As far as landscapes go there is no place on earth that compares to the Chocolate Hills of the Philippines. Bohol province is home to hundreds of symmetrical grassy hillocks which transform colour over the seasons.
Last February, I fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit the beautiful Philippines. One of the highlights of my month long trip was the day I visited the mysterious conical mounds known as the Chocolate Hills.
The hills, which are almost all symmetrical, consist of grass-covered limestone that turn a tawny brown during the dry season (February to July). Locals will tell you that from up on high they look like chocolate truffles or even Hershey’s Kisses!
Geological Wonders and Local Legends
There are over 1,700 individual hills, with heights ranging from 30 to 50 metres, and the highest soaring at almost 120 metres. Although scientists can explain the formation of these hills, fascinating local legends have emerged over time.
One myth tells the tale of a giant who had his heart broken and wept massive tears which turned into hills. Another story posits that two giants went to war and lobbed boulders at each other, but eventually resolved their differences and forgot to clean up the mess!
Before exploring the hills, I was travelling around Palawan, when a local Filipino reached out to me on Instagram inviting me to be his guest around Bohol Island. Naturally I said yes!
Hanging out with a local made this a special experience for me. I spent a total of 6 days in Bohol. The first 3 days I was based in Tagbilaran City and the last 3 days in Panglao Island.
From Tagbilaran City I had the pleasure to travel to the north side of the island and visit the famous Chocolate Hills, which are located about 1 hour drive from the city.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
We decided to visit the hills at sunrise as for me this is the best time to shoot photography. At the beginning, we were taking photos from the main viewpoint 4km south of Carmen, where you climb more than 200 steps to a viewing deck.
To get to this viewing station, you can take a bus or book an organised tour from Tagbilaran City. The entrance fee is 50 PHP per person, around $1 USD, making it accessible for those travellers on a shoe-string budget.
After a while I decided to climb one of the hills to gain a better vantage point. From here you can see why this area was declared a National Geological Monument by the Philippines in 1988 and nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status in 2006.
Looking out over the hills it’s hard to believe that thousands of years ago the entire site used to be underwater. The most commonly agreed upon scientific theory is that the hills are the weathered formations of marine limestone on top of a impermeable layer of clay.
The best time to experience these natural wonders is in the dry season where the hills turn golden brown. I would also recommend visiting early in the morning to avoid the crowds which can get large at peak times.
The climb to the main viewing platform is a breeze, so don’t be put off by the over 200 steps!