Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile – 15 moai, once toppled, now back on their feet 2

From the peak of Rano Raraku (the decaying volcano that is the home of the astonishing Moai Quarry archaeological site) you have a view over the entire eastern promontory of Easter Island. A small bay cuts into the coastline about a kilometre from the peak. Next to the bay (one of the few natural harbours on rugged isle of Easter Island) lie the ruins of the village of Tongariki.

Ahu Tongariki

Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile

Ahu Tongariki, seen from the peak of Rano Raraku, Easter Island. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Little remains of Tongariki, apart from its moai, and the platform (called an ahu) upon which they stand. You can just make out the moai from the peak of Rano Raraku. There are fifteen of them in total, all standing in one line, their backs to the sea.

Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile

The ‘kneeling moai’ at Rano Raraku, with Ahu Tongariki in the background. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The smallest of the moai (those on the lefthand side of the uppermost photograph) are the oldest of the cluster, while the tallest of the moai (those on the righthand side of the same photo) are the most recently carved.

Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

In front of the moai of Tongariki I find three horses, all toffee brown in colour, their manes and forelocks whipping in the wind.

These are wild animals; there are plenty scattered around the island. They graze at will, in paddock, in wind-sculpted headland, and in archaeological site alike.

Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile

Ahu Tongariki. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The moai of Tongariki, like all the moai of Easter Island (barring those found within the Quarry), were deliberately toppled during a mysterious and much debated era in Easter Island’s history.

These moai, along with several other clusters on the island, have been put back on their feet so that we might marvel at them in their full glory.

Practical information and how to reach the Ahu Tongariki:

Easter Island is not the easiest of places to get to (it’s the most remotely inhabited location in the world excluding Antarctica) – unless you happen to live in Santiago, Chile, from where there are regular flights.

It’s a 30 minute drive from Hanga Roa (the capital city of Easter Island) to Tongariki. More transport info here.

Read more on Tongariki and Rapa Nui National Park in the UNESCO World Heritage listing.

More on Easter Island:

The Moai Quarry archaeological site – 397 moai on the side of a volcano

More on Chile:

San Pedro de Atacama – double rain shadow = hyper arid desert

Mount Villarrica – hike to top of 2840m volcano, take pic, toboggan down

More on South America:


Perito Moreno Glacier – 75 metre tall ice wall straight out of Game of Thrones

Cerro Torre, El Chaltén – mile-high spike of vertical, says John Krakauer


La Paz – at 3650m it’s the highest capital in the world. Also the most impractical?

Salar de Uyuni – 10,000km2 of salt; it’s the same size as Lebanon


Lopes Mendes Beach, Ihla Grande – former leper colony, now Brazil’s most beautiful beach

Iguazu Falls – is it the tallest waterfall? no. Most powerful? no. Greatest? yes!

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