Leyte travel guide

The province of Leyte is an island with an area of 7,368 square-kilometres, and has always been a significant part of the Philippines’ history. Nestled in eastern Visayas, it was the first  place where Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez Villalobos arrived in 1543. He called Leyte Las Islas Felipenas after the King of Spain during that period. Leyte was also significant during the Second World War when the region’s biggest naval battle happened on October 1944 in the Gulf of Leyte, which contributed to the Philippines’ Allied victory and liberation from the Japanese.

Because of those events, visitors can expect to find historical sites on the island including the Landing Memorial of McArthur, the Filipino Soldier Monument and Baybay’s old Spanish residences. Leyte’s climate is characterised by frequent rains from November until January but in general, the island has no dry season in particular. This type of climate is favourable for growing crops like sugar cane, sweet potatoes and cassava. When visiting Leyte, consider dropping by after the rainy season.

Visiting Leyte from Boracay

The ethnicity of Leyte is predominantly Bisaya and most locals get their living out of fishing and farming. The Kongking or the Mamanwa (Mountain People) are the aboriginal folks living in Panaon Island, which is located in the province’s southernmost region.

They are thought to have migrated from Mindanao to evade mining and logging activities and the militarisation of their ancestral domains during the 1980s. They are characterised by a dark complexion, short stature and curly hair, and they make a living out of hunting and producing crafts and mats out of rattan. People living on coastal areas still have fishing as their main source for economy.

Leyte is known for its unspoilt destinations where visitors can enjoy trekking and exploring the wildlife, jungle trails and waterfalls. Visiting Leyte does not require you to make advanced reservations for lodging, but it pays to plan your trip ahead so you will know where to go in this unspoilt and attractive province.

Outdoor activities are the favourites of visitors in Leyte. Buga-Buga Hills is one of the top tourist attractions of Leyte in Villaba, as well as the Catmon Hill or Hill 120 in Dulag, which both serve as war memorials. For cultural and historical landmarks, there is the Heritage Museum, Santo Nino Shrine in Tacloban and San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge linking Samar and Leyte.

Hill 522 is one attraction to visit in Palo, where trekking enthusiasts climb up to heights of 522 feet (159m). There you can find the Mac Arthur Beach Resort with upscale accommodation, picnic facilities and a children’s playground. Hill 120 is in Dulag where panoramic views of the coastal towns and the Gulf of Leyte can be enjoyed.

Rock climbing, hiking, trekking and other outdoor ventures are also on offer at the Fish Sanctuary in Pintuyan, which is accessible from Maasin. The sanctuary is nestled under a rocky hill and it gives you glimpses of colourful schools of fish and vibrant corals. Beaches like the White Beach and Red Beach are also places to visit to enjoy a cozy holiday with the family or a loved one.

Leyte offers different places to shop, which lures more tourists to visit its major cities. Shopping centres offer a fun place not just to shop but to seek entertainment, drink and eat. These commercial establishments also feature souvenir and speciality shops selling native products and local goods.

Gaisano Malls are located in Tacloban City and Ormoc City, and it houses a supermarket, food court and department store. Other shopping complexes to visit in Tacloban are the Dynasty Square Mall and Kevins. Meanwhile, A-Mall and Ormoc Centrum are both in Ormoc City and they offer affordable shopping options.