, Casa Mariquit should never be missed in your itinerary. Be ready to travel to memory lane if you visit this place as antique furniture and memorabilia can be seen inside the Casa. The house was built in 1803 where it became home to Maria ‘Mariquit‘ Javellana and husband Fernando Lopez, who served as a Vice President of the Philippines in the 1950s. Its rustic ambiance, complemented with its original fixtures and ornaments, will let you feel what it is to live in the 19th century.
|Address||Santa Isabel Street, Jaro, Iloilo City|
|Entrance Fee||₱ 50|
|Business days and hours||0800 – 1700 H, Daily|
Miag-ao Church (Miag-ao)
Your Iloilo trip will definitely be not complete if you have not paid a visit in one of the most recognizable churches in the province. Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church, popularly known as Miag-ao Church is one of the four Baroque Churches in the Philippines that is included in the World Heritage Sites list of UNESCO. It was Sunday when I visited the church and people flocked around to hear mass. Its notable coralline limestone façade, particularly that of San Cristobal carrying the Child Jesus with a native touch is what makes the Church an attraction on its own.
To get to Miag-ao Church, you can take south-bound jeepneys bound for Miag-ao and San Joaquin (in Mohon Terminal in Molo or in the Iloilo Terminal Market in the City Proper). Travel time is approximately around 45 minutes to 1 hour.
GarinFarm Pilgrimage Resort (San Joaquin)
If you want to have a slice of heaven on Earth, GarinFarm Resort is the place to go! This popular pilgrimage site 50 kilometers from Iloilo City and will give you a taste of ‘The Farm Life.’ Aside from its primary use as a farm, GarinFarm also hosts leisure activities and accommodations for a fee. The ‘Pilgrimage‘ is the Farm’s most popular attraction, depicting various biblical events while climbing a hill. The huge cross atop the hill will greet you and its meditation tunnel will lead you to a ‘heavenly place’ where angels and saints welcome visitors to heaven. Yup, literally heaven on Earth! GarinFarm is approximately 1 hour from Iloilo’s Central Business District and some 15-20 minutes away from Miag-ao.
|Address||Purok 2, Huna, San Joaquin, Iloilo (just past San Joaquin Cemetery)|
|Entrance Fee||₱ 150|
Zipline: ₱ 250-350 | Hilltop Swimming Pool: ₱ 80 | Hilltop Fishing ₱ 130/kilo | Billiards: ₱ 60/hour | Hilltop Horseback Riding: ₱ 60 | Golf Cart: ₱ 60-90 | Pedal Boat: ₱ 90 | Rubber Boat: ₱ 120-240 | Kayak: ₱ 40-90 | Water Bike: ₱ 40 | Water Ball: ₱ 50 | ATV: ₱ 100/20 minutes | Room Rates: ₱ 1,500-3,500
|Business days and hours||0800 – 2100 H, Daily|
|Social Media Account/s||GarinFarm Pilgrimage Resort|
|Contact Number/s||+63 033 314 7555, +63 916 667 6851|
San Joaquin Cemetery (San Joaquin)
This National Cultural Treasure has an imposing, baroque-style Campo Santo (mortuary chapel) in sight and if ‘dark tourism’ is your theme, this is the place for you. The chapel is surprisingly made out of while corals and fossil stones! (Common in churches and structures near the shores, especially in the Visayas). There is also a replica sculpture of the La Pieta inside the chapel. Located just along the national highway, this site is one of the oldest cemeteries in Panay Island, on accounts that it was founded in the 1890s.
Nadsadjan Falls (Igbaras)
Found in the municipality of Igbaras, Nadsadjan Falls is one of the natural tourist spots in the province that I suggest you come visit. With a height of at least 100 feet going down a natural swimming pool, Nadsadjan Falls can be reached by riding a jeepney from either the Iloilo Market Terminal, Iloilo Supermart in Molo, or in Mohon Terminal in Oton. Travel time is around 1 hour and 30 minutes. From the 30-minute ride from Igbaras town proper, there is an additional 45-minute nature trek before reaching this wonder. I suggest that you visit the place in the early morning to coordinate with the Municipal Tourism Officer first!
Islas de Gigantes (Carles)
All the way up to the province’s northernmost municipality, this group of islands is one of the most popular spots in Iloilo. When I went to visit Capiz prior to going to Iloilo, we paid a visit to Islas de Gigantes as it is much nearer when coming from Roxas. Who would have thought that this attraction can be explored in one whole day? (Thank you to Las Islas Travel and Tours for the trip!) The group of islands is the main attraction in northern Panay and is only 2 hours away from Roxas (or 4 to 5 hours away from Iloilo City!) Do not forget to have a picture in the famous Cabugao Gamay Island and the Tangke Saltwater Lagoon! You’re welcome!
There is more to explore in Iloilo than just island-hopping, church-hopping, and tasting authentic Batchoy and Pancit Molo! Be sure to visit and experience these places in your Iloilo trip and feel the best of the province’s unique culture, not to mention, its pristine natural wonders!
Did I miss anything? Get in touch with me here so I can add it up to this list!
We’re born to travel!