Panay Island wins travel award; flights into Aklan

Before ‘Rona shut down our slow travel lifestyle, we had the opportunity to travel extensively in Southeast Asia. After Europe, we launched over to this part of the world. We have seen many, many places; still with more to discover.

I was recently pleasantly surprised to read the Philippine island where we are hunkered down for the pandemic is a top spot for travel destinations.

Panay Island wins travel award

While the beauty of White Beach on Boracay Island gets the most attention from tourists, the ‘mainland’ Panay Island just landed a sweet spot on a new travel list.

TripAdvisor named Panay for the 20th spot in its Travelers’ Choice award list for Asia. The list is billed as ‘best of the best’ and was compiled by trips and reviews in 2019, before the coronavirus.

The award states:

For years, Panay Island has shown up on most travelers’ maps as a stop-over on the way to Boracay’s white sand beaches. Turns out, they were missing something truly special — a hidden gem with a rich ecotourism ethos, where turquoise lagoons and waterfalls are just the start...

TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice

The entry goes on to list more than 500 things to do and see on Panay Island.

Bali, Indonesia and Phuket, Thailand, and Goa, India are the top three spots. We’ve yet to get to India (that was our next foreign country plan before the ‘Rona). But we’ve been to Bali and Phuket, and neither impressed me very much, to be honest. Too many damn tourists. I preferred Danang and Hanoi in Vietnam, Bangkok as a metropolis in Thailand, which are all further down the list.

We’ve been to many of the top 20 spots, but we’ve been on Panay Island the longest, no contest there. And if you are looking for authentic, slow travel with a lot of outdoor activities, beautiful beaches, great diving, fantastic overlooks, and fresh country air, Panay is for you.

If you are ever this way, the best place to stay is the HangOut Beach Resort in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines. Tell Yolly Earth Vagabonds sent you.

Reminder: We are an independent blog. We don’t work with affiliates or sponsors, and we never take anything in return for our honest reviews.

Flights into Aklan, or not?

There is debate over whether or not Aklan Province is really open to domestic tourism. A previous post of mine stated the two airports were open, and domestic tourism can now start.

Just for fun, I tried buying airline tickets to and from Caticlan and Kalibo airports from Cebu and from Manila.

I was able to get a round-trip flight on Air Asia into Kalibo from Manila as early as Thursday, August 27, flying back to Manila three weeks later.

Now, presumably, the people booking a flight this soon would be those who’ve been trying to get home and have been ‘locked out’ of Aklan Province. These people are called ‘locally stranded individuals’ (LSIs) and ‘overseas foreign workers’ (OFWs).

I was able to get a round-trip flight from Cebu and Manila to Caticlan (the airport closer to Boracay) on October 1, but as you see on the right side of the screen shots below, flights are also available in September.

In fact, the Cebu Pacific website shows flights twice a week into Aklan Province for most of September. Daily flights begin September 26.

For any combination of available flights into either airport, a window popped up warning me to check the Philippine tourism website if I was headed to Boracay. (However, tourism.gov.ph was not updated with tourist information to Aklan, as of this writing.)

Moreover, I was given prices in euros with a VPN and pesos without it. So, presumably the flights are also for sale outside the Philippines.

Still lots of hurdles…

It’s still not like the old days of travel. Logically, airlines must offer flights a month in advance if any rational person is going to prepare a trip with all of the new, extra requirements. There are now health forms, negative COVID tests, quarantine certificates, and hotel invitations — all of which are required.

Still, I can’t see anyone actually buying these available flights for a vacation to Boracay (or Panay) until the government gives the official word that these regions are open for business. And although that declaration hasn’t happened yet, it seems the groundwork is being laid for a slow reopening.

Also, whether or not these flights get canceled, who knows. Whenever that official declaration is coming, who knows.

But it is clear international tourism will really help local people struggling for income.

Thanks for reading, “Panay Island wins travel award; flights into Aklan.”

Panay Island wins travel award; flights into Aklan

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