Bacolod Travel Guide and Itinerary

A metropolis that has retained its aura of romance, Bacolod caters to all kinds of travelers — and is nicknamed the City of Smiles for good reason.

About Bacolod

Sprawling sugarcane plantations are the first sight to welcome you to Bacolod City in the province of Negros Occidental as your plane lands at the Bacolod–Silay International Airport. This pastoral, idyllic first impression hints at the history of an area that is nonetheless classified as a highly urbanized city: In Bacolod, progress and modernity co-exist with bucolic sugarcane fields and heritage houses that lend the place an air of romance and nostalgia. Both the urban explorer and the traveler who envisions an immersive adventure away from big cities will find something to enjoy in the affectionately nicknamed City of Smiles. 


Highlights for the Traveler  

If you stumble upon a public space that looks like a large chessboard with a gazebo at the center, you’re in the Bacolod Public Plaza, the epicenter of the MassKara Festival, a Mardi Gras-like celebration held in October every year. Enjoy colorful parades and the famed street-dancing competitions, and mingle with costumed revelers with their distinctively decorated masks displaying effusively smiling faces. 


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The plaza is still the center of life in Bacolod, and so just around it are a wealth of tourist attractions. For the religious or for the history buff, there’s a late19th-century Catholic church, the papal tower commemorating the 1995 visit of Pope John Paul II, and the Negros Museum. Feeling hungry? There’s nearby Manokan Country, which will fulfill your chicken inasal cravings with grilled chicken marinated in vinegar, calamansi and annatto. Get your fill of hearty beef soup at one of the humble cansi houses at the city’s Chinatown. Feast on seafood and satisfy your sweet tooth with one of the city’s many sugary treats — the Negros region produces about half the country’s sugar output, after all. 


Just Outside Bacolod City 

Bacolod’s neighboring cities lost the official “metropolitan area” designation in 2017, and many people still think of the neighboring cities of Talisay and Silay as part of old Metro Bacolod — though locals will be firm in making the distinction that their hometowns are separate from Bacolod. 

Talisay, bounding Bacolod to the north, boasts a highland resort and the magnificent remnants of an old mansion known simply as The Ruins. East of Talisay, about 25km from Bacolod City, is the beautiful Silay, renowned for streets lined with well-preserved heritage houses. Known as the “Paris of Negros”, Silay saw culture and the arts flourish, fueled by wealth from the sugar economy that began booming in the late-1800s. Sugar barons built splendid mansions that still stand today and which have been declared official heritage landmarks by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Take a tour inside Balay Negrense, built by sugar-industry pioneer Yves Leopold Germain Gaston, or in any of the other houses that are open to the public, to get a fascinating glimpse of a different time. 

If you’d like to nurse some coffee and chill near the river, driving about 40km south will take you to Bantayan Park in Bago City. Don’t expect anything fancy, but it is charming and quaint: You’ll see huts offering snacks and native coffee along the waterfront promenade. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the Spanish colonial house-turned-museum that was home to the city’s hero. The south also offers its share of picturesque beaches, including Sugar Beach in Sipalay. 

Willing to go on a longer road trip? Bacolod offers access to Mount Kanlaon, the highest point in the Visayas, and which is located nearly 100km southeast of Bacolod City in Canlaon City. Check with local authorities beforehand, though, as the mountain is an active volcano. If you’re not up for a hike, visiting the national park and enjoying mountain resorts in the area are other outdoorsy options. Canlaon City also has a century-old tree that is worth checking out. 

By Hannah Dormido, as of January 2020.

Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

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