6D5N Ultimate Travel Guide to Northern Mindanao: DIY Backpacking Guide

northern mindanao travel guide diy backpacking

Northern Mindanao is an administrative region in the Philippines that is designated as Region X. This consists of five provinces, namely Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, and Misamis Oriental. The regional center is Cagayan de Oro, which is the usual entry point of destination when visiting some of the most popular tourist spots in Northern Mindanao. 

This was not my first time visiting or entering Northern Mindanao. In fact, I’ve been here and already gone backpacking a few years back. That being said, this Northern Mindanao backpacking trip was not new to me! Yet, it didn’t stop me from getting excited to visit some of the best tourist spots in the region! Also, I planned on visiting some places around that I’ve never been to before! 

In this blog post, discover some of the best places to visit in Northern Mindanao. Here, you’ll discover the beauty of the region and why it is a must-visit! Here’s a comprehensive Northern Mindanao travel guide with a sample itinerary and expenses. 

How to get to Northern Mindanao? 

The easiest way to get to Northern Mindanao from Manila is by plane. Travel time is approximately an hour and forty-five minutes. Cagayan de Oro City (Laguindingan Airport) is the usual entry point when visiting the region, as it offers the cheapest flights from Manila via Cebu Pacific, Philippine Air Asia, and Philippine Airlines

Meanwhile, there are other options to get to the region, depending on which place you’ll be coming from. If you’re coming from Mindanao, the region is very accessible by land from Davao, Butuan, and Zamboanga. 

Top Places to Visit in Northern Mindanao 

My friend and I went backpacking around the region for 6 days and 5 nights. We were able to visit some of the most stunning spots in the region. Here are some of the top places to visit in Northern Mindanao. 

Maria Christina Falls, Lanao del Norte

Located in the province of Lanao del Norte, Maria Christina Falls is one of the most iconic spots to visit when in Northern Mindanao. Not to mention the fact that Iligan City is known as the City of Majestic Falls because there are 23 magnificent waterfalls all around it.

This was our first stop on our Northern Mindanao backpacking trip. From the Laguindingan Airport, we headed straight to Iligan City and visited the Maria Christina Falls. Personally, it’s been a dream to visit this iconic waterfall since I could only see it from our Hekasi book during my elementary school days! It’s truly worth visiting this majestic waterfall in Iligan City. Apart from that, we also had a quick stop (after Marawi City) at the Tinago Falls before heading back to Cagayan de Oro City. 

Bukidnon Province

Bukidnon has always been one of my favorite provinces in Northern Mindanao. With its stunning landscapes and breathtaking scenery that it offers, Bukidnon is definitely a must-visit province in Region X! 

We only had one day to see the province but to be honest, one day is not enough to see how beautiful Bukidnon is! Nevertheless, we were still able to visit some of the best places to see in Bukidnon

Point of Interest: 

Camiguin Island 

Known as the “Island Born of Fire”, Camiguin is home to seven volcanoes, including the iconic Mount Hibok-Hibok. The remnants of past eruptions create a stunning panorama of blackened rocks, picturesque craters, and hot springs. No wonder Camiguin is one of the top destinations in the Philippines. 

We stayed in Camiguin for 2 days and 1 night and explored some of the island’s iconic spots. Camiguin is dubbed the second smallest island in the Philippines; thus, there’s no way to explore the island even just for a day! Personally, this was my third time visiting this beautiful island in Northern Mindanao, and I always felt amazed by its enchanting beauty.

Point of Interest:

  • The Sunken Cemetery
  • Old Church Ruins
  • Sto. Niño Cold Spring
  • Ardent Hot Spring
  • White Island
  • Katibawasan Falls
  • Soda Swimming Pool
  • Tuasan Falls

Other Places to Visit Near Northern Mindanao

Marawi City, Lanao del Sur

Marawi is the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur, which is part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BARMM). It’s a small Islamic city with Maranaos (an ethnic Muslim group from Marawi). 

Furthermore, Lanao del Sur is definitely not part of Northern Mindanao. However, since the province is just two hours away from Iligan City, my friend and I decided to visit Marawi City to check out some interesting places in the city itself! 

After visiting the Maria Christina Falls, we headed straight to Marawi City. We were accompanied by our tour guides from Iligan City. We went there by habal habal (motorbike) and drove to the city for approximately an hour and a half. 

Point of Interest:

  • Ground Zero
  • The Grand Mosque

Agusan del Norte 

Agusan del Norte is a province in Mindanao, which is part of the CARAGA region. Butuan Bay borders the province on the northwest, Surigao del Norte on the northeast, Surigao del Sur on the mid-east, Agusan del Sur on the southeast, and Misamis Oriental on the southwest. Thus, Agusan del Norte is accessible by land from Cagayan de Oro city. 

On the second day of our backpacking trip, my friend and I decided to go on a day tour in Agusan del Norte, where we visited one of its famous tourist spots, the “Vinapor Cave Pool”, which is dubbed “the only cave pool in the Philippines”. 

Expect long hours of land travel from Cagayan de Oro City to Agusan del Norte, as it might take you the entire day to go back and forth to the desired destination. 

Point of Interest: 

  • Vinapor Cave Pool

Sample Northern Mindanao Itinerary for 6D5N

Day 1: Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur

  • Maria Christina Falls, Iligan City
  • Ground Zero, Marawi
  • The Grand Mosque, Marawi 

Day 2: Agusan del Norte

  • Vinapor Cave Pool

Day 3: Bukidnon

  • Lawis Grand Canyon
  • Rotypeaks Ridge Camp
  • Communal Ranch

Day 4: Camiguin

  • The Sunken Cemetery
  • Old Church Ruins
  • Sto. Niño Cold Spring
  • Ardent Hot Spring

Day 5: Camiguin

  • White Island
  • Katibawasan Falls
  • Soda Swimming Pool
  • Tuasan Falls

Day 6: Back to Manila

Sample Budget for 6d5n Northern Mindanao Backpacking Trip

Please take note that each cost is subject to change. Also, this ideal budget doesn’t include accommodation fees and food expenses. 

Day 1: Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur

  • Van from Laguindingan Airport to Iligan City: Php 250
  • Maria Christina Falls & Tinago (Habal Habal Tour): Php 700
  • Marawi City (Habal Habal): Php 1800/pax 
  • Bus from Iligan City to CDO: Php 250 

Total Expenses: Php 2,835 per pax 

Day 2: Agusan del Norte

  • Bus from Agora Terminal to Tagcatong Elementary School: PHP 381 
  • Tricycle from Tagcatong Elementary School to Vinapor Cave Pool: Php 60/pax
  • Tricycle from Vinapor Cave Pool to Tagcatong Elementary School: Php 50/pax
  • Tagcatong Elementary School to Agora Bus Terminal (CDO): Php 385/pax
  • Entrance Fee: Resort: Php 50/pax
  • Cave Pool Fee: Php 250/pax

Total Expenses: Php 1,176 per pax 

Day 3: Bukidnon

  • Tricycle from hostel to Agora bus terminal: Php 10/pax
  • Bus from the terminal to Lunocan: Php 65
  • Habal habal to Grand Canyon (back and forth): Php 300
  • Bus from Lunocan to Impasugong: PHP 90
  • Rotypeaks & Communal Ranch Tour: Php 750/pax
  • Traditional Costume Rental Fee: PHP 50
  • Rotypeaks Entrance Fee: PHP 200
  • Communal Entrance Fee: PHP 20
  • Horseback Riding at Communal Ranch: Php 250/2 pax (one-hour ride)
  • Bus from Impasugong to CDO: PHP 155

Total Expenses: Php 1,765 per pax 

Day 4 and 5: Camiguin Island

  • Van from CDO to Benoni Port: PHP 200
  • Ferry to Camiguin Island: PHP 360
  • Terminal Fee: PHP 15
  • Motor Rental: Php 500/2 pax (per day)
  • Katibawasan Falls Entrance Fee: PHP 75
  • Tuasan Falls Entrance Fee: PHP 75
  • The Ruins Entrance Fee: PHP 50
  • Ferry to Benoni Port: PHP 360
  • Terminal Fee: PHP 15
  • Van to CDO: PHP 200 

Total Expenses: PHP 1,600

Day 6: CDO to Manila

  • Taxi from CDO to Laguindingan Airport: Php 200/pax

6d5n Total Expenses: Php 7,576 (not including the accommodation fees, food and other expenses).

Where to stay in Cagayan de Oro? 

During our backpacking trip, we stayed in Cagayan de Oro City most of the time. Thus, here’s a list of budget accommodations to stay at in CDO. 

  • G-Galyx Inn Hotel
  • D Morvie Suites
  • Bridge Hotel
  • Winmin Transient Inn

Where to stay in Camiguin? 

  • Paguia’s Cottages (near the port heading to the White Island)

How to get to Iligan City from Cagayan de Oro (CDO)?

If you’re heading to the Ma. Christina Falls:

From the Laguindingan Airport, take a van to head to the Tambo terminal. Travel time from Laguindingan Airport to the Iligan City terminal is approximately 2 hours. Then from the terminal, take a tricycle to the jeep terminal for Buru-un. Then, ride the jeep going to Buru-un and inform the driver to drop you off at Maria Cristina Falls.

Note: Please check confirm first with the Tourism Office if the Ma. Christina Falls is open to the public. But other than this iconic waterfall, there are other places to visit in Iligan City.

How to get to Bukidnon from CDO?

From Cagayan de Oro to Impasugong, Bukidnon:

From CDO, take public transportation to the Agora Terminal. Then, take a bus bound for Davao City, and just tell the bus conductor to drop you off at the municipality of Impasugong. The ride takes you about 2–3 hours. Once you get off the bus, you’ll probably notice the sculpture of the giant statues of the Lumads of Bukidnon. Then, head over to the tourism office, which is just at the back of the giant statues. Take note that you need to drop by the tourism office before heading to the Communal Ranch or Rotypeaks Ridge Camp.

How to get to Camiguin Island from CDO?

From Cagayan de Oro to Camiguin Island:

From the Agora bus terminal, you can take a bus or van to take you to Balingoan port. From the port, take a ferry heading to Camiguin Island. It takes about 2 hours to get to Benoni port in Camiguin from Balingoan port.

How to get to Agusan del Norte from CDO?

From CDO City to Vinapor Blue Water Resort:

From the Agora bus terminal, take a bus heading to Butuan City. Travel time takes about 5–6 hours from CDO City. Then, tell the driver to drop you off at the highway in front of Tagcatong Elementary School. From the elementary school, you can take either a habal habal or a tricycle to Vinapor Blue Water Resort.

With its various landscapes and cultural gems, Northern Mindanao is a place that will definitely take your breath away. This region has everything you could ever look for: adventure, culture immersion, or just a peaceful getaway! Mindanao will always be one of my favorite places and going backpacking around Northern Mindanao is indeed one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done as a traveler!

If you’re considering traveling to Mindanao soon, make sure to include Region X, or Northern Mindanao, in your bucket list!

About the Author

Ara Patria

A travel blogger in the Philippines and a K-pop enthusiast, Ara Patria (The Adventuress) pursues her passion and love for traveling. She’s been blogging for years, where she writes about her own travel experiences and promotes the wonders of the Philippines. Not only does she promote the beauty of her country, but she also focuses on promoting sustainable tourism. She dreams of traveling the world and inspiring other people through her own written works and captured moments with her camera.

The Adventuress is a travel blogger with a purpose. She aims to inspire other people through her personal experiences, stories, and lenses. Outside her blogging world, she is an educator, an SEO specialist, and TEFL/TESOL certified.

Join her adventures!

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