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Easter Island Travel Guide

Hotu Iti
Hotu Iti and the Poike Peninsula
viewed from Rano Raraku.

South Coast

Although many of the enigmatic statues (moai) are concentrated at moss-covered Rano Raraku (the statue quarry), they are found all around the island. Ninety-two important archaeological sites have been identified along the south coast alone. The stone walls seen at various places date from the English sheep ranch. The tour buses generally stop to visit the eight moai laying facedown at Ahu Vaihu, eight km east of Hanga Roa. The first king of the island, Hotu Matu'a, is buried at Ahu Akahanga, 3.5 km beyond Ahu Vaihu, where over a dozen toppled statues are seen.

The top sight on the island is certainly Rano Raraku, an extinct volcano 18 km east of Hanga Roa. The huge sculpture park here contains the island's most finely chiseled moai, including 70 standing on the inner or outer slopes of the crater and another 30 laying facedown on the ground. A kneeling statue called Tukuturi on the east side of Rano Raraku is unusual. In all, 397 moai are still at the quarry in various stages of completion, allowing one to study the process. A few of the unfinished moai still attached to the cliffs resemble the reclining Buddhas of Thailand; one unhewn giant measures 21.6 meters long. Work on the statues ended suddenly, and many were abandoned en route to their ahu.

From the summit of Rano Raraku, you can see clearly several dozen scattered along the ancient Ara O Te Moai, the Way of the Moai to the coast at Ahu Hanga Tetenga. Be aware that the quarry is usually crowded with tour groups around midday—if you arrive early or late you'll have this magical area all to yourself. A US$60 admission fee is charged which also covers other sites on the island.

After climbing Rano Raraku, continue to nearby Ahu Tongariki at Hotu Iti, 20 km from Hanga Roa. This site was ravaged by a huge tsunami in 1960 that tossed the 15 massive statues around like cordwood. In 1994 Chilean archaeologists reconstructed the 200-meter-long ahu and reerected the moai using an enormous crane donated by the Japanese crane manufacturer Tadano.

Some extraordinary petroglyphs of turtles and fish may be seen on the bedrock close to the ahu and at a nearby turn in the main road. The cliffs of the Poike Peninsula loom behind Ahu Tongariki.