Rapa Nui, Isla de Pascua, or better-known name Easter Island is a tiny piece of land above the sea level in the middle of nowhere. Five-hour flight from Santiago over the Pacific Ocean on the west, and you’ll land on little airport in Hanga Roa, the only town on the island.
There is no place on island which wouldn’t be stunning. Each square metre, especially for us mainlanders, is like piece of paradise. Unfortunately, you can’t stay here forever, so I want to share with you 7 places on Easter Island I recommend you not to overlook.
Rano Kau and Orongo
Rano Kau is a crater left after one of three main volcanoes which were on Easter Island. Thin cone from the top of crater was removed by explosion. The open space is called Kari Kari.
Orongo – The birdman village
The history says Rano Kau was considered sacred from ancient times. That’s why it was chosen for ceremonial purposes. Orongo was the only village on the island which was built and used exclusively for religious purpose.
Tangata-manu ceremony was annual competition of who becomes birdman. Every year people from island gathered in this place and participants swam to the near Motu Nui islet where manutara seabirds (Sooty tern) were breeding. They stayed there days or weeks until someone found an egg. Who brought an egg first became tangata-manu, or birdman.
On many places on the island, including Orongo you’ll find petroglyphs which are figures carved into rocks to which we attributed meaning. But, interpretation of this art is subjective and even controversial leaving plenty room for speculation.
Ana Kai Tangata
Ana Kai Tangata and the whole area was the first place I visited on island and I fell for it immediately. This was also the only place where I returned. Since the cave is accessible it became the most visited cave on island, although you’ll find sign saying „Do not enter“. And I highly respected all the signs around the island. They know why they put it there, either because they want to protect you or the site.
If you explore the area above the cave, there are stunning views, or man-made swimming pool hidden amongst the sharp rocks.
Even though it’s the popular cave, most of the time I was here alone.
Ahu Tongariki is the largest ceremonial platform on Easter Island with 15 moai measuring 200 metres with its wings on the sides. This Ahu is also the most important megalithic monument in all Polynesia. The highest moai measures 8.6 metres and weighs incredible 86 tons. Even though the quarry was relatively close, we still don’t understand how they were able to build them.
In 1960, when the moai were still fallen, the southern coast of island and also Tongariki was hit by tsunami caused by earthquake in Chile. Most of the remains were lost and will never be found again.
Tourists made this place popular in the mornings when the sun rises above, but it is as much spectacular during day with the horses grazing around and Rano Raraku behind your back.
Rano Raraku and moai
Rano Raraku quarry was the centre of Rapanui megalithic art, where most of the moai were carved. It supplied with raw materials and also served as workshop and distribution centre of statues to other parts of island.
All moai on the island were fallen and had to be restored.
Anakena and Ovahe
History tells that Anakena is the place where founding king Hotu Matu first set foot on the island. Besides that, the whole vicinity is dense archaeological area.
Nowadays Anakena is popular for its stunning white-sand beach. And so is Ovahe on the other side of Manga Puna hill. This beach is tiny hidden gem surrounded by rocks where the sun reaches only in the morning. It is very likely you’ll have the beach for yourself. Those two beaches are connected with Anakena-Ovahe trail or you can go back on main road and walk or hitchhike.
Ana Te Pahu
The most spacious cave on island with large underground complex. This kind of cave was used to store rain water which was filtered through the ground. Banana tree and other plants are abundant here because of high humidity and wind protection.
Once you enter this giant hole in the ground, it will make you feel like jungle. The vegetation, bones, water dripping. Overall, it looks like prehistoric house with the lounge room, two bedrooms, corridor to another bedroom, and much more rooms.
With the altitude of 507 metres above sea level, Maunga Terevaka is the highest volcano on Easter Island. Despite that, it’s the youngest one. And regarding my experience it’s also the windiest place. From Ahu Akivi it’s an easy hike and up you can enjoy panoramic view on the entire island.
“Eighth wonder were free-roaming wild horses.”
Rapa Nui glossary
Are you interested?
Read more about Easter Island.