If you’re looking for something to really write home about during your time in Manila, a trek to the summit of an active volcano should do the trick. And not just any volcano: the smallest active volcano in the world. Taal, just a two-hour drive south of the capital, is remarkably located on an island in a lake on an island – it even has its own lake inside the main crater with another island in it.
Part of a chain of volcanoes that stretches across the island of Luzon, Taal is the second most active volcano in the Philippines and has more than 30 historical eruptions to its name. Most have been confined to Volcano Island, but some have caused widespread devastation, including a violent eruption in 1911 that claimed more than 1300 lives and saw ash fall as far as Manila. Don’t let this put you off, however, as Taal is one of the most closely monitored volcanoes in the region.
To get up close to this geological pressure cooker, you can either join an organised tour from Manila or make your way by bus and jeepney to the village of Talisay on the shores of Lake Taal. From here, you can arrange a bangka (motorised boat) to take you to the island – you’ll see plenty of willing operators touting for trade at the waterfront market.
A favourite hike takes you along black sandy trails towards the rim of the main crater, with views of Lake Taal and its lush surroundings. It takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to reach the summit, or you can hire a horse to do the legwork. Once there, you’ll be able to take in the dramatic scenery, including Taal’s smoldering crater lake – home to tiny Vulcan Point (the aforementioned island-in-a-lake-on-an-island-in-a lake-on-an-island).
If you fancy something more strenuous, other hiking options include the all-day trek to the summit of Mount Tabaro, Taal’s most active crater, which saw heavy lava flows in the late 1960s and mid-1970s. Whichever option you choose, just be aware that there’s very little shade on the island, so pack sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water.