Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile 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 land of rolling, grassy hills that come to a sudden end as they meet the sea. 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, just make out that there are fifteen of them, all standing in one line, with 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 first photo) are also the oldest. The tallest of the moai (those on the righthand side of the same photo) – including one that still has its topknot in place – are the most recently carved.

Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

When I arrived at Tongariki, I found there, loitering in front of the moai, their manes and forelocks whipping frenziedly in the wind, three horses; all toffee brown in colour.

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 Moai Quarry), were toppled during a mysterious era in Easter Island’s history that occurred sometime between the 18th to 19th Centuries. The moai at Tongariki – which, by the way, stand on the largest ahu on the island – have since been re-erected so that we might marvel at them in all their 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

More on Chile:

San Pedro de Atacama – driest desert in the world

Mount Villarrica – trek to the top of an active volcano

More on South America:


Perito Moreno Glacier – colossal ice wall

El Chaltén – meringue-like glaciers and jagged peaks


Salar de Uyuni – largest salt flats in the world

La Paz – highest capital city in the world


Iguazu Falls – greatest cascades on Earth

Ihla Grande – home to Brazil’s most beautiful beach

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