While visiting Manila, I kept hearing around me people saying it’s useless to stay there and “You better go elsewhere in the country, you won’t regret it!” Befoire going further in the country, I decided to go visit Taal volcano in the Philippines. Taal volcano is located on the island of Luzon, and is 80 kilometers (50 miles) away from Manila. Therefore it’s possible to do a day trip from Manila. I heard Taal volcano is an unmissable in the Philippines. Since I had time on my hands, I was like “All right, let’s go!“
Taal volcano is special…
Taal volcano is a bit particular, it’s in a caldera. What’s that, a caldera!? Basically it’s a “large basin-shaped crater at the top of a volcano, formed by the collapse or explosion of the cone”. In fact, Taal lake is inside the caldera. In Taal lake there’s an island, called Volcano Island. In this island, there’s another lake (Crater lake) and in this second lake, you’ll find Taal volcano! It’s not evident but you get the idea (I hope!).
From Manila, I went to Tagaytay, and from there I took a tuktuk. It brought me to Talisa Bay, in front of Taal lake. From Talisa Bay I took a small boat to go to Volcano Island (I give all the info at the end of the article). Taal lake is really beautiful to see, and I stopped for a few minutes to admire the spot. I was interrupted by several locals, who were trying to sell me all kind of things (souvenirs, food, different packages for my visit of Taal volcano…). I guessed it was time to go…
All right it’s time to board! I hopped on a bangka, those are small traditional Filipino boats, to go to Volcano Island. I was lucky, the weather was good and it wasn’t cold, but for your information, if it’s raining or if it’s too choppy, you’ll be all wet! Just in case, bring appropriate clothes. In my case, the boat ride was peaceful and enjoyable. It was like a 20-minutes ride.
I made it to Volcano Island. A Filipino community lives there. When I got there, dozens of kids were playing and running around. There are also a few souvenir shops, and locals have stalls selling snacks and refreshments. I quickly spotted the little path to start climbing to the top of Volcano Island. Just before starting the hike, a local asked me if I needed a guide. I said no. He insisted and said it’s compulsory. I said I prefer to walk alone. He kept going “All right then, go to the top of the island by horse. It’s long, the summit is far, it’s hot in here, you’re gonna be tired…” I told him I wanted to walk (I like to stay active), and I started going up by foot!
Climbing Volcano Island
I’m not gonna lie, climbing Volcano Island is quite fast and not that complicated. Yeah, I did understand the local was trying to make some money flanneling me, but it was a lot easier than I thought! All right, sometimes it’s hot there and the sun is scorching, but otherwise it’s ok! You just have to hydrate yourself, but anyway you’re gonna sweat! I think it took me 40 minutes to go all the way to the top! The last five minutes are a bit harder because the slope gets steep, but other than that, you don’t need to be in great shape.
Apart from the heat, going up can be done without too much difficulty. While climbing, you’ll see other travelers horse riding to go to the top. Honestly, avoid doing so. The horses look scrawny, old and tired. Don’t make them suffer more and burn your calories, go to the top by foot! During the short hike, you’ll also see Christian crosses (a majority of the locals are practicing Catholic).
I finally made it to the top of Volcano Island (by the way it’s still an active volcano, and it’s the most dangerous in the Philippines). The view on top was worth the detour, and you understand better the concept of a volcano in a lake in an island in another lake! Several locals sell refreshments there, and they’re making good money cause everybody’s sweating and thirsty. I decided to go a little bit further, I spotted a path where you can have a view from a little bit higher. But two locals blocked the path ; you have to pay 50 pesos (0.85€) for the “VIP” view, the view from Red Lava. I paid but it wasn’t necessary, the view is identical. The place looks well-preserved. I found out later it’s actually forbidden to swim in the lake.
Taal volcano… An unmissable?
After spending some time there, I started to go down. It took like half an hour. Then I took a bangka, before going back to Manila. Did I like my trip to Taal volcano? Honestly, I don’t think it was an unmissable. Yeah the view on top is stunning but all the tourists are real cash cows there, the locals are too pushy when it comes to selling stuff. I talk about it just below but they’re always trying to sell, they do want you to buy! Anything (guide, horse ride, food, absurd fees…). After a while, it gets tiring. If you have time, you can go. Otherwise, you can skip it.
Infos to see Taal volcano
- Wanna go to the Philippines? Check the visa policy here. Most Western citizens can stay up to 30 days visa-free. Be careful when you go through customs, sometimes they ask for an onward ticket and in some cases they even ask your hotel reservation. Don’t be denied entry to the country!
- Don’t go to the Philippines without a travel insurance!
- The easiest and cheapest way to go to Taal volcano from Manila is by bus. There are several starting points in Manila, so ask the closest one at the reception of your hotel. I paid 87 pesos (1.50€) my bus ticket from Manila to Tagaytay, and the same price the other way around. It was a 2-hours ride in the morning, and two hours and a half in the afternoon.
- The bus dropped me off at Tagaytay! From there you have to take a tuktuk to go to Talisa Bay, in front of Taal lake. Don’t even think about going there by foot, it’s too far! I paid 500 pesos (8 euros) the two way trip. It’s a 20 minutes ride.
- Now you have to use your negotiation skills. Filipinas will try to sell you the bangka ride to go to Volcano Island at the highest price possible, and they’re gonna add all kind of taxes and fees… I paid 2000 pesos the two-way trip by bangka. I had to add 100 pesos, the tourist fee. Plus 50 pesos for a landing fee “because we’re gonna help you get off the boat once you get there, and thanks to us you won’t be wet“. You fucking kidding me!? FYI 1. I got off the boat by myself 2. nobody helped me anyway! Whatever… The total price was 2150 pesos (35 euros).
- Once you get to Volcano Island, do you want a guide? If so, you’ll have to pay 500 pesos (8 euros). You’re not listening to my advice and you want to horse ride to go to the top? It’s another 500 pesos…
- Before taking the boat (or after leaving Volcano Island and before going back to Manila), several Filipinas will propose having a meal on the spot. Just out of curiosity, I checked the menu. The dishes are like 450 pesos (7.50€). FYI, in the city, you can easily find a place to eat well for just 120 pesos (2 euros)… Before taking the boat, the same Filipinas will repeat several times that “The tip is not included siiir! The tip is not includeeeeeed!“
- I left Manila at 6am, and I was back in town at 3:30pm. It was faster than expected!
- What’s the best time to go to Taal volcano? From December to April. It’s not too hot, and it’s not raining!
- Is Taal volcano active? Yes it is! Is Taal volcano dangerous? I wouldn’t say dangerous but it’s still active! The last eruption happened in 1977. Going there for a day trip is ok, but living there!? Like the communities I saw? Hell no!