Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands is the third biggest island in French Polynesia. Known as the Garden of the Marquesas Islands because of its lush vegetation, it is a land of rugged mountains and steep cliffs, with beaches of black sand and some of white sand. It is also a destination of pilgrimage for admirers of the artist Paul Gauguin and the singer Jacques Brel, both of whom are buried in the local cemetery. Hiva Oa is a place of much archeological interest with many tiki, paepae and other vestiges of its ancient civilization, as you will discover on our suggested itinerary for a four day break on the island.
Start your first day with a stroll around the island’s main village, Atuona. You’ll find the local population extremely friendly and you can admire the famous Marquesan craftsmanship in the craft workshops: pāreu with traditional Marquesan designs, sculptures in wood or bone and local produce such as Marquesan honey. You have a superb view from the village of mount Temetiu, the island’s highest peak which rises to 3,979 feet.
A tale of two artists
Two world famous artists chose to end their days on the island of Hiva Oa. Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel are both buried in the Calvaire cemetery in Atuona. You can admire some of Gauguin’s paintings in the Paul Gauguin cultural center and visit the ‘Maison du Jouir’ where the artist lived. The Espace Jacques Brel is a photographic exhibition in the big aircraft hangar where you can also see the singer’s light aircraft ‘Jojo’. You are welcome to go up to the cemetery to pay your last respects at the gravesides of these two influential artists. End the day with a stroll down to the beach to admire the beautiful sunset.
There is just one dive center on the island, Marquises Diving, and they’ll be able to take you to some superb dive sites. Archeological remains, astonishing fauna and the chance to swim with melon-headed whales, hammerhead sharks and rays of all kinds and sizes.
Hiva Oa is a thrilling place to go horseback riding. Your guide will lead you along mountain ridges, through woodlands and across vast stretches of open countryside. There are more than a dozen trails you can take, depending on your riding ability. Don’t forget to take your camera with you, because some of the views are simply breathtaking.
One of the best hiking trails is to the valley of Hanaiapa and the Vaipo waterfall. Your guide will lead you to some magnificent scenic viewpoints and teach you much about the flora and fauna of the Marquesas Islands. He’ll also tell you some of the tales and legends that make Hiva Oa such a magical place.
Take a four-wheel drive excursion tour of the islands and visit some of the main cultural sites. Stop at the village of Puamau to see the Pekekea site where two huge tiki stand guard over the tomb of Queen Vahinetitoiani. Continue on to Lipona, which is a vast archeological site that is considered to be the most important in the Marquesas Islands. Your guide will also take you to the valley of Taaoa and the ceremonial center Upeke, which is a place of great importance in Marquesan mythology. This tour is a voyage back in time to the days of the ancient Marquesan civilization.
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Fakarava, Marquesas Islands, Rangiroa, Tahiti
Fakarava, Marquesas Islands, Other Tuamotu Islands, Rangiroa, Tahiti