The southwestern corner of the island boasts stunning landscapes and some important archaeological sites – the ceremonial village of Orongo, stone work at Vinapú and Rano Kau Crater.
Orongo is a restored ceremonial village with awesome clifftop views. Like Rano Raraku quarry this site is limited to one visit. Unlike the quarry I had no reason to try a second. Open until 8 p.m. during our stay (be sure to check hours as they change) we decided on a late visit hoping for better light and to avoid the morning crowds. This turned out to be a good choice in both regards.
This was a seasonal and ceremonial site as it was an impractical to live here permanently as it was too far from the sea to catch fish, their main food source.
The guide book suggests spending some time here which we were prepared to do but there isn’t that much to see here. It’s a stunning setting. Restored stacked-stone houses built in the grass lands overlooking the deep blue sea on one side at the Rano Kau Crater on the other.
Nevertheless the path around the complex can’t take 15 minutes to walk. We went around twice and spent some time contemplating the environment and were still done in less than an hour. If you want the face of the boathouses lit afternoon light is best.
Bird Man Competition
Be sure to read about the bird man competition in the guidebook for a better understanding and perspective on the site. The short version is every year they had a competition to decide which tribal chief would be head chief. Each chief would pick a representative from his tribe to compete.
When the Sooty Terns started to nest on the small island off this end of the island, the competitors swam out to the island to retrieve an egg. The representative that got the first egg back to the main island un-broken earned his chief the position of head chief for the year.
Rano Kau Crater
On the road to Orongo is the viewpoint for the Rano Kau Crater with views into the crater and out to the sea. We stopped by here late morning after visiting Vinapú (see below).
Vinapú – Late Morning Visit
Vinapú is known for the stone work in the platform which has been compared to that of the Incas. While similar in appearance the guidebook notes that the stonework here is a thick façade rather than large stones set together as at Inca sites. The façade is lit in the morning and remains lit for a good part of the day.
We arrived at Vinapú around 10:30 and encountered a couple of small tour groups. They left before us and we had the site mostly to ourselves.
March 18, 2018
See the Easter Island page for an outline of all the posts in this series and our complete day by day itinerary.