Culture & Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

Written by Patrick

There are many attractions in the Philippines that have been recognized and listed at the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization). 

The world knows how blessed the country is when it comes to natural formations and resources.  But there is more to the Philippines than just its natural wonders.  The country has several cultural and heritage attractions making it more interesting to tourists who want to explore deeper than just the breathtaking white sand beaches or lush forests inhabited by endemic flora and fauna.

If you plan to see any of them on your next trip to the Philippines, here they are.

1 | Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Philippines is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Caption: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Listed in 1993, Tubbataha Reef Natural Park is one of the first Philippine attractions, along with Baroque Churches in the Philippines, included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  It is located in the heart of Sulu Sea and is one of the richest and diverse marine spots on earth.  The uninhabited islands and reefs are home to more than 600 species of fish, 350 species of corals, 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins and whales, 2 species of sea turtles, and 100 species of birds.

The park is part of the Coral Triangle, a global center for marine biodiversity.

One of the most remote diving sites in the Philippines, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park can only be accessed by a liveaboard between March and June.

READ MORE: Tubbataha Reefs

2 | Baroque Churches of the Philippines

Paoay Church in Ilocos Region is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Caption: Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte

Baroque architecture was introduced to the Philippines by the Catholic Churches to widen the church’s influence and attract new followers with its appealing and grand churches.  These Baroque churches were built between the 15th to 18th century and many of these churches are still standing strong up to this day. Many of these Baroque churches in the Philippines were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The oldest stone and Baroque church in the Philippines is the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila.  The present church structure was constructed from 1586 to 1607 and is one of the most in demand venues for weddings, photoshoots, and tours.

Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur is a typical earthquake Baroque Church with thick and reinforced outer walls and pagoda-like four-storey bell tower that is separated from the main structure.

The earthquake Baroque church of Paoay, also known as the Saint Augustine Church, is reinforced with 24 huge buttresses to protect the church from destruction caused by earthquakes.  The church is made of coral stones and bricks.

Miag-ao Church is located in the coastal town of Miag-ao in the province of Iloilo.  The Baroque Romanesque church is made of adobe, egg, coral, and limestone.  It has a distinct ochre color from the combination of all the materials used.  The church has massive stone walls, thicker setback buttresses, and ornately-decorated facade.

READ MORE: Baroque Churches in the Philippines | Paoay Church

3 | Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Batad Rice Terraces in Banaue, Philippines is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Caption: Batad Rice Terraces

Inscribed on the list in 1995, the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras does not include the Banaue Rice Terraces, the most popular one, due to the presence of several modern structures in the area.  Included in the World Heritage Sites list are the Batad Rice Terraces and Bangaan Rice Terraces (both in Banaue), Mayoyao Rice Terraces (in Mayoyao), Hungduan Rice Terraces (in Hungduan), and Nagacadan Rice Terraces (in Kiangan), all in the province of Ifugao.

The rice terraces in Ifugao are distinct from the other rice terraces in the country due to its careful carving of the natural contours of hills and mountains to make way for pond fields, intricate irrigation systems, and elaborate farming systems.

4 | Vigan City

Calle Crisologo in Vigan City, Philippines is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Caption: Calle Crisologo in Vigan City

Vigan is the capital of the province of Ilocos Sur and is known as a Spanish colonial town that remains well-preserved and intact up to this day.  The historic city features heritage stone houses, cobblestone streets, and an earthquake Baroque Church.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and was later inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage City.  It was also voted as New7Wonders Cities in 2015.

READ MORE: Vigan City Visitors Guide | Calle Crisologo

5 | Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

Caption: Tourists inside the cave.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, also known as Puerto Princesa Underground River, is known for its stunning limestone karst mountain landscape and 8.2 kilometer underground river, 4.3 kilometers of which is navigable by a paddle boat only.  The park boasts of its stalactites and stalagmites formations, and several large chambers, one of which is considered as one of the largest cave rooms in the world.  It also has a rich flora and fauna making it an ideal habitat for biodiversity conservation.  It has a variety of forest formations and is inhabited by almost a thousand plant species, about 250 bird species, 30 mammal species, 19 species of reptiles, and nine species of bats.

It was inscribed on the list in 1999 and voted as a New7Wonders of Nature in 2012.

READ MORE: Puerto Princesa Underground River | Puerto Princesa City Visitors Guide

6 | Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Mount Hamiguitan, Davao Oriental, Philippines.

Caption: Mount Hamiguitan | Image Source

Mount Hamiguitan is located in the province of Davao Oriental and was declared a national park and a wildlife sanctuary in 2003 due to its wildlife diversity.  It has a height of 1,620 meters (5,315 feet) and covers an area of 6,834 hectares (68.34 km2), 2,000 hectares of which is a protected forest.  The mountain is home to many endangered, endemic, and rare species of flora and fauna including several species of pitcher plants and orchids, Philippine eagle, giant golden-crowned flying fox, Philippine forest roundleaf bat, Philippine deer, and many others.

It was inscribed to the list in 2014 after it was declared an ASEAN Heritage Park.

READ MORE: Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary

In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are others that are on the tentative list.  The list includes Apo Reefs Natural Park, Batanes Protected Landscapes and Seascapes, Chocolate Hills, additional Baroque Churches of the Philippines, Mount Pulag, and North Sierra Madre Natural Park to name a few.

If you want to visit these sites, we recommend using the following websites to plan your perfect vacation:

READ MORE: Filipino Culture & Heritage

Have YOU visited any of these sites?

About the Author


Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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