Perched on the edge of the gigantic Rano Kau crater, the long-abandoned village of Orongo is suspended between two wildly contrasting landscapes. To one side lies the murky crater lake and barren lava fields of an ancient volcano; to the other, the bright blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, dotted with the tiny isles of Motu Nui, Motu Iti and Motu Kau Kau.
Believed to have been used from the late 1600s until the mid 1800s, Orongo was a ceremonial village of the Rapa Nui people, used solely during the annual Tangata Manu, or Birdman Ceremony. Renowned as one of the islanders’ most important events, the ceremony was held in honor of the god Make-Make and included a competition in which villagers paddled out to the neighboring isle of Motu Nui to steal a prized manutara egg and swim back to shore.
Today, visitors can still view a series of petroglyphs honoring the cult of the birdman around the village and also explore the well-preserved ruins of Orongo, home to about 48 low-lying oval stone houses.
Orongo Village is located on the southwestern tip of Easter Island, about five miles (8 km) south of Hanga Roa, and it’s possible to drive or climb the hill to the village. The entrance fee to the Rapa Nui National Park is $60 for all non-Chileans (payable on arrival to the island) and includes entrance to Orongo Village.