Travel

The Most Fascinating Day Tours in Manila (That You Haven't Tried)

The best way to tour? Through food or art or up in the sky.
IMAGE WIKIPEDIA/ASCENT.FLIGHTS
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The Philippines’ top tourist destinations have always been beaches (Palawan, if you recall, was recently included in CNN Travel's Top 10 Islands) and we don't dispute this. If we had to choose between a stuffy urban dwelling and the breezy ocean, the latter is a clear winner. But it's also unfair to ignore the country’s capital. What Manila lacks in white sand and pristine waters, it makes up for with deep and rich history.

Tour operators, heritage advocates, and other interest groups are always finding ways to highlight its culture with unique day tour packages that explore the hidden facets of the city. Here are just some of the new and cool tours that promote Manila not just as a place to pick up your mail but as an actual destination. 

1| Electric Chariot Tours

Walking tours and bike tours in the walled city of Intramuros have been the rage for the past few years, but for those who don’t want to work up a sweat, there are always electric chariots.

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This tour, using White Knight e-Chariots, goes around Old Manila’s best attractions, from cultural and historical sites to modern-day establishments. Tour participants can visit as many as 15 stops, including the Manila Cathedral, Plazuela de Santa Isabel, Fort Santiago, Baluarte de San Diego, Bagumbayan Light & Sound Museum, San Agustin Church, Bahay Tsinoy (Chinese Museum), and more. Choose between 30-minute to one-hour packages depending on the schedule that suits you.

Available on Klook

Photo by KLOOK.COM.
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2| Ascent Helicopter Tours

Beat the traffic and rediscover Manila from above. Ascent is a ride-sharing app that takes passengers to and from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City and Mandaluyong City, Makati City, Bonifacio Global City, Quezon City, Clark in Pampanga, or Tagaytay City in Cavite. Apart from bringing passengers from point A to B, the company also offers tours. Starting from a private hangar, passengers can tour around Manila, Makati, or Bonifacio Global City.

ascent.flights

Photo by ASCENT.FLIGHTS.
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3| Food Tours

Photo by Tammy David.

One of the best ways to get to know a locale is through its cuisine! Several groups offer gastronomic journeys through the busy streets of Manila.

Manila For A Day, with its Colors of Manila experience, not only educates you on the religious and commercial history of the city, but also lets you experience Manila’s halal holes-in-the-wall. As well, Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks, one of the most established operators that feature the oldest Chinatown in the world, takes you on a three-hour journey where food meets history.

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Several Airbnb ambassadors have also begun offering street food guides. Miguel Martin, for example, highlights Poblacion, accompanying his guests through a food and pub crawl in one of the city's most gentrified hubs. Traveling Spoon also promotes Filipino food. Using a sort of Airbnb model but for dining, homes open up their dining table to foodies interested in Filipino home cooking. One of the hosts is Greg Dorris, who owns a heritage house and also performs tours around Manila.  

4| Art Tours

Manila may not be the first city you think of when it comes to art, but as the country’s capital, it is brimming with culture. 

One of the newest and interesting tours is the Cinephile Tour. Movie fans are brought to independent movie houses such as Manila Cinematheque Center, Black Maria Cinema, CO/OP, and Cinema ‘76. During the tour, participants will also be given a chance to visit the museum and buy souvenirs at Manila Cinematheque and watch a movie at Cinema '76. 

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Another place to explore art is Bonifacio Global City. Cruising on a bike is the most effective way to explore its growing collection of frescoes, murals, and installations. Bambikes is usually associated with Intramuros, and after its success in the walled city, there are now groups offering a Bambike art tour of BGC.  

Several interest-based groups also organize their own day tours, such as postage tours and sketch tours. There are also several photo walks and, because everyone now wants to make their photos Insta-worthy, some are even dedicated Instagram tours

Photo by FACEBOOK @urbansketchersmanila.
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5| Off the Beaten Path 

Some tour companies are not shy about showing off Manila in all its grimy glory. One of these is Smokey Tours, which offers a slum tour, a cemetery tour, and a market tour. Its flagship Smokey Mountain day trip was replaced with the BASECO Slum Tour where attendees can see firsthand the lives and livelihood of the people in the area. This includes the fishing industry, charcoal making, and a visit to the gray “slum” beach. 

Another tour company that promotes the real side of Manila is the Bukas Quiapo Tours. What makes this tour extra special is the community's involvement. Experience Manila from the perspective of local tour guides, establishments, and businesses who all share the tour fee. Part of the proceeds of the tour is also donated to the restoration and maintenance of heritage sites, including San Sebastian Basilica.

Photo by FACEBOOK/ @bukasquiapotours.
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About The Author
Nicai de Guzman
Nicai de Guzman is the Head of Marketing of Rising Tide, one of the fastest-growing mobile and digital advertising technology companies in the Philippines. She also writes for SPOT.ph and Entrepreneur.com.ph.
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