Where to go in Easter Island?
Tahai Archaeological Complex
Located close to Hanga Roa, the complex consists of three ahu making up a group of ceremonial altars where the ancestors were worshipped. This shows Rapa Nui culture at its high point. It is one of the best-restored sites on the island.
This is the highest peak on the island, reaching a height of 509 meters, and from the top there is a view to the three corners of the island. At the southern extremity of the peak is the Rano Aroi volcano. Access is by Ahu Akivi or Vaitea. The most recent activity occurred some 1,000 years ago and the last lava flow about 2,000 or 3,000 years ago. Most of the island is formed of lava from this volcano.
This is a group of altars once used for ceremonies, located 1.5 km from Hanga Roa. It is the best-restored archaeological center within easy reach of the city.
It consists of three ahu; Kote Riku in the north, Tahai in the center and Vai Uri to the south; you can the base of a house made of an upturned boat, Hare Paenga; and a stone structure with thick walls, Hare Maoa. This last is said to have been used as a chicken house and paina, or ceremonial site.
There is also a fireplace dug into the earth which was used for cooking meals. There are other caves with stone walls and eight entrance tunnels.
A small crater located 2 km from Hanga Roa.
Located 5 km from Hanga Roa, this was one of the altars used for the worship of the ancestors of each of the family groups which lived in the island. They consisted of a raised platform, which in the majority of cases had one or more moai.
There are approximately 300 ahu in the island, varying not only in their dimensions, but also in their construction technique and the number and size of their moai. In the case of this complex, which is located towards the western end of the south coast, there are three ahu: Vinapu I, Vinapu II and Vinapu III.
Vinapu I has carefully constructed stone walls, made of large slabs and filled with stone to form the main part of the platform. It is oriented towards sunrise on the winter solstice. There are six fallen statues in front of the ahu.
Vinapu II stands beside Vinapu I, although it is of earlier origin. In front of this ahu there is a statue which was re-erected by the archaeologist William Mulloy. It is thought to be a female figure with two heads, which was used as a column for human sacrifices.
The ahu known as Vinapu III is perhaps the oldest of the three, but all that remains is a pile of stone. The surrounding area was disturbed for the installation of fuel tanks required for the operation of Mataveri airport.
Aldea Ceremonial de Orongo
Orongo ceremonial village lies 6 km from Hanga Roa, on the western edge of Rano Raraku volcano, and is set in some of the most beautiful scenery on the island. It occupies a narrow strip 250 meters wide between the crater of the volcano and a cliff which falls into the sea. It consists of 53 structures with walls made of slabs of basalt. The walls inside each structure are painted with symbols of government, oars for ceremonial dances and figures of birds, with red and white predominating.
This was where the election of the Tangata Manu (man bird) was held for between 100 and 200 years. The rites were carried out in honor of the god Make Make and the Water god, who brought the birds from Motu Motiro Hiva.
This site has been included in the "One Hundred most endangered sites, 2000" of World Monument Watch. There it is stated that: "Recent measurements of the petroglyphs indicate that they have slipped two meters since the last measurements were taken thirty years ago. The continuous erosion caused by the rain, accentuated by visitor traffic, is undermining the stability of these huts. Unless rainwater is redirected by the construction of a terrace to stabilize the site, and tourist access is controlled, Orongo could collapse into the sea."
Located 30 km from Hanga Roa, this is a beautiful wide beach with white sands, palm trees and turquoise water. According to the legend, this was where the kings and the royal family lived. The beach is guarded by seven nostalgic moai, with their hats restored. The biggest ahu here, known as Nau Nau, was restored between 1978 and 1980 by Sergio Rapu.
On the ahu stood five complete moai, four of them with pukao (a representation in red lava of the bun into which the ariki bound their hair) as well as two broken moai. The backs of these statues are finely carved. It was here that the white coral eye, with a red lava pupil, now in the Museo Antropológico, was found.
There is another series of ahu nearer the beach, with no statues, which are probably older.
This beach, 30 km from Hanga Roa, is particular for its reddish sand, and lies at the foot of a cliff of stone of the same color. The sea bottom with all the marine life makes it a beautiful place for snorkeling.
Ahu Pito Kura
At this site, 26 km from Hanga Roa, is the largest moai to be transported from Rano Raraku, where these enormous figures were carved. Beside it is a rounded stone which indicates the exact site of the Navel of the World.
This ahu, 20 km from Hanga Roa, is the biggest on the island, 200 meters long and with fifteen figures on the platform. It had to be restored after a tidal wave scattered the moai up to one hundred meters inland.
Located 18 km from Hanga Roa, this site is of special interest because in this crater the majority of the moai in existence on the island were carved. At the site you can see a large number of statues in different stages of construction. Inside the crater there is a fresh water lake with reeds.
This was the first site on the island to be scientifically restored, between 1960 and 1961. It is located 10 km from Hanga Roa.
It is one of the few platforms or ahu which seem to look towards the sea. It has seven moai, which are said to represent the first sailors sent by king Hotu Matua to reconnoiter the dream of the seer Hau Maka, before their colonizing voyage.
Cantera de Puna Pau
Puna Pau quarry, 15 km from Hanga Roa, is a crater of red volcanic rock where the islanders quarried the pukao or headdresses with which the moai are crowned.
Located on the south coast, 13 km from Hanga Roa. This ahu or ceremonial center is eighteen meters long and contains more than a dozen fallen moai. Different stages of construction can also be seen.
This platform of well-worked stone is located 10 km from Hanga Roa. It consists of eight statues lying where they fell and eight pukao scattered about nearby. In front of the ahu there is a circle of stones for the paina ceremonies in which death was honored.
Península de Poike
On this peninsula stands the Poike volcano, the oldest on the island, three million years old. In geological terms, this is the part of the island which has existed for longest and where there has been the least volcanic activity, despite the three cones which stand up in the landscape.
There are three places of archaeological interest: Vai a Heva, Papa ui hetu u’ and Ana O keke.
The first is an enormous head carved under a natural pool; the second, two sites with petroglyphs, from which the islanders used to observe the stars; and the third is a cave where virgins used to come to make their skin white.
On the peninsular is the Poike ditch, supposed site of a battle between the Hanau eepe (“fat people”) and the Hanau momoko (“thin people”). According to tradition, the “fat people” lived in Poike and had dug a ditch which they filled with combustible material, but despite this the “thin people” attacked them by surprise and killed them almost to a man, burning the dead in pits. To this day the place is known as "the curanto of the fat people” (curanto is a technique where food is cooked in a pit using pre-heated stones). From a geological point of view, however, the ditch is a natural effect of the volcanic formation of the island.