Mount Pinatubo: Hiking to a lake in the middle of a volcano // Philippines
Mount Pinatubo is an active volcano with a crater lake on the island Luzon, close to Manila. This trip was simply amazing, with an adventurous and exhausting hike through a stunning landscape, a clear, green lake on top of a volcano and a beautiful, relaxing town on the countryside without any tourists. But let’s start from the beginning.
There are organized day trips from Manila, which start at 3 in the morning and bring you back in the evening. For us that sounded a bit stressful, so we organized the trip by ourselves. First, we took a bus from Cubao (Manila) to Tarlac, buses run every hour. We left the bus at the junction in Capas (2 hrs, 170 PHP). From there it was a 45 mins ride with the tricycle to Sta. Juliana (300 PHP). During the day the tricycle ride was really nice, but in the dark it was a bit scary because there are no street lights. Even our phones had no signal in this area.
We stayed in Sta. Juliana at Alvin’s Bognot Homestay, which I highly recommend. We slept in a house with 3 rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen and paid 1200 PHP for a double room. There is a wonderful garden and a common area, where Alvin offers home-made food and drinks. Alvin is a super friendly host and helps you out with everything, always with a smile. Contact him in advance, especially about the hike which conditions depend on the season.
We booked the tour to Mt. Pinatubo at Alvin’s and he organized a group (that’s optional, the more people the cheaper the trip). We were a group of 5, so each of us paid 1650 PHP and 700 PHP conservation fee, including lunch and a guide. The tour starts after breakfast at 6 am. The guesthouse is just a few minutes away from the start point, then there is no proper road anymore to the Mountain. The 1,5 hours drive with the Jeep leads through a beautiful landscape, which formed itself after the last eruption of the Volcano in 1991.
The starting-point of the hike depends on the season. The way to the Mountain gets prepared for the Jeeps in the main season (Nov-Apr). So there is the possibility to drive with the Jeep close to the crater and the hike is only 1 km. That sounds more comfortable, but you will miss the beautiful, adventurous hike. The guide told us that there are 120 Jeeps each day in the main season and it gets pretty crowded.
We made the tour in the rainy season (Sept) and the hike took around 2 hrs (7 km) each way. There were only 8 Jeeps and 20 people – so it was quiet and we felt almost alone in this beautiful area. Usually the rain starts in the afternoon, that’s why the trips start that early. There is no proper way to walk, its rocky and you cross streams all the time – it’s a really great and amusing hike!
I recommend to take sandals for the trip. I know they are far away from looking stylish, but they are the best for trips like this. I took my sneakers with me but the locals told me to walk in flip-flops. It was super advice, because you have to cross a lot of rivers and you may ruin your sneakers. But walking this hike in flip-flops and not losing them was a challenge itself.
When we reached the top of the volcano, I was blown away by the beautiful scenery! It was the first time that I have been to a volcano, and the green lake in the middle of the crater was stunning. There were just a few other people, it was quiet and peaceful and we were able to enjoy this wonderful place for an hour, before we started our way back to the village.
We arrived back in the guesthouse at 2 pm and decided to stay for another night. There are beautiful green rice fields and a small indigenous village to explore, right behind the guesthouse. Alvin’s dog was a great guide: Alvin told him something in Tagalog (Filipino language) and the dog lead us the way through the fields, waited for us patiently and brought us back home safely
This trip was a special experience, the Mountain, the Crater lake and the beautiful landscape around it creates a unique and relaxing atmosphere that you should not miss!