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Photo by Julie Francis

For a 5 Day Stay, We Recommend

Photo by Julie Francis

Photo by Paul Horley

Photo by Hilary Scothorn

Day One

 

Head by car to the statue quarry, Rano Raraku as early as possible. Take lots of water and some lunch. Do not stop along the way to see the many sites you will pass along the south coast road, but go directly to the quarry. To be there early means that you may have this incredible site all to yourselves, at least for a time. There is an entrance fee to Rano Raraku; save your ticket as it can also be used to enter the site of ‘Orongo (each site may be visited once with the same ticket). Fees are collected to help with maintenance and preservation of all the sites on the island.

Nearly 400 statues are found at the quarry and many of them are still attached to the matrix of the rock where they lie unfinished. A trail leads around the outside slopes, and heads over to a vista point where of the interior of the crater can be seen. At the top of the highest point are holes in the rock that were early devices for braking the statues during the process of lowering them from the bedrock. In order to preserve the statues and the environment of the interior of Rano Raraku, access is prohibited.

It is possible to spend an entire day here, but if you find yourself on overload, leave around noon, and stop to picnic at the base of the hill, near the Ranger’s house, in a grove of eucalyptus trees (just west of the entrance to the quarry site).

After lunch, visit Tongariki, slightly to the east of the quarry and clearly visible from the road. Here there are 15 standing statues, plus some elegant petroglyphs.

You can now head back along the south coast road, stopping along the way at the numerous sites that are visible from the road. Among these are Akahanga and Vaihu. Note the fallen statues visible from the road, lying where they fell during transport.

That evening, try dinner at Playa Pea, just across from the soccer field and overlooking the bay. They have good food, and be sure to order a pisco sour first. This is a good place to watch the sunset and some hardy surfers trying to catch the perfect wave.

Photo by Marla Wold

Day Two

 

Take the road south through the village and uphill to the ceremonial site of ‘Orongo and stop in at the visitor/interpretive center. There is a fee to enter Orongo; save your ticket as it can also be used to enter Rano Raraku (each site can be visited once with the same ticket). At ‘Orongo you will see stone houses that sheltered those participating in the ancient birdman ritual. Follow along to the narrowest point on the cliff where there is an astonishing petroglyph site, the most sacred place at ‘Orongo. Here is where the priests chanted and prayed, and likely worked on the petroglyphs. Note the famous birdman motif: half frigate bird and half human.

Drive downhill to see the site of Vinapu, with its two massive ahu. The first one you come to has beautifully carved basalt blocks.

Then return to town and head for the restored site of Tahai, just north of the village and the island cemetery. This is walking distance from the village. Tahai has three ahu, boathouse foundations, cave shelters, a boat ramp, and statues. Tahai provides a glimpse of what a ceremonial area must have been like in ancient times. Each ahu was used for a different type of ceremony; priests lived in the hare paenga houses, and rituals took place in the plaza area in front of the shrines. The site was restored by anthropologist William Mulloy, whose ashes are interred at a small memorial at the site.

Continue north and visit the Museo Antropologico P. Sebastian Englert (MAPSE), the red roofed structure with a fence around the property. The exhibits change from time to time, but the museum has special artifacts on display, including the only intact coral eye ever found. There is also an excellent gift ship on site where books and other items can be purchased.

Photo by Marla Wold

Photo by Julie Francis

Above Photos by Paul Horley

Photo by Caroline Pupule

Photo by Hilary Scothorn

Day Three

 

Today, take the road out of town, but turn north at the sign saying Ahu Akivi. This road will lead you to the seven statues standing on their ahu, also restored by Mulloy. Leaving Akivi, head west along a dirt road. You will pass many interesting features including manavai caves; these are on the south side of the road and can be identified by watching for trees growing up out of the openings. These sunken gardens supplied islanders with a sheltered place to grow food, and the caves were living places for islanders during warfare. If you want to explore the caves, be extremely careful take a flashlight. You may wish to hire a guide.

At the end of the road where it turns south, you will see Ahu Tepeu. Walk down and explore the two ahu, fallen statues and note the enormous hare paenga (boat house foundation) just uphill on the right as you walk toward the ahu. It is the largest on the island. At this point, go south and the road will take you back to the museum area and the village.

Photo by Paul Horley

Photo by Julie Francis

Day Four

Head across the island, past Vaitea, the old sheep ranch headquarters, to ‘Anakena (above). Here is a stunning beach with white sand, three ahu with statues, petroglyphs, a grove of coconut palms, and super swimming. Bring your swimsuit! This site is ideal for a picnic. If you want a more intimate beach, a short drive eastward takes you to Ovahe, a secluded cove with a beautiful pink sand beach. No archaeological sites here, but great swimming.

Return to the village along the east coast road, going south from ‘Anakena and Ovahe. Stop at Te Pito Kura to see the largest statue ever moved, then to Ahu Ra’ai with its elegant petroglyphs (on the island side of the road; a turnout for parking indicates the location). Continue south to see the huge ahu at Heki’i, and others that line the road. You can continue onward and return along the south coast road.

Photo by Caroline Pupule

Photo by Paul Horley

Photo by Julie Francis

Photo by Kay Sanger

Day Five

If you are adventurous and in good shape, you can hike around the north coast of the island, or hire a guide. This is a wild and unsettled part of the island, windswept hills, ruins of ahu and fallen statues. There are two trails, a lower and a higher one, but no roads. Take plenty of water and lunch. There is no water available to drink along the way. You can have a taxi take you to the trailhead north of the village, and arrange to be picked up at ‘Anakena in five or six hours. The actual distance can be walked in less time, but not if you stop to see the wonderful sites along the way. You can take a quick swim at ‘Anakena before going back to town.

This afternoon would be a good time to visit the market and shops in the village to look for the perfect souvenir of your visit. You may opt for a wood or stone carving, a pareu, a shirt with local designs, or a shell necklace.

End your stay with a super dinner; celebrate with an elegant bottle of good Chilean wine, and plan for your return trip to this most magical of islands.

Photo by Paul Horley