You’ll need to go by car to get there, because the magnificent bay of Hatiheu is on the other side of the island from the main village of Taiohae. A captivating archeological site with a troubled past, where you’ll discover tohua, petroglyphs, tiki and much more besides.
There are countless historical and cultural sites in The Islands of Tahiti. Almost every island bears traces of the ancient civilization that once flourished in French Polynesia. One of the most important sites is in Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands. Take an excursion to the remarkable Hatiheu valley. It is next to the valley of Taipivai, which was the setting for Herman Melville’s novel, Taïpi. At Hatiheu, you’ll find many tiki, the volcanic stone scupltures that are emblems of French Polynesia, as well as petroglyphs, paepae stone platforms and other archeological remains. There is a sublime, white sandy beach in the bay, and some of the archeological remains are right next to it. There is also a wide choice of activities for you to try in the village, and the surrounding countryside is absolutely splendid.
Culture and history in Hatiheu
The valley of Hatiheu is in the north-west of the island. It is a mystical place, with a troubled past, rich in archeological remains. A few kilometers from the peaceful village, the Kamuihei archeological site is dominated by a massive banyan tree. It is one of the most important archeological sites in the Marquesas Islands, with paepae (stone platforms), tiki, me’ae (religious sites) and numerous petroglyphs etched into the rocks. It takes the best part of a day to explore this veritable open-air museum.
Another major archeological site in the valley of Hatiheu is Hikokua, named after an ancient tribal chief. There is a vast rectangular tohua (stone square) where ceremonies of all kinds were once held. Around the square there are paepae (stone platforms) which were for seating the public, several tiki, and some Christian graves from a later period. Impressive pitons, several hundred meters high, seem to keep watch over this mystical and mysterious valley. You can employ the services of a local villager, to be your guide. He’ll be able to describe the day to day lives of the ancient inhabitants and the significance of these vestiges of their civilization.
Other sites on the island of Nuku Hiva
There are many other archeological and historical sites for you to visit on the island of Nuku Hiva, such as the splendid Notre Dame Cathedral in the main village of Taiohae. The village is also an agreeable place to stroll around. You can admire the local arts and crafts on display in the shops, and enjoy views over the stunningly beautiful Taiohae Bay.
Nuku Hiva is an excellent destination for hiking. The bay of Anaho and the Vaipo waterfall are superb trails. The valley of Aakapa, with its cliffs and peaks, is a more challenging hike. In the north of the island, there’s a trail that leads to a statue of the Virgin Mary, erected on the 1,300 feet high summit of Mount Te Heu by a French Catholic missionary, Friar Michel Blanc.