Iligan City, Philippines

Table of Contents

View of Iligan City, Philippines arriving at port.

photo byalingatong on flickr

Iligan is a small city located about 800 kilometers south of Manila and lying on the northeastern side of Mindanao. Dubbed as the “City of Waterfalls” and the “Industrial City of the South”, this little town has been known for its tourism potential and economic sustainability.

The 81,340 hectares (813.40 sq. km.) is home to 308,046 people and host to the country’s steel industry and the source of Mindanao’s hydro-electric power. Iligan is centrally located in the province of Lanao del Norte, bounded in the north by the province of Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Sur in the south and in the east, by the Province of Bukidnon.

Despite the presence of the 11 major industries, the city has remained an agricultural area due to its largely mountainous terrain. The city is concentrated along the coast facing the Iligan Bay.

Brief History of Iligan City

According to the accounts of local historians who have collated the data from archives and oral tales of old, Iligan probably got its name from the Higaonon word “Ilig”, meaning “downstream”. The Higaonon tribe was one of the first inhabitants of this area who have settled along the banks of the Mandulog River. The river was a major economic freeway where trade and commerce flourished among the natives and the traders from Borneo and Malaysia.

During the Spanish era in the early 16th century, the Recoletos friars came to Christianize the natives and established a settlement in Bayug Island, the mouth of the Mandulog River. This settlement later on became the staging point of the Spanish conquistadores in their bid to subjugate the “Moros” of Lanao del Sur for more than two centuries.

People and Culture

Dancers at the Diyandi Festival in Iligan City, Philippines.

photo bydeath_of_jay on flickr

The peoples of Iligan City are a mixture of different tribes namely, Higaonon, Subanon, Maranaos and the settlers from the Visayas Islands. The Iliganons are deeply religious people being predominantly Catholic, their spiritual roots going back to the Recoletos and the Jesuits.

Due to its proximity to the Islamic City of Marawi, the age-old conflict between the Muslims and the Christians have somewhat stunted the economic growth of the city, foreign and local investors think twice before putting up their businesses in town.

Despite the adversities the city have encountered in the past, it is thriving on its own, thanks to the resilience of the Iliganons who have defied all odds, surviving calamities and conflicts over the years and emerging strong and united.

Their steadfast devotion to St. Michael the Archangel is depicted in the annual “Diyandi Festival”; the street dancing that portrays the classic fight of St. Michael the Archangel and Lucifer. The tradition of “Pagkanaug” or “coming down” of the patron saint from his pedestal to the side altar draws the fanatical devotees every year.


Iligan City has a short dry season; therefore, it is best to visit the place during the summer months, from March to May. June is the start of the rainy season.

How to Get There

PAL flight to Iligan on tarmac of Lumbia airport in Cagayan de Oro.

photo bydhoy2x on flickr

Most visitors fly from Manila via Cagayan de Oro City where the Lumbia airport is located. Three carriers provide daily flights from as early as 5:00 o’clock in the morning until 7:00 o’clock in the evening. Flying time is about an hour and 20 minutes.

From Cagayan de Oro Airport, you can easily get a taxi that will take you directly to Iligan City or take the bus at the Agora Bus Terminal; you will be in Iligan in less than 2 hours.

Some people prefer traveling by boat. If you have more time, sea travel from Manila or Cebu is enjoyable and relaxing. There are daily trips from Cebu to Cagayan de Oro which usually takes about 8 hours. There are also scheduled trips from Manila to Iligan that usually takes a lot longer.

Where to Stay

Maria Cristina Hotel in downtown Iligan City.

photo byjaoffrey on flickr

Iligan now has several good hotels and resorts that cater to local and foreign tourists. To name a few;
Maria Cristina Hotel may be the oldest in the city but you can still see traces of the grand hotel that housed many famous people decades ago. Located right in the heart of the city and close to many government offices and commercial establishments, staying here is very convenient. You get a good view of Iligan Bay from the Ballroom at the top floor.

Elena Tower Inn stands along Tibanga national highway and adjacent to Iligan Institute of Technology. This is a 7-storey hotel that is conveniently located right next to commercial establishments. If you prefer a quieter place, Elena Tower Inn is not for you.

Cheradel Suites located at Bro. Raymond Jeffrey Road is an elegant cluster of suite rooms set in a fenced compound that gives an upscale ambiance.

Crystal Inn is located in Tibanga, across the Redemptorist Church. This is a popular venue for conferences and conventions, being close to the Poblacion yet none of the city’s noise and pollution.

There are many pension houses and smaller hotels in the city but the ones mentioned are the top hotel accommodations favored by most tourists who have visited Iligan.

Places of Interest

Spectacular view of Maria Cristina waterfall and lush green vegetation near Iligan City.

photo bytriggerhappylad on flickr

Iligan boasts of over twenty waterfalls and water springs scattered all over the place. The most famous Maria Cristina Falls is the symbol of the city and depicted in its official logo. It drops to 320 feet below in massive cascades when the spillway above is opened during viewing days, usually on weekends. The twin falls is being dammed by the National Power Corporation and is a major source of electricity that supplies the whole island of Mindanao.

The two-tiered Limunsudan Falls is known to be the highest waterfalls in the country with 870 feet drop cascading into two catch basins. Located in the forest of Barangay Rogongon, about 35 kilometers from the Poblacion of Iligan, this breath-taking waterfall can be reached on foot under the canopy of verdant vegetation.

Tinago Falls.

photo byshy wise on flickr

Tinago Falls is another majestic waterfall that is noted for its magnificent drop at 420 feet. Literally secluded in a ravine in Barangay Ditucalan, Tinago Falls is hidden from sight by thick vegetation and can only be reached by going down some 200 steps to the pool below. This is a favorite weekend destination of locals and visitors alike who wish to commune with nature.

Timoga Spring Pools in Barangay Buru-un are a cluster of world-class swimming pools being filled by the cold waters of the underground spring. The pools are privately owned but being regulated and promoted by the city government. During weekends these pools are packed.

Hindang Caves in Barangay Hindang, about 30 kilometers from the city, is frequented by adventurous cavers and curious visitors. There are about eight caves clustered together with narrow openings and long chambers. The chambers’ stalactites and stalagmites never fail to impress the tourists.

A trek up to the 1,600 feet high Mt Agad-agad is a big challenge for beginners. But for the regulars who climb this peak every weekend, the exercise is nothing compared to the awe-inspiring panorama of the city and the bay. Mt Agad-agad is the highest mountain in Iligan City located at Barangay Pugaan, about 5 kilometers from the city.

Like in most highly urbanized cities all over the world, crime is not new to this small city. Therefore extreme caution is advised when exploring the sites. With this taken care of, you will find Iligan City a refreshing and revitalizing place to visit.


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