Leyte is an island in the Eastern Visayas island group in the Philippines. It is divided into two provinces, Leyte Province and Southern Leyte. Each province includes some nearby smaller islands. Leyte is connected by bridges across narrow straits to the larger Samar Island and to the smaller Biliran island. The two largest cities are the capital, Tacloban, on the east coast near Samar Island, and Ormoc on the western coast.
Cities and municipalities
Eastern part of Leyte
- 1 Tacloban — capital of Leyte Province and home of the Pintados Festival
- 2 Palo — the religious and historical center of Leyte Province, and suburb of Tacloban
- 3 Tanauan — one of the oldest towns in Leyte, and the Skimboarding Capital of the Philippines
- 4 Babatngon — known for Busay Falls, a three-tiered cataract
- 5 Burauen — Houses Mahagnao Natural Park, where you can enjoy birdwatching, kayaking and other watersports
- 6 Carigara — the first town established in Eastern Visayas
- 7 Abuyog — home of Kuapnit Balinsasayao National Park
Western part of Leyte
- 8 Ormoc — the economic, cultural, commercial and transportation hub of western Leyte
- 9 Baybay — famous for the Visayas State University
- 10 Palompon — home to the Tabuk Marine Park and Bird Sanctuary
- 11 Inopacan — a base for exploring the Cuatro Islas, which have pearl white sand, crystal clear water and great snorkling areas with beautiful coral
- Hindang - known for the Hindang Nature Park with Philippine long-tailed macaques and caves
- 12 Hilongos — an important regional center
- 13 Maasin — capital of Southern Leyte province
- 14 Limasawa — an island municipality south of mainland Leyte
- 15 Sogod — Houses Agas-Agas Bridge, the country’s tallest viaduct
- 1 Canigao Island — an island known for abundant fishing grounds and scenic coral reef areas suitable for diving
The island is divided into two provinces, Leyte province and Southern Leyte; the former occupying 75% of the island and the latter the remaining 25%. For practical reasons, we treat Leyte as one region with good transportation links.
To many, Leyte is best known as the starting point of the liberation of the Philippines during World War II in 1944. On October 20, 1944, General Douglas MacArthur made his landing to the Philippines, following his well-remembered promise that "I shall return" when he left the country, then a United States colony, during the Japanese invasion in 1942. After MacArthur's return and the ensuing battle to liberate the island, Leyte eventually witnessed one of the largest naval battles in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which was an American victory despite kamikaze attacks.
Waray is spoken by people from the eastern part of Leyte, about 60% of the population of the province, including most of the people in the capital city, Tacloban.
Cebuano/Bisaya is the most common language in Southern Leyte and the western part of Leyte Province, with about 40% of the population of the province speaking it.
Tacloban's Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport (TAC IATA) is the main gateway to the island and the entire region of the Eastern Visayas including the provinces of Samar (Western) and Eastern Samar. The following airlines have daily flights:
Maasin is served by Air Juan, with flights from Cebu.
- 1 Bato ferry port with frequent boats to Cebu city.
- 2 Port of Inopacan to Cuatro Islas.
- 3 Matalon port to Canigao Island.
Leyte Island is connected by RORO ferry from Surigao. From Luzon by car or, you must take a 1-hour ferry ride between Matnog in Sorsogon and Allen in Samar.
Leyte lies on the Visayas routes of Asian Highway 26, which includes Rte 1 across the island and Rte 70 between Palo and Ormoc, and connecting to the Cebu-Ormoc ferry route. AH26 enters Leyte from Samar across the San Juanico Bridge; from Mindanao and Cebu, the route follows RORO ferry routes from Surigao and Cebu respectively.
There are frequent bus services that traverse Leyte Island's primary highways, which mostly lie near the coast. Most bus services are part of longer interisland routes either from Manila or Samar or Mindanao.
UV Express van shuttles are ubiquitous across the island, serving most towns with limited or no bus service. Jeepneys are limited around the cities of Tacloban and Ormoc. To most towns, you either take a bus, UV Express or a tricycle.
Primary highways are the Maharlika Highway and Rte 70. Maharlika Hwy runs on the east coast, while Rte 70 runs from Tacloban to Ormoc, then to Baybay, and to Mahaplag where it reunites with the Maharlika Hwy. The highways are mostly two- or four-lane stretches, with narrow shoulders. Cars are few and far in between, and there are lots of tricycles and motorcycles. You may see farmers drying their crops along the highways, while illegal, are common as in many provinces in the Philippines that rely on agriculture.
- 1 San Juanico Bridge. This spans the San Juanico Strait from Tacloban to Santa Rita on Samar Island. At 2.16 km long, it was the longest bridge spanning a body of seawater in the Philippines until the Cebu-Cordova bridge opened in 2022.
- Agas-Agas Bridge, Sogod, Southern Leyte. The tallest bridge in the Philippines.
- McArthur Park. You can visit the historical landmark of Leyte, which is in municipality of Palo. This is where the Americans landed to begin retaking the Philippines from the Japanese during the Pacific War, making good on General McArthur's promise "I shall return".
- Hindang Cave and Wild Monkeys One of the most popular daytrips in Leyte: Hindang monkey caves. It is hidden below the peaks of mountain Bontoc where the caves is located and with wild monkeys can be found. If you are on the top you can find a 640-meter zipline.
- Lintaon Peak & Cave. It boasts a commanding view of the Camotes Sea, The Cuatro islas and surreal landscapes that go far as your eyes can see. The best time to view the thousands of roses is in the evening but we suggest going earlier to view the sunset.
- Lake Danao. National park in Ormoc. Pleasant ride to this lake in the mountains with cool air and cold beverage to escape the hot sun. Visitors can fish, kayak, or swim. Or arrange to camp, rent the cottages on rafts. Best to go by motorbike or car.
- Festivals - every town have their own celebration of Fiesta or Festivals in honor to their patron saints like Pasaka Festival of Tanauan, Buyugan Festival in Abuyog and Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival usually held in Tacloban City.
- Cuatro Islas.
Leyte is famous for it delicacies like:
- Chocolate moron - a sweet dessert made from glutinous rice with melted cocoa or tablea
- Binagol - a giant taro (taylan) cooked in the hard shell of coconut coated with the sweetening syrup.
Leyte is famous for tuba, a local wine made from coconut, and a so-called "red wine", rather made from fermented coconut nectar that they wrap in tree bark that give the wine its red color. Almost every house have tuba stored, and is usually drank during occasions or just as a pastime.
Leyte lies on the Philippines typhoon belt; one of the strongest and costliest tropical cyclones to record, Haiyan ("Yolanda" in the Philippines), made landfall in 2013, and the island is still recovering from it.