I don’t know what made me want to visit Iloilo on one fine day while I was working. Was it because of the building structures or the vibe of the places I saw online? Maybe it’s because of the charm of the place that it piqued my interest.
Luckily, Iloilo has one of the cheapest airfare prices even at its regular price. The regular price is around Php3,000 for a roundtrip flight. How low can the price get if it’s on a promo? Tell us!
While touring Iloilo, I somewhat saw a glimpse of the old Philippines. The vibe is truly different from the other Philippine cities that I’ve visited.
Alas, if you’re on a short visit then here are some places to visit in Iloilo City.
READ MORE: 2019: NEW BORACAY Budget Guide
WHERE TO STAY IN ILOILO
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PLACES TO VISIT IN ILOILO CITY
Let me say this first, Iloilo has a lot of churches, and, their churches are the tourist spots. I’m not really religious and I prefer sporty activities or places that tingle my senses so this list won’t be having a major list of churches.
Doing a DIY tour in Iloilo City is fairly easy. The city is very accessible with a variety of public transportations. Plus, if you lose your way, the people of Iloilo city are nice and will surely help you find your way around.
To start with, here are a variety of places to visit in Iloilo City.
NOTE: You can also use the Grab app here but in some places, there are only a few drivers so booking through Grab may take some time.
This fancy destination is unremarkably a souvenir shop offering merchandise like t-shirts, fashionable accessories, bags, etc. Molo Mansion is a posh place to visit and buy some classy souvenirs to take home. For a second, I was thinking we can have a tour inside the mansion.
A variety of food stores are available beside the mansion. Some stores offer an interesting menu like a Dragon fruit and Blue Ternate flower-flavored ice creams.
I, for one, am totally satisfied with the food we ate here. If I remember correctly, the food stall is named ‘Sabor Ilonggo’. They have Halo-halo and a noodle dish called Bam-I. I recommend you try out this dish when in Iloilo, it’s delish! I also recommend eating out here before heading home to your accommodation. It’s a nice place to just relax and take in the breeze at night.
This church is hard to miss as it’s the most familiar landmark in Iloilo city. Molo church is also known as St. Anne Parish and is located just across Molo Mansion. Molo Mansion must be one of the easiest places to visit in Iloilo, you really won’t miss stumbling here while on your city trip.
This tower-looking castle church reminds me of Vietnam’s Basilica in Ho-Chi Minh city. They look somewhat similar in structure and design.
Did you know that this is also one of the most attractive churches in the Philippines? I just knew that now while researching about this church. The plaza outside gets crowded in the late afternoon with both the old and young generation just lingering around. How wonderful will it be if Manila is like Iloilo…
What I love about Iloilo? They have parks like this.
Searching for a place to unwind? Go to Iloilo Esplanade — a riverside park adorned with a line of trees and a variety of flora. The walkway here reminds me of Odaiba; it was surprising to see such a park like this.
I recommend going here for a morning jog, sunset walks, or a boat ride date.
Did you know? I found out that they created the Esplanade project when the community and the government saw that the river was dying, so they made their move. They tried to revive and restore the place, now it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Iloilo. I hope this action can happen in Manila too, we desperately need this kind of movement. Ahem, Pasig River!
Make sure to book an advance tour before entering the lavish mansion of Nelly’s Garden. Unfortunately, we were not able to enter this mansion since we didn’t research that you need a prior reservation.
Contact this landline number (033) 320 3075 for inquiries or reservation.
Mansion Tour Rate:
Price: Php1000. Minimum of 5 pax (parties less than 5 people may opt to share the full amount of P1000 instead)
The fees are already inclusive of the tour guide. Take note that your group can’t walk around and enter without a guide and booking first.
Book your tour at least 3 days in advance to confirm availability. The capacity for the main house is 100 pax while the estate grounds can accommodate 150-500 pax.
Entrance Fee: Php50
Searching for a place to freak yourself out? Visit Casa Mariquit and have a bite of some supernatural experiences. This casa is one of the most interesting haunted places to visit in the Philippines. You can never go wrong by testing your wits out by visiting in the late noon here.
Once you enter the gates of the casa, there will be a caretaker who will tour you around. He has some silly ways to freak his guests and I think he made that a part of his job. The caretaker always points out some freaky things inside the casa. At times, you won’t be sure that maybe it’s just optical illusion. He might show you the garage where he keeps his vintage collections of art and books. This will fancy you if you like collecting old kinds of stuff.
Entrance Fee: Php150
Mark your stay in Iloilo by visiting Garin Farm — a pilgrimage site composed of a farm and a resort in southern Iloilo. Garin Farm is one of the must-not-miss places to visit in Iloilo, your trip just won’t feel complete without it.
The main highlight of this destination is found at the peak of the 456-step stair pilgrimage hill. At the end of the stairs, you will pass through a dark tunnel leading to a replica of heaven. Passing by this tunnel, you will experience the notion of what going to heaven will feel like.
Garin Farm is quite large, aside from the farm, you can also see a replica of Noah’s Ark, stay at their accommodation or try out various activities like zipline, horse riding, etc.
NOTE: Make sure to bring your sunglasses with you when you visit in the afternoon. The peak is pure white and will blind your eyes at first sight.
Splurge on your last day in Iloilo by visiting ‘The Avenue’, an alfresco area with a variety of dining restaurants. The restaurants here are a bit pricey, I warn you. I recommend the Amalfi restaurant for that fine Italian cuisine, the atmosphere and the food there is great.
Stop by at the shop called ‘Nothing but desserts’ too to complete your dining experience. This one is personally one of my favorite places to visit in Iloilo.
FOODS TO TRY WHILE IN ILOILO CITY
Image source: yummy.ph
Iloilo’s most famous dish is Batchoy — a tasty noodle soup dish whose origins can be traced in the district of La Paz, Iloilo. It is also often and popularly called La Paz Batchoy in the Philippines.
The noodle soup dish is made with pork offal, crushed pork cracklings, chicken stock, beef loin, and round noodles.
I remember I have eaten something like this before but I thought it was just the usual Pancit Canton. Bam-I is a Visayan Pancit Canton consisting of 2 types of noodles which give the dish an interesting texture when eaten. What makes this noodle dish tasty is the different ingredients that can be added like vegetables and meat or seafood.
So happy we get to eat this Siopao before leaving Iloilo. (image source: ourawesomeplanet.com)
Roberto’s Siopao is a famous shop located at the historical Calle Real of Iloilo. This shop has withstood the test of time selling their signature Siopao snacks (hot steamed buns). They have 4 kinds of bun flavors: regular, jumbo, king and queen.
Their queen siopao is their best-seller and it sells out fast. Real fast! If you want to try this one out, you will have to line up at their store really early! And they only prepare a limited number per batch.
Their store can only be found in Iloilo and they don’t have plans to branch out anywhere else. This is one of the perfect pasalubong if you want something to take home that can only be bought in Iloilo.
SAMPLE ITINERARY with EXPENSES
A sample itinerary for those who have an early morning flight as we did.
03:55 am — Departure to Iloilo
05:15 am — Arrival at Iloilo Airport
06:30 am — Check-in and short rest at the hotel (we stayed at The People’s Hotel) – this is assuming that your hotel allows early check-in
09:00 am — Nelly’s Garden
11:30 am — Lunch – there are a row of restaurants going to Casa Mariquit along Lopez Jaena Street
01:00 pm — Casa Mariquit
03:00 pm — River Esplanade
05:30 pm — Early dinner at ‘The Avenue’
07:00 pm — End of Trip
09:00 am — Garin Farm + Lunch
01:00 pm — Miag-ao Church (optional)
04:30 pm — Molo Church
05:00 pm — Molo Mansion ( buy souvenirs)
06:00 pm — Early Dinner at Molo Mansion
08:00 pm — End of Trip and back to the hotel
08:00 am — Check out at the hotel
09:55 am — Departure flight to Manila
11:15 am — Arrival in Manila
I know this itinerary may look jam-packed but it’s not at all. We were able to follow this list and still have time to take our photos in each place. Of course, except for Nelly’s Garden. Garin Farm and Miag-ao Church. They are a be bit far from the city but commuting to there is fairly easy.
Prices are in PHP or peso (₱).
The prices are based on our group’s number when we traveled to Iloilo. Our taxi fare and accommodation is shared by 4 of us in the group.
|₱2,000||Roundtrip Airfare (rounded-off, regular price). You can book a much cheaper promo flight with Cebu Pacific|
|₱1,400||Accommodation for 4 pax in 1 room (₱5,600 in total). We booked at the People’s Hotel (recommended)|
|₱1,000||Food Budget (there are cheap restaurants around Iloilo). If you will be going to ‘The Avenue’ make sure you have extra ₱1k|
|₱400||Transportation budget. This is more than enough when you are a group of 4. You can even lower this down to ₱300|
|₱50||Casa Mariquit Entrance Fee|
|₱150||Garin Farm Entrance Fee|
|₱250||Nelly’s Garden (₱200 only if you are a group of 5)|
PLANNING AN ILOILO, GIGANTES, AND BORACAY TRIP?
Here are some helpful guides if you wish to visit Iloilo City, Gigantes Islands and Boracay in one go as we did!
• ILOILO: Gigantes Islands Day Tour with ITINERARY a ₱2,900 Budget Guide
• 2019: NEW BORACAY Budget Guide
• Guide on how to travel between Iloilo City, Carles Town, Kalibo, Caticlan (Boracay) and vice versa
THINGS TO KNOW
Going to Iloilo from Manila is fairly cheap. Of course, it's best to fight for a Cebu Pacific promo fare but if you didn't get one, try searching for the cheapest regular fare with Skyscanner.
Depending on your nationality, you may or may not need to apply for a Philippine Visa. I recommend checking out this website. It will also show you the requirements if you need to apply for one.
Fluent English is widely spoken here in the Philippines so foreigners visiting will not have much problem with the language barrier and et cetera. Filipinos living in Metro Manila mainly speak Tagalog but in the provinces, different dialects are spoken like Bisaya.
In the Philippines, our currency is called Philippine Peso (PHP, ₱)
Jeepney are the main mode of transportation in Iloilo City. Traveling from one place to another is a breeze since the place is easily accessible to all.
BE SEDUCED BY THE CHARM OF ILOILO
Visit Antique on the east, Gigantes Island on the north or Boracay in the north-east. If we had the extra time and budget, we would’ve included Antique on our list too!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The name’s Fiorucci (pronounced as Fee-yoh-ru-chi), I’m not Italian but I can eat pasta for a whole week…or a month…or more. Hop on my story as I travel the world ‘one destination at a time’ while juggling with my full-time work, freelancing and building my own business to gain freedom from this monotonous corporate society.