The nearest moderately large town, and the usual base for trips to the volcano, is Tagaytay in Cavite province. Talisay, within the park boundaries, is the nearest town on the Batangas side; the boats on the package tours depart from there, and it's possible to get there without going to Tagaytay.
The scenic historic town of Taal is covered in a separate article; it was built some distance away after a volcanic eruption wiped out an older town in 1755.
Cities and towns
The Taal Volcano Natural Park, officially the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL), includes the volcano, the lake, and surrounding territory to about a 20 km (12 mi) radius. It includes some towns and cities:
- Talisay — The main gateway to Volcano Island. It is a small town, with few sights, except for the volcano.
- Laurel — Another town to the west of Talisay, again with a few sights
- Tanauan — A smaller city, with a medium-sized downtown with an old church at its middle. Tanauan's designated tourism zone has the original town that was destroyed by the 1755 eruption, and some lakeside resorts.
- Lipa — Batangas's largest city and economic center. The city itself is outside the park, but our Lipa guide also covers some lakeside towns that are in the park:
- Mataasnakahoy — Rural municipality with a town center bordering Lipa. Northward towards the lake are some inland resorts, some with views of the lake. The original town of Lipa used to be in here until the 1755 eruption.
- Balete — A lakeside town, with some resorts, and a park at the lakefront. To the east of the town is Marian Orchard, a serene religious site at the middle of the jungle running down the slopes to the lakeshore.
- Cuenca — Has Mount Maculot, a 400-metre (1,300 ft) peak popular with beginner hikers. The town is really small, and not much to see, but it has plenty of inland resorts.
Tagaytay in Cavite province is the usual base for trips to the volcano, but our guide only covers the park area within Batangas province and the two towns where the boats depart, Talisay and Laurel, which are too small to have their own guides.
Taal Volcano is sometimes described as the world's smallest volcano, or as "a lake within a volcano within a lake". It is an active volcano, with 34 recorded eruptions since 1572. It is the second most active volcano in the Philippines, after Mount Mayon, and is one of the "Decade Volcanoes", particularly dangerous because they are both quite active and quite close to cities.
Taal Volcano is part of a chain of volcanoes that have existed since prehistoric times, resulting from the subduction of the Eurasian Plate and Pacific Plate. The lake is formed by the calderas of several other volcanoes, none of which have erupted for several thousand years. The last eruption of one of them was a VEI 6 event in 3580 BCE.
Trips to the volcano usually start from Tagaytay, a highland city in Cavite with other picturesque landscapes nearby. In the satellite image, it is in the mountainous area north of the lake. Package tours to Taal Volcano are available from the city. Taal Volcano is also one of the provincial symbols of Batangas, appearing on the new provincial seal and flag.
Taal Volcano's most destructive eruptions occurred in 1755 and 1910.
The 1755 eruption destroyed the original downtown of Taal, now part of the little town of San Nicolas, as well as the original town center of Lipa, now part of the town of Mataasnakahoy, and Tanauan, and is well recorded in an account by a Spanish priest. Ash and mud from the 1755 eruption were also carried by storms into the village of Caysasay (present-day Taal) and as far as Balayan. The eruption lasted over a month, depositing volcanic material that separated the lake from the sea and created new land where Lemery town is now, along the bay on the lower left corner of the image.
The second deadliest eruption occurred in 1910, killing over 1,300. Taal erupted again in 1965 and 1977, causing pyroclastic flows destroying lakeside villages and killing hundreds. Since those events, the volcano has continued to show signs of unrest, culminating with the 2020 eruption.
The volcano proper forms the Volcano Island, composed of seven volcanic cones and the caldera lake. Taal Lake is also a volcanic caldera, so the system is quite complex; some locals speak of underwater craters in the larger lake. Volcanic activity can be noticed through changes in Taal Lake; some fish kill incidents on the lake are blamed on volcanic activity, though overcrowded fish pens (baklad) are often the cause.
From Tagaytay, Taal Volcano, alongside Taal Lake, dominate the landscape, with the dormant cone Binintiang Malaki being the most prominent. The volcano is covered by vegetation up to the tree line at the crater lake. On the base are some villages relying on fishing in Taal Lake and agriculture in the fertile soil of Volcano Island.
Flora and fauna
Taal Lake is home to the tawilis (Sardinella tawilis), a species of sardine endemic to the lake. It is often served as a local dish in the surrounding area, but overfishing is threatening the tawilis population, so it was designated an endangered species in 2019 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and a closed season is implemented to allow the fish to increase in number.
Taal Volcano is one of the most accessible in Luzon island, and many tourists, local and foreign, go here, usually in package tours from Tagaytay. Peak season traffic can be high, and tours can get fully booked. It is possible to just see the volcano and the lake without getting further into Volcano Island, or have a do-it-yourself tour, avoiding Tagaytay where the package tour providers are based and getting directly into the boats in Talisay or Laurel.
To Talisay and Laurel
Most visitors will come to Tagaytay by car, and there they will purchase the tour packages to Taal, but it's possible to get into the towns directly without dealing with the tour operators.
Talisay can be reached directly via Talisay-Tanauan Road, which can be accessed from STAR Tollway at Tanauan. From Tagaytay, Talisay-Tagaytay Road runs through jungle at the mountain slopes down to the lakeside, where it joins Talisay-Tanauan and Talisay-Laurel roads. Talisay-Tagaytay and Talisay-Tanauan roads are both numbered as Route 421, but the route number signs don't say where you should turn to Talisay town proper, so from Tagaytay, watch for signs that point to Tanauan.
By bus or jeepney
There are no buses serving Talisay or Laurel. The nearest points with bus service are Tanauan to the east, and Tagaytay to the north. Tagaytay sees buses between Manila and Western Batangas, while Tanauan has frequent buses plying the Manila-Batangas corridor.
From Tanauan, there are jeepneys headed for Talisay or Laurel from their terminal near the public market, but it is hard to find until you ask the barkers at the terminal.
From Tagaytay, jeepneys are infrequent, but if you can catch one, ask the driver if they head for Talisay.
Most of the jeepneys to both towns will be unfranchised (colorum) services, unfortunately, they are the only way to there without a car. Despite that, you can still find a few jeepneys which are franchised.
To Volcano Island
The city of Tagaytay nearby is used as the starting point, but some may travel directly to the boat launching point in Talisay. Another launching point can be found to the west of the volcano, in barangay Buso-Buso in Laurel town.
Access to the actual volcanic area is by boat. Boats leave anywhere from the lakeside, and competition is fierce. The prices are fixed at ₱2000 per boat, for up to 6 people but you can reduce it to ₱1200-1500 if you bargain. Operators may tell you that you are not allowed to share with other travellers, but this is not true.
You can take a 15-min outrigger boat ride to the volcano that is within the lake. As you head from Tagaytay city toward the lake, many touts may jump in front of your vehicle offering boat rides - they take a commission. If you know where to go, however, you can catch a boat directly from the boat owners.
Fees and permits
Once on the island, the boat guides will herd you to a point where you can go horseback riding to the volcano. It takes about 30-45 minutes and is quite bumpy. The guides with the horses take you to the top which is very spectacular and you can explore the top for as long as you want.
Another option is hiking which will take 50 to 90 minutes, though the hills and terrain may put some people off.
When up at the volcano, watch out for guides trying to show groups of tourists heating tricks. These consist of getting a can of soft drink or water, cutting the can or bottle in half and watching the ground heat boil the water or liquid which is pretty cool to see, and you can boil an egg if you bring one with you!
There is also a "secret trail" leading to the crater lake.
The lake and volcano are the main attractions, but there is also some rather nice mountain scenery north of the lake around Tagatay and lesser hills to the south around Cuenca. Both areas, plus various lakeside ones, have some resorts.
Accommodations within Taal Volcano Natural Park's boundaries tend to be upmarket, so less expensive options are around cities and towns outside the park.
Talisay, the little town and surrounding area that serves as the main entry point to the volcano proper, has upmarket resorts, starting from ₱1750 depending on seasonal demand, and two budget options, starting from ₱900.
- Balai Sofia, Talisay-Tanauan Road. All rooms have air conditioning, beds are comfortable, and bathrooms have shower heaters available, but there are no free meals or an in-house restaurant. Official rate is ₱1300, though it is possible to pay just ₱900 (including taxes and fees)..
- TDM Space Rental. Units have a single bed, living room and sink, but are fan-only. ₱950.
Mid-range and splurge
- Club Balai Isabel. Rooms also have good views of Taal Lake and the volcano. All rooms air-conditioned. There is a swimming pool, buffet, pizzeria and bar. There are some problems however, with the trash-filled lakefront and bathroom cleanliness. ₱4600 (inclusive of fees and taxes).
- Villa Khristalene, Talisay-Laurel Road, Leynes, ☏ . All rooms have air-conditioning and terraces providing views of Volcano Island and the lake. Better rooms have tubs and a small refrigerator. One suite has a balcony overlooking the volcano and lake. In-house restaurant serves Filipino cuisine, including Batangas regional specialties. They also have a bar, a swimming pool, karaoke rental, and a kids' playground. Parking is free. From ₱1750.
At Volcano Island
There is a lone homestay in Volcano Island, at the starting point of Daang Kastila:
- Talisay Lakeside Villa, ☏ . A two-storey house converted into a homestay for overnight visitors to Volcano Island. A part of the lakefront is turned into a swimming pool with inflatable slides. ₱4500.
As Volcano Island is a permanent danger zone, backcountry camping is not allowed for any reason.
Taal Volcano is an active volcano: volcano safety advice applies when visiting.