Visiting Legazpi and capturing Mt Mayon.
Legazpi (or Legaspi) is the capital of the Albay province in the Bicol region; east of the country. It’s about 10-12 hours from Manila by bus (about php1000). Mayon volcano (or Mt Mayon, 2,462m high) is the region’s most popular attraction. It is named one of world’s most beautiful volcanos with its perfect cone shape. It is also the most active volcano of the country, erupting more than 49 times in the past 400 years. A limited amount of people is allowed to climb the mountain (2 day trek). It is not without danger, 3 people died a few years ago during an explosion (not eruption).
The Cagsawa ruins give a great view on the volcano and is a much visited area. The ruins are the remnants of an 18th-century Franciscan church, the Cagsawa church, built in 1724 and destroyed by the Mayon eruption in 1814.
In and around Legazpi there’s a bunch of attractions and places to visit, like the Daraga church, Vera Falls, Bacacay black sand beach etc. You can easily spend a day or 2 touring around visiting these locations. It would make for a great drive on a motorbike, something I unfortunately never got to do.
My Legazpi experience:
Taking the bus to Legazpi from Manila I was told there was no need to book ahead, so I didn’t, only to find myself at the busstation with the next available bus 5 hours away. Book ahead! After a 12 hour busride (I can’t sleep on a bus) through the night I arrived at Legazpi rather wrecked and couldn’t check in until lunchtime. With clear skies, the view on Mayon was amazing, but I couldn’t be bothered to go out for it and my few hours nap didn’t help me either.
Next day, all fresh and ready to go out and explore, it was raining and the forecast didn’t expect it to clear up the rest of the week. Sitting at the hostel breakfast table, a group of us decided to make the most of it that day and went out together anyway. We visited the Daraga church, the Cagsawa ruins (Mayon being barely visible), having lunch at Jollibee (the bad Burger King of the Philippines) and ending up going to the cinema watching Deadpool. At night we had dinner at Small Talk, where food was amazing, highly recommended! Try to Bicol Express, a spicy pork meal. They like things spicy here, even the ice cream had chili in it!
The day after, still raining, we all decided to make our way to Donsol to dive or snorkel with the whalesharks. Read more about that in the Donsol post. After a couple of days I returned to Legazpi to get the footage I had been planning to. There’s a few locations that give a great view on the volcano, but having done research before I noticed there was a river stream nearby Cagsawa, which would form a nice foreground for my images.
The first day I thought I’d find a proper location by walking through the rice fields from the ruins, quite a challenging walk and never found a great view in time for the sunset. The next day (and day after) I returned and followed the river from the bridge until I found a beautiful area where small streams flowed through grassy areas with a fabulous view on the volcano.
Planning a trip to Legazpi:
Mt Mayon is covered in clouds most of the time, if you plan to climb it or view it on a clear day, plan some extra time. Also, rain might spoil your plans for days on end. Also, the second half of the year is prone to typhoons, keep in mind.
What to know about Legazpi:
For some free maps, go to the tourism agency, they’ll be very happy to receive you and will even give you a free t-shirt and red chili necklace..
There’s not a lot of budget accommodation and to date there’s only 1 backpacker hostel ‘Mayon Backpacker’ which fills up quickly. So if you want to stay here, book ahead. There’s also Reynaldo’s guesthouse, but I didn’t find it a very welcome or nice place and it seems a bit overpriced for what you get.
Conclusion & rating
Like most Philippino cities and towns, Legazpi isn’t very attractive (more than others though) and has few attractions. But there’s plenty of shops and restaurants to go around and explore, making it a pleasant experience. My main goal here was to get some great footage of the volcano, so I was happy to have 3 days with reasonable weather and to find a nice location for it after the first day. The volcano is a beauty and not to be missed if you’re into that sort of thing.
Rating (out of 10):
OVERAL EXPERIENCE 8
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK 6
EASY TO TRAVEL 8
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