Beaches like Boracay and Bantayan first come to mind when we think of the Visayas. But the country’s central island group is actually home to numerous mountains and volcanoes—and is thus as much a hiker’s as it is a diver’s paradise. Indeed, the Visayan islands feature hikes of all difficulties, from easy, half-day treks to exploratory long-distance trails that can take weeks.
Great hikes you should work into your itinerary:
Here are seven hikes with varying difficulty and geography that represents what the region has to offer. Of course, after the hikes, you can hit the beaches too, and enjoy the likes of Iloilo, Tacloban, and Cebu.
This is the highest mountain in Panay and the second highest in the Visayas at 2,117 meters above sea level. Mt. Madjaas figures in local legends as a home of deities and enchanted creatures. It features trails that take the hiker from rice fields all the way to its rocky peaks through a dense forest that can take days to negotiate. Pristine streams and waterfalls can be found along the mountain’s campsites and trails. But you have to earn your way up this mountain as it has steep, moss-covered trails.
Level: Difficult (7/9)
Days required: 2 to 3
The second highest peak in Panay at 2,073 meters above sea level, Mt. Nangtud is just as challenging as Mt. Madjaas—if not more so. The hike involves crossing several sections of the Dalanas River, hiking up a series of open and forested ridges, and trekking through a mossy forest that’s replete with orchids and pitcher plants. The summit is forested, but along the way you can catch a glimpse of Sulu Sea and the other peaks of Panay’s majestic range.
Level: Strenuous (8/9)
Days required: 3 to 4
Part of the same range that has Madjaas and Nangtud as its pinnacles, the 1,239-meter Mt. Napulak is a much easier trek. Its proximity to Iloilo makes it a local favorite, either as a dayhike or an overnight climb. Napulak’s summit is a nipple-like rock that gives the mountain its name. Atop this rock, you can view Guimaras, and on a clear day, even the mountains of Negros.
Level: Easy-Moderate (4/9)
Days required: 1 to 2
The highest mountain in all of the Visayas has inspired legend, and many locals still consider it sacred. Because of its volcanic activity, the 2,435-meter Mt. Kanlaon is frequently closed, so be sure to check first with Phivolcs and grab the opportunity in case it’s open. (Note: It’s closed right now, but Phivolcs just lowered the alert level and park officials might open it soon.) There are several trails all converging on the otherworldly summit crater. This includes the Margaha valley with its fields of endemic grass that make it one of the best places to camp in the country. The hot springs in Mambucal make for a great post-climb treat!
Level: Difficult (7/9)
Days required: 2 to 4
Hikers forced to cancel their Kanlaon trip often end up in Mt. Talinis. But more than just a Plan B, the 1,903-meter mountain also known as Cuernos de Negros is a worthy hike in itself. Like Kanlaon, it offers several fascinating features, crater lakes, mossy forests, and at least a couple of accessible peaks. The classic trail from Dauin to Valencia takes two days and ends in Casaroro Falls. Regardless of which route you take, you can never go down disappointed.
Level: Moderate-Difficult (6/9)
Days required: 2 to 3
Cebu’s highest peak at just over 1,000 meters is a family-friendly hike that takes no more than an hour to complete. But while it is easy enough for a picnic, it has views scenic enough for even veteran hikers to give it a look. Like the mountains near Manilla, O-Peak (as local hikers call it) can get crowded on weekends, so weekdays are the best time to appreciate the mountain’s verdant jagged hills. Those finding Osmeña Peak too easy need not worry as Cebu has plenty of traverse possibilities including to Kawasan falls and its milky blue waters.
Level: Easy (2/9)
Days required: Half-day
Mt. Tres Marias
The highest mountain in Biliran at 1,315 meters above sea level, Mt. Tres Marias is one of the hidden gems of Eastern Visayas. There are so many waterfalls in this mountain that most of them are nameless. After a day of crossing streams and trekking up a dense forest, you will reach a summit that offers views of Biliran’s other peaks. Don’t worry if you see a snake or two as they are unlikely to attack humans as long as you keep a safe distance. And this also means that the mountain’s biodiversity remains intact.
Level: Moderate (5/9)
Days required: 2
Click on the arrows for slideshow
Mt. Madjaas Photograph from @philippinemountaineers on Instagram
Mt. Madjaas Photograph from @sinopinas on Instagram
Mt. Nangtud Photograph from @genesisbooc on Instagram
Mt. Nangtud Photograph from @joef_free_adventures on Instagram
Mt. Napulak Photograph from @nikkimamplata on Instagram
Mt. Napula Photograph from @xanthelyo on Instagram
Mt. Kanlaon Photograph from @shiela.ola on Instagram
Mt. Kanlaon Photograph from @__soson on Instagram
Mt. Talinis Photograph from @limmynhue on Instagram
Mt. Talinis Photograph from @akyatni_denmark on Instagram
Osmeña Peak Photograph from @whatdoesthefogsay on Instagram
Osmeña Peak Photograph from @iambevelande on Instagram
Mt. Tres Marias Photograph from @nieljarina on Instagram
Mt. Tres Marias Photograph from @ebayventures on Instagram