You Won’t Believe That These Stunning Photos Were Taken In Luzon!


We all have that one friend in our squad (or this could even be you!) who lugs around their DSLR camera wherever they go, whether it be to the most remote island on the planet or to the top of a buwis buhay mountain. They’re also possibly the slowest walker in the group because they just HAVE to have the best pictures of absolutely EVERYTHING.

But the extra gadget weight is worth it simply because places like Nagsasa Cove and Mt. Pico de Loro exist–beautiful outdoor spots that deserve to be more than just a blur of pixelation in our smartphones. Just in Luzon alone, there are plenty of other sights like these that are worthy of space in your DSLR’s memory card!

These 9 picturesque destinations, all less than 5 hours away from Manila, are guaranteed to keep you clicking away on your shutter button. We’ve included tips from Canon Crusader of Light & Landscape Photographer Jay Jallorina to help you achieve the same kind of next-level shots!

Travel tip: Aside from being photogenic at every angle, they’re also great places to find adventure!

Nagsasa CoveSan Antonio, Zambales

Nagsasa Cove, Zambales, Luzon

Taken using a Canon 5D Mark II + 17-40mm L + tripod | Settings: ISO 50, 20 sec. at f/16

It was a completely different Nagsasa Cove back in the 1980s. The surrounding mountains were inhabited by Aetas and the shore was mostly jagged with rocks. But the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 drove the locals away and the lahar that covered the stretch of land created an entirely new beach of black and white sand!

Pro Photography Tips:

  1. Shoot at sunrise to capture the same light in the photo.
  2. Use a tripod with 90-degree splaying legs and without a center column to get the same low-angle shot.
  3. To capture the clouds in motion and create the glassy water effect, use a neutral density filter and go for a long exposure.

Other things to do: Nagsasa Cove is an adventurer’s playground, with activities like trekking to the waterfalls, swimming, surfing, and skimboarding. It’s also a legit way to test your camping skills because you’re going to have to sleep in a tent and cook your own food on this far-flung nook.

How to get there: Hop on a Victory Liner bus that’s headed for Sta. Cruz, Zambales or Olongapo City and ask to be dropped off at San Antonio. From there, grab a tricycle that’ll take you to Barangay San Miguel or Pundaquit where boats are at the ready to take you to Nagsasa.

If you’ve got your own car, take NLEX or SCTEX going to San Antonio. From the San Antonio public market, make a left turn to Pundaquit.

Monasterio de TarlacSan Jose, Tarlac

Monasterio de Tarlac, Tarlac, Luzon

Taken using a Canon 5D Mark III + 16-35mm | Settings: ISO 200, 1/100 sec at f/16

Devotees flock to this monastery for a chance to touch the golden box with a holy relic, a splinter of what the religious believe to be Jesus’ cross. Aside from the enshrined wooden fragment, tourists also come for the 30-foot statue of the Risen Christ looming over the whole province. It’s the country’s version of Rio de Janeiro’s famous Christ the Redeemer!

Pro Photography Tips:

  1. Pick any time of the day when the clouds cover the sun to capture the same overcast effect in the picture.
  2. Pick a vantage point where you can capture the statue of the Risen Christ as well as the surrounding countryside of Tarlac in one frame.

Other things to do: If life’s been throwing you big questions and you can’t seem to answer them just yet, Monasterio de Tarlac is a great place to chill out and reflect. Elevated 300 meters above sea level, it’s a retreat from the noise of the city where you can ponder about the deep stuff without getting disturbed.

How to get there: Take NLEX and make an exit at Sta. Ines Toll Plaza in Mabalacat, Pampanga. Continue to go north to Tarlac City until you reach Barangay San Sebastian. Take a left turn to the Tarlac-Pangasinan bypass towards the town of Camiling. From there, simply follow the road that leads to Barangay Lubigan, San Jose.

Pililla Wind FarmBarangay Halayhayin, Rizal

Pilila Wind Farm, Rizal, Luzon

Taken using a Canon 5D Mark III + 24-70mm L + tripod | Settings: ISO 100, 30 sec. at f/11

Normally, we’d drive by Pililla town without giving the nearby hills as much as a second glance. But now that there are 27 giant wind turbines standing on top of them, it’s hard not to stare! This wind farm is shaping up to be the next star attraction in Rizal, a nearer alternative to the windmills in Bangui, Ilocos Norte for Manila tourists.

Pro Photography Tips:

  1. Shoot during the golden hour (either one hour after sunrise or one hour before sunset) to get the same warm glow.
  2. To capture the strands of crepuscular light (sunlight shooting through gaps in the cloud cover), use a neutral density filter and a graduated neutral density filter to reduce the brightness of the sky.
  3. For your shutter speed, shoot a 30-second exposure using a 10-stop neutral density filter to creatively blur the flowering cogon grass.
  4. You can use two exposures, a longer one for the foreground and a short one for the background, and blend them in post-processing. This provides a contrast between the blurred cogon grass and the sturdy wind turbines.

Other things to do: If you’d like a little bit more action other than sightseeing, put the pedal to the metal and bike around the town! Pililla, most especially Sitio Bugarin, is a popular destination for cyclists, loved for its smooth, paved roads.

How to get there: If you’ve got your own car, drive to Tanay, Rizal and look for the Sampaloc intersection. Then take the road that leads to Real Quezon and look for Sampaloc Inn. A few meters away from here, take a right turn at Masalat road and then a left turn after a few meters. Follow the road until you see the wind farm.

For those commuting, take a tricycle from the Sampaloc intersection that’ll take you to the facility.

Pinatubo Crater LakeBoundaries of Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales

Pinatubo Crater Lake, Luzon

Taken using a Canon PowerShot A70 + tripod

Before its destructive eruption, Mt. Pinatubo was home to more than 30,000 people while thousands more resided around it, including US military personnel of the Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station. The calamity killed many, but it also transformed Pinatubo it into a majestic basin of blue and green, making it one of the most visited outdoor places in the country today.

Pro Photography Tips:

  1. The best camera is the one you have with you. This was taken with a 3-megapixel point-and-shoot camera!
  2. Stitch multiple pictures together using Adobe Photoshop to create a wide panorama (this picture is made up of 12 shots put together for a panoramic view of Pinatubo).
  3. Use a tripod when taking multiple shots for your panorama so that they’re all equally leveled.

Other things to do: Upon reaching the crater, the next best thing to do is to have a scenic breakfast or lunch by the lake. On your way back down from the top, you can go for a relaxing volcanic ash massage at the Pinatubo Spa Town or let your sore muscles cool down at the Bueno Hot Spring.

How to get there: The most popular jump-off point for the Pinatubo trek is at Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. To get there, you can take a bus going to Pangasinan, Baguio, or Ilocos, alight at the Capas Public Market, and take a tricycle to Sta. Juliana.

If you’re in a private car, take NLEX and go through the Sta. Ines exit in Mabalacat, Pampanga and continue driving north until you reach Capas, Tarlac. Make your way towards the Capas Shrine until you reach Sta. Juliana.

Capones IslandSan Antonio, Zambales

Capones Island, Zambales, Luzon

Taken using a Canon 5D Mark II + 15MM Fisheye + tripod |Settings: ISO 50, 2 min. at f/22

Capones has come to be known for its iconic lighthouse that has been standing its ground since the Spanish era in the 1890s, built by the Filipino’s bare hands. It may be old but it’s fully functional, guiding sea vessels for hundreds of years now! If you’re not too terrified of great heights, climb the lighthouse for a slightly eerie experience and a breathtaking view of the island and its surroundings.

Pro Photography Tips:

  1. Shoot right after the sun sets below the horizon. There is no direct light coming from the sun which can reveal strong shadows. All the light on the landscape is soft, indirect light reflected off the atmosphere and scattering downward, giving a soft, warm tone on the landscape.
  2. Using a fisheye lens on a full frame camera, angle your frame slightly upwards to “bend” the horizon and make the image seem extremely wide and expansive.
  3. Shoot with a long 30-second exposure with your camera on a tripod to capture the movement of the clouds as well as to eliminate the choppiness of the sea and render it as a smooth, glassy surface.

Other things to do: Capones’ fine, white sand and pristine blue waters make it the favorite swimming spot among all the other destinations in San Antonio. Better have your snorkeling gear at the ready also to enjoy its untouched corals. If you’re planning a trip here between June to December, get ready to do some surfing too because it’s the season for big, consistent waves!

How to get there: It’s the same route to Capones Island if you were going to Nagsasa Cove. Ride a Victory Liner bus going to Sta. Cruz, Zambales or Olongapo City and get down at San Antonio. From there, grab a tricycle that’ll take you to Barangay San Miguel or Pundaquit, where you can rent a boat that will take you to Capones. Take NLEX or SCTEX to San Antonio if you’re driving a private vehicle.

Taal VolcanoBatangas

Taal Volcano, Batangas, Luzon

Taken using a Canon 5D Mark III + 24-70mm L | Settings: ISO 100, 0.4 sec. at f/16

Just 700 meters (2,300 ft) tall, Taal is known as the smallest active volcano in the world. But it’s petite size doesn’t make it any less interesting to tourists and geologists who find its shape and location (it’s on an island within a lake within an island!) intriguing.

Pro Photography Tips:

  1. Shoot during the golden hour, not earlier or later, for the effect of warm sunlight on the vegetation.
  2. Play with random objects (like the tree in the picture) to create a frame-within-a-frame for your subject (Taal Volcano and island). Practice and shoot a lot so that you can develop your eye for good composition and visual design.
  3. Equipment needed for the shot: camera + zoom lens + circular polarizing filter + tripod.

Other things to do: The banca ride to Taal on its own is an adventure, as you can expect the rough waters to get you soaked. But if you want to get completely drenched, take a dip in the Taal Lake! Once at the foot of the volcano, you can trek to the crater or enjoy the view as you ride atop a horse all the way to the peak!

How to get there: You can either take the Tagaytay City route or the Tanauan, Batangas route. For the first option, ride a bus to Tagaytay, Nasugbu, or Balayan and get off at the terminal for People’s Park. Take a jeepney from here and alight at Ligaya Drive where you ride another jeepney to Talisay Batangas. For the second option, take a bus to Tanauan and then ride a tricycle to Talisay for the banca ride to Taal.

Mt. Palay-Palay / Pico de LoroCavite

Mt. Palay-Palay / Pico de Loro, Cavite

Taken using a Canon 5D Mark II + 16-35mm L | Settings: ISO 100, 1 second at f/22

Fun fact: Mt. Palay-Palay is actually a dormant volcano! But what mountaineers really know Mt. Palay-Palay for is its majestic monolith, the tallest point in Cavite nicknamed by seafarers as Pico de Loro or Parrot’s Beak because of its distinct shape.

Pro Photography Tips:

  1. Get up early and shoot at daybreak for the same golden glow in the picture.
  2. Take advantage of high vantage points because they make for interesting angles! In this picture for example, you see Batangas as well as the sun peaking out from the east.

Other things to do: The assault to the top of the monolith is a death-defying feat that should only be attempted by seasoned mountaineers with physical prowess. But not to worry beginners! Mt. Palay-Palay in itself is said to be an easy climb.

How to get there: At the South Bus Station at Coastal Mall, take a bus headed to Ternate, Cavite. When you get to the Ternate terminal in Sapang, take a trike to the DENR station where the jump-off point for the Pico de Loro hike is. It’s a 7-kilometer (4.5 miles) climb to get to its peak.

Sierra Madre Mountain RangeAtimonan, Quezon

Sierra Madre Mountain Range, Quezon, Luzon, Phililppines

Taken using a Canon 5D Mark III + 24-70mm L | Settings: ISO 100,  1/6 sec. at f/11

The Sierra Madre Mountain Range is so immense, with its highest point standing at 6,069 feet tall and stretching from Cagayan all the way to Quezon! It’s the longest one in the Philippines, passing through ten different provinces. But don’t be intimidated because it’s an easy hike even for beginners, and you get rewarded with a full view of Marinduque and Quezon once you reach the top!

Pro Photographer Tips:

  1. Shoot on an overcast day for soft, even lighting and interesting cloud formations (but you will have to shoot at slower shutter speeds or with higher ISO because there’s no direct light from the sun).
  2. Use a short telephoto zoom lens, like a 24-70mm, to zero in on your subject (in this case, the mountains).

Other things to do: One of the most famous mountains in the range is Mt. Pinagbanderahan which you can visit for its ancient trees and historical sites. But if you’re looking for a bit more thrill, don’t miss out on the chance to jump and swim in Bantakay Falls, one of the main attractions in Sierra Madre.

How to get there: The jump-off point for the hike is at the Sierra Madre National Park in Atimonan, Quezon, a 4-hour drive from Metro Manila. From the Cubao terminal, look for a bus that will take you straight to the town.

Triboa Mangrove ParkIlanin Forest Area, Subic Bay

Triboa Mangrove Park, Subic Bay, Luzon, Philippines

Taken using a Canon 5D Mark III + 24-70mm L | Settings: ISO 100, 1/6 sec. at f/11

Triboa Mangrove Park is a blend of two ecosystems (marine and forest), making it the perfect habitat for fingerlings, mud crabs, puffer fish, and mudskippers, all of which would make great subjects for nature photography! The numerous mangrove trees that pepper the area also add to the charm of the place.

Pro Photography Tips:

  1. Shoot from the golden hour to sunset.
  2. From the walkway overlooking the sanctuary, use a zoom lens to bring your viewpoint closer to the mangroves.
  3. Use a neutral density filter and a circular polarizing filter and go for a long exposure to create the shiny water surface.

Other things to do: After your photo-taking session at Triboa Mangrove Park, go around Subic Bay for other activities like riding a horse at El Kabayo Stables, pushing your physical limits at Treetop Adventures, and seeing animals up close at Ocean Adventure and Zoobic Safari.

How to get there: Tourists coming from Manila can hop on a bus bound for Zambales or Olongapo City. From these drop-off points, there are jeepneys and taxis aplenty to take you right to this sightseeing spot in Subic Bay.

For those bringing their own ride, take the San Fernando Exit along NLEX and pass through towns in Pampanga and Bataan to get to Subic.

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