The country’s third largest lake, awe-inspiring LAKE TAAL sits in a caldera below Tagaytay, formed by huge eruptions between 500,000 and 100,000 years ago. The active Taal Volcano, which is responsible for the lake’s sulphuric content, lies in the centre of the lake, on Volcano Island. The volcano last erupted in 1965 without causing major damage, but when it blew its top in 1754, thousands died and the town of Taal was destroyed; it was rebuilt in a new location on safer ground an hour by road from Tagaytay to the southwest of the lake. Before 1754 the lake was actually part of Balayan Bay, but the eruption sealed it from the sea, eventually leading to its waters becoming non-saline.
The departure point for trips across the lake to the volcano is the small town of TALISAY on the lake’s northern shore, some 4km southeast of Tagaytay; this is a much more typical Filipino settlement, with a bustling market, fishermen doubling as tourist guides and nary a fast-food chain in sight. You can arrange a bangka and a guide at the waterfront market in town. (Taal Lake Yacht Club is a dependable choice). Hiring a bangka to take you out to the island will cost around P1500 if you arrange it independently, plus another P700 or so for a guide to take you up to the volcano. You can ride a horse up to the top for an additional P850 – most tourists do this because of the heat. If you’re staying the night by the lake, your hotel can arrange all this for you, with food and refreshments included, typically for P2000–3000.
With an early start, you can climb to either the new crater or the old crater (which has 2km-wide Crater Lake inside it) and be back in Talisay in time for lunch (the old crater takes around thirty minutes depending on fitness level). There isn’t much shade on the volcano, so don’t go without sunblock, a good hat and plenty of water. On the island itself is a basic restaurant, vendors selling overpriced drinks and a small information office where you must pay an entry fee of P50.
If you want to spend more time on the water, make for the Taal Lake Yacht Club (about 1km east of Talisay; t043/773-0192, wwww.sailing.org.ph/tlyc/), where you can rent sailboats (Toppers from P1200/day) and kayaks (P750/day).