Orongo Ceremonial Village

Top choice area in Southwest Circuit

Nearly covered in a bog of floating totora reeds, the crater lake of Rano Kau resembles a giant witch's cauldron and is a wild greenhouse of endemic biodiversity. Perched 300m above, on the edge of the crater wall on one side and abutting a vertical drop plunging down to the cobalt-blue ocean on the other side, Orongo Ceremonial Village boasts one of the South Pacific's most dramatic landscapes. It overlooks several small motu (offshore islands), including Motu Nui, Motu Iti and Motu Kao Kao.

Built into the side of the slope, the houses have walls of horizontally overlapping stone slabs, with an earth-covered arched roof of similar materials, making them appear partly subterranean. Orongo was the focus of an islandwide 'birdman cult' linked to the god Makemake in the 18th and 19th centuries. Birdman petroglyphs are visible on a cluster of boulders between the cliff top and the edge of the crater.

Orongo is either a steepish climb or a short scenic drive 4km from the center of town.

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