The Mystery of Easter Island's Hidden Underground Caves
Easter Island was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions that created labyrinths of lava and curious caverns. Today, these spaces receive visits from a number of tourists and scientists.
Researchers have recorded close to 800 underground systems and mapped out more than 7,000 meters of caverns used by the island's people to hide from enemy tribes and safeguard bone needles, stone hooks, arrowheads and other objects.
The best way to visit the caverns is with the help of a local guide and a good flashlight.
North of Hanga Roa
, you'll find Caverna de las Dos Ventanas
, which is difficult to access and produces a bit of a claustrophobic sensation, but offers a terrific view of two islets via natural apertures (whose resemblance to windows gives the cave its name).
One of the largest and most popular caverns is Ana Te Pahu
. It offers a generous 150 meter-space that includes a garden that grows thanks to the rays of light that enter through a hole.
Another appealing option is Ana O Keke
, also known as the Cueva de las Virgenes. Rapa Nui women who planned to marry would stay in this space in the days leading up to the ceremony so that their skin would become lighter as a result of lack of exposure to the sun.
Near Ranu Kau Volcano, you'll find the Ana Kai Tangata
cavern, which looks out onto the sea from a cliff wall. This is one of the most impressive examples of caves because of its size and paintings that depict the Tangata Manu (the "birdman" of Rapa Nui tradition) in reddish and ochre hues.
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