It may not have the glitz and glamour of the cities in Metro Manila, but Naga has gained prestige in a whole different way. It is an independent component city in the heart of the province of Camarines Sur and has received accolades for its competitiveness and good governance. It is the center for business, trade, culture, education, and industry in the Bicol Region, making it one of the most important economic hubs in the Philippines. Naga is also considered as one of the best places for business not only in the Philippines but in the whole of Asia.
Even with the progress and advancements in recent years, religious faith remains strong in the city. Naga is visited yearly by tourists because of its reputation as a "Pilgrim City." Every September, millions of pilgrims gather in Naga to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, perhaps the biggest Marian pilgrimage in Asia. The event is celebrated to honor the Our Lady of Penafrancia, the patron saint of the Bicol Region. The 9-day event has grown rapidly over the years. It features processions of the image of the patroness throughout the city and other religious activities.
Mount Isarog is the second highest volcano in the Bicol Region. At around 6,500 feet, the mountain towers over the cities in the Bicol Region, including Naga. Hikers can climb the mountain from its base at the Mt. Isarog National Park. The Malabsay Falls is another attraction in the park, where hikers can swim while enjoying a view of the majestic mountain.
Air travel is the quickest way to get to Naga. Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines offer one-hour flights from Metro Manila to Naga Airport in the town of Pili, Camarines Sur.
From Metro Manila, it's an eight-hour trip to Naga. There are many bus lines that ply the Manila-Naga route, including Isarog Bus Lines, DLTB, Philtranco, RSL, and ALPS Bus.
How to Get Around
Jeepneys can take you to some of the destinations within and around Naga.
The tricycles in Naga are a bit bigger than the ones in Metro Manila. They can fit up to five passengers.
The buses at Naga City's central bus terminal can take you to some of the places around the region.
What to See
Built in 1985, the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is one of the most frequented pilgrimage sites in the country. It serves as the second home of the centuries-old Marian image of the Our Lady of Peñarfrancia, the Patroness of Bicol. Meanwhile, the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine is the original dwelling of the Patroness, which was built in the 1700s.
Another notable church is the Parish of St. John the Evangelist, also known as the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. Built in the late 1500s, it is considered as one of the oldest churches in Southern Luzon.
Fronting the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral is the Porta Mariae, an 11-meter tall arch built in 2010 to commemorate the 300th year of devotion to the Our Lady of Peñafrancia. At the top of the imposing triumphal arch is a brass image of the Patroness.
Naga City's plazas should also be included in your itinerary. The Plaza Quince Martires can be found along Peñafrancia Avenue. This monument was built in memory of the 15 Filipino martyrs who were executed in Rizal Park for participating in the Spanish revolution.
Plaza de Nueva Caceres is another must-see monument in Naga City. Erected in 2010 to coincide with its 62nd founding anniversary, the monument commemorates the rich history of Naga, which is formerly known as Nueva de Caceres.
Mt. Isarog National Park is a must-visit for nature lovers. This protected area houses Mt. Isarog as well as the Malabsay and Nabuntulan Waterfalls where you can go swimming. Swing by if you want to reconnect with nature and discover its flora and fauna.
With its myriad of sports and leisure attractions, Naga City is a haven for recreation. Some of its popular recreational hubs can be found within and around Mt. Isarog National Park.
Haciendas de Naga Resort has a plethora of adventure attractions for everyone. For starters, it has a zip-line ride, an obstacle course, archery and shooting ranges, and wall climbing and rappelling facilities. You can even enjoy horseback riding and ATV rides as well as a dip in the wave pool or a game at the golf course.
Take a relaxing dip in one of the hot spring pools at Panicuason Hot Springs Resort. But if you're up for something more thrilling, the resort also offers several sports attractions. First is the bike zip-line, wherein you pedal a bike across a cable suspended 30 feet above the ground. The next is their zip-line ride. The last two are the Tarzan Swing and the Hammock in the Sky.
Located at the foot of Mt. Isarog, Naga City Ecological Park lets you reconnect with nature. See different plants and flowers at the garden or have a blast getting lost in the maze.
If you have time, visit the Camsur Watersports Complex in the town of Pili. The sports complex offers wakeboarding and skateboarding. There is also a swimming pool if you want to cool off with a dip.
Events and Festivals
The Peñafrancia Festival is Naga's premier feast. This religious celebration attracts numerous pilgrims and devotees all over the world and takes place every third Saturday of September in honor of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia. The highlights of this event are a fluvial procession of the image of the Patroness and the holy mass.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Bigg's Diner is a homegrown fast food chain in Naga. You'll find branches of this establishment everywhere. While they primarily offer hearty servings of Western dishes like burgers and pizzas, you can also order Filipino and Bicolano dishes.
Bicolano dishes are king when it comes to eating in Naga. You can enjoy native dishes like bicol express, laing, and pinangat at Geewan, Red Platter, Naga Garden Restaurant, and Chef Doy's Gourmet Restaurant to name a few.
Bob Marlin along Magsaysay Avenue also serves Bicolano food, but most diners insist that their specialty is their savory crispy pata.
Bicol is known for its fiery dishes as well as their dishes cooked in gata or coconut milk. The favorites are bicol express, laing, and pinangat.
Kinalas is another delicacy you should definitely try. Kinalas means "broken off," which describes the cooking process for this noodle dish: A pig's head is boiled until the meat falls off the bone. Mami noodles are then put on top of the broth as well as a thick sauce and meat toppings. Cordova's and Aling Cely's are just two of the places where you can enjoy this delicacy. You can even pair your kinalas with some toasted siopao from most bakeries.
Bars and Clubs
Magsaysay Avenue is the nightlife district of Naga. When the sun comes down, visit this bustling hub and enjoy a drink or two from any of the bars.
Where to Shop
There are plenty of malls in Naga if you plan to go shopping during your trip. There's SM City Naga, Nagaland E-Mall, and LCC Central Mall.
People's Mall is Naga City's Public Market. It is a one-stop shop for souvenirs and pasalubong. There are stores that sell Bicol merchandise such as T-shirts and keychains as well as stalls that offer pasalubong food products made from pili nuts which grow all over the Bicol region. From pili nut tarts to caramelized pili nuts, there are lots of variations to choose from.
ATMs and Money Changers
You'll find lots of banks, ATMs, money changers, pawnshops, and remittance centers all over Naga.
Fare: PHP 630.00 to PHP 1,000.00 (Bus fare); PHP 3,000.00++
Bus fare varies depending on the amenities of the bus you'll be taking. There are some buses with reclining beds and even a built-in comfort room. It's best to make reservations for your ticket as they are limited.
Meanwhile, airfare to Naga Airport starts at PHP 3,000.00. If you want cheaper tickets, make sure to look out for airline promos.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
A carinderia meal in Naga costs PHP 50.00. Meanwhile, eating at a restaurant range from PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00.
Shopping: PHP 50.00 to PHP 300.00
Pili nut food products range from PHP 30.00 to PHP 100.00. Trinkets like keychains and fridge magnets cost about PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece. Meanwhile, souvenir shirts cost about PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00, depending on the design.
Toasted siopao is another popular pasalubong which you can buy for PHP 7.00 apiece from 3N Bakery.
Accommodation: PHP 500.00 to PHP 2,000.00
Choose from the various accommodation in Naga: from inns and lodges to hotels, you can find a place to stay that is fit for your budget. PHP 500.00 can already get two people an overnight stay at a fan room in a lodge. Meanwhile, if you choose to stay at a hotel, PHP 1,500.00 to PHP 2,000.00 for two people is a reasonable price.
Activities: PHP 100.00++
The entrance fee for Mt. Isarog National Park is PHP 100.00, while Panicuason Hot Spring Resort charges PHP 200.00. Haciendas De Naga Resort's PHP 300.00 entrance fee is consumable and can be used for any of the available attractions. Lastly, you can enjoy an hour of wakeboarding at Camsur Watersports Complex for PHP 165.00.