Hiva Oa is the second biggest of the Marquesas Islands, after Nuku HIva. A 3 hour 45 minute flight from Tahiti takes you to Henua Enana, as the islands are called in the Marquesan language. Hiva Oa is a mystical land of tales and legends, charged with the spiritual force, Mana. It’s what causes the hair on your arms to stand up, when you visit Hiva Oa’s many cultural sites, such as Upeke and the tiki of Taaoa.
The tiki of Taaoa and the mystical Upeke archeological site are two visits that you certainly shouldn’t miss during your stay in the Marquesas Islands. Both of these important cultural sites are on the island of Hiva Oa, along with countless other traces of the ancient Marquesan civilization.
The Taaoa tiki and Upeke; emblematic sites in Hiva Oa
Along the east coast of Hiva Oa, in the valley of Taaoa, the Upeke archeological site is an extremely sacred place. It was once a very important ceremonial site and the forest that surrounds it adds to its hauntingly spiritual atmosphere. There are numerous tiki on the site, one of which is carved on a flat stone and measures 4 feet in height. Upeke offers visitors an insight into the ancient way of life of the people who lived on these islands. The tiki of Taaoa are stone statues sculpted by Polynesians nearly a thousand years ago. Takaii, at 2,57 meters, is the tallest tiki in The Islands of Tahiti, and can be found on the Lipona archeological site close to the village of Puamau. Tiki are are symbols of power, divinity, loyalty and protection and are admired for the precision of their designs.
The archeological site at Taaoa is one of 7 sites in the Marquesas Islands that have been selected to be classed as World Heritage Sites. This prestigious status reflects their importance for the Polynesian people and the the rest of the world, and the necessity of preserving them for future generations.
Hiva Oa: a voyage to the heart of the Marquesas Islands
You can catch a direct flight to Hiva Oa from Tahiti-Faa’a International Airport. There is a good choice of accommodation on the island from hotels to campsites. For a more authentic experience and an immersion in the daily life of the islanders, you can stay in one of the family run Tahitian Guesthouses.
There are many archeological sites in Hiva Oa apart from the tiki at Taaoa and Upeke. There are countless, lush green valleys on the island, most of which were once inhabited. In the main village of Atuona, you can visit the Paul Gauguin cultural center, which pays homage to the artist who passed the last years of his life on the island and is buried in the local cemetery.