Taal Volcano is the smallest active volcano in the Philippines. It is located about 50km south of Manila in the province of Batangas. What makes this volcano hike extra special is that it takes you to a viewing point of the Main Crater Lake which is actually a lake within a volcano, which itself is within Taal Lake on an island. Yes that’s right….a lake within a volcano within a lake within an island. There is also a small rocky outcrop within the Main Crater Lake called Vulcan Point, so that is actually an island within a lake within a volcano within a lake on an island!
The volcano last erupted in January 2020 and the Main Crater Lake briefly disappeared likely due to fissures formed after the eruption or evaporated as a result of the lava from the volcano. The lake reappeared in March 2020 after heavy rainfall.
Trail Name: Taal Volcano Trail (also known as Dang Kastila Trail)
Distance (roundtrip): 6.1km
Time (roundtrip): 1.5 hours
Elevation: 260 metres
While it is possible to view the volcano from the shores of Taal Lake or from the many viewpoints in the city of Tagaytay, hiking the Taal Volcano trail is a unique experience that can’t be missed. It is a moderate hike with a few steep climbs, however, it was clear that the mid-day heat was going to be the most challenging part of this hike. For those unable (or unwilling) to do the hike on foot, it is possible to hire a horse to make the trip to the top of the crater. We decided to make the trip on foot which made the incredible views from the top all the more rewarding despite us arriving dusty and sweaty.
One my of favourite things to see besides the view at the top of the hike was the local houses and gardens along the hiking trail at the base of the volcano. There were chickens, vegetable gardens, fruit trees and children playing. Technically, permanent settlement on the Taal Volcano island is prohibited but there are a few families that have settled on the island and grow food in the fertile volcanic soil.
Once we took in the views at the top of the crater, we made our way back down the volcano through lush vegetation back to the boat launch where we were dropped off. The boat ride back to the resort was a bit tricky as the wind had picked up and the waves made it feel like we were barely moving. We just had to be patient though and our little boat made it. We ended our day of hiking by taking a steep windy drive up to Tagaytay for a Filipino dinner of bulalo (beef soup), shrimp, lumpia (spring rolls), and pork barbeque skewers with a view of the volcano we had just climbed.
Getting There: It was a scenic 2 hour drive to Taal volcano from our apartment in Manila. Although travel times may vary due to Manila’s notorious traffic. We arrived at a small resort on Taal Lake in Talisay and it was a 20 minute boat ride to the volcano island. We opted to have a guide take us to the viewpoint. There are extra fees for the guide and if you decide to ride a horse to the top.
From the resorts in Talisay, you can also hire a boat to take you to a Secret trail which can be reached from the East side of Taal Volcano. From this trail it is possible to view the crater lake from the cliffs above as well as make your way all the way down to the Main Crater Lake. Please keep in mind that this is an active volcano so if there is any volcanic activity, the area may be under special alert and access to these trails may not be available.
Facilities: There are numerous resorts surrounding Taal Lake in Talisay where you can enjoy some refreshments either before or after taking the boat to the volcano island. There are also many famous restaurants in Tagaytay on the cliffs overlooking the crater where you can enjoy local Filipino specialties.
On the volcanic island itself, there were a few locals selling cold drinks both at the top of the crater and at the bottom where the boat dropped us off.