Download GPX file for this article
6121Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Sulu Islands are a region of the Philippines, an island chain that stretches from near Zamboanga, at the southwestern tip of Mindanao, almost to the Malaysian province of Sabah, at the eastern end of Borneo. Politically, they are part of the Philippines but culturally they are close to Malaysia and Indonesia; in particular they are almost entirely Muslim.

In administrative terms, they are part of the Bangsamoro (or the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM), though geographically they are separate islands, off mainland Mindanao.

Travel Warning WARNING: This is probably the most dangerous area in the Philippines; all western governments advise strongly against travel to this region. Back in the 19th century, Sulu was a pirate kingdom and Jolo had a huge slave market. Today, there are still some pirates and other bandits. Perhaps more dangerous, there are also several armed Moro (Filipino Muslim) independence groups, including some radical Islamists. See the warning at the top of the ARMM page for more information.
Government travel advisories
(Information last updated Jun 2018)


Sulu Archipelago

The main islands of the chain, each the center of a province, are Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi. There are many smaller islands, all included in those provinces for administrative purposes.


  • 1 Isabela City – the regional center of Basilan, with a mix of Christian and Muslim Filipino culture and some undiscovered sights.
  • Jolo – the capital of Sulu Province.

Other destinations[edit]


The Sulu island chain has some pristine beaches and colorful culture. Basilan island has the most vibrant tourism scene, but it has been affected by an ongoing Islamist insurgency. Skirmishes and terror attacks continue to happen throughout the archipelago, and as part of the Bangsamoro (then the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), they are included in travel warnings as well.

Most of the people are either Yakan or Tausug, and there are also a minority of Chavacano speakers from Zamboanga. Other ethnolinguistic groups are the Sama-Bajau (Badjao), who live in the sea and rely heavily on fishing as a source of livelihood.


For most of the islands, Tausug serves as the lingua franca. While genetically more closer to the languages of the Visayas, it incorporates a lot of Arabic loanwords, reflecting Arab and Islamic influence. Most Sulu Muslims have at least some basic knowledge of Arabic, especially when memorizing the Qur'an. Chavacano, a Spanish-based creole introduced by Zamboanga City locals, serves a similar purpose in Basilan, and Muslims and Christians alike speak and understand Chavacano.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

All the provinces have at least one airport at the main island except for Basilan, which has only airstrips used by general aviation. Tawi-tawi has one airport at Bongao, Sanga-Sanga Airport (TWT IATA), served by Cebgo and PAL Express from Zamboanga. Jolo has one airport, Jolo Airport (JOL IATA), served only by Platinum Skies from Zamboanga.

Get around[edit]





Stay safe[edit]

Go next[edit]

This region article is an extra-hierarchical region, describing a region that does not fit into the hierarchy Wikivoyage uses to organise most articles. These extra articles usually provide only basic information and links to articles in the hierarchy. This article can be expanded if the information is specific to the page; otherwise new text should generally go in the appropriate region or city article.