A magic environment in one of the most remote archipelagos of the planet
Lush, high islands emerge from the Pacific Ocean, where golden rays of light filter through the clouds suspended on sharp mountainous peaks, drawing an unreal and subtle ambience. This is a land of history and legend, as fascinating as it is unforgettable: welcome to a magic environment – “The Land of Men”, the Marquesas Islands.
One of the most remote archipelagos from any continent, it is located 1,500 km northeast of Tahiti, spread over 12 islands of which only 6 are inhabited. In Hiva Oa, visitors will discover monumental tiki and follow in the footsteps of the famed French artist Paul Gauguin and the Belgian actor, poet and singer, Jacques Brel. Both are buried in Atuona’s cemetery. Opposite the island, Tahuata is a small paradise island sheltering a population of local handicraft experts. In Nuku Hiva, one may explore Taipivai’s bay and valley, Melville’s and Hatiheu bay, for which Robert Louis Stevenson fell in love. Ua Huka, the driest of all, is also named “the island of horses” whereas in Ua pou, huge volcanic rocks and columns overlook the island. Discover Hanavave Valley in Fatu Hiva and the Bay of Virgins, one of the most stunning bays on Earth. Although all very different, these islands have much in common: their beauty. They all feature spectacular landscapes, untouched and of a unique rich culture, treasures and mysteries.
Since the late 1970s, there is a strong cultural renewal all around these islands. Indeed, the cradle of Polynesian art lies in the heart of these rugged landscapes as Marquesans are taking ownership again of their songs, dances, carvings, handicrafts and tattoos. Nowadays, pahu (large drums) can still be heard in the valleys and Tuhuna, skilled and knowledgeable craftsmen, are more talented and in greater numbers than ever.
NUKU HIVA (the mystical island)
The vertiginous volcanic peaks and amazing slopes of Nuka Hiva contrast starkly with the blue of the Pacific Ocean: a special universe opens its doors. The starting point of one’s adventure is Taioha’e, the archipelago’s regional capital, opening at the end of a large bay holding the same name. Outstanding landscapes, an incredible archaeological history, great stories and a rich culture are all to be discovered alongside a friendly population. Framed by looming cliffs, the coastline is a mix of black sand beaches and paradise-like bays. Among the lush rainforest, where thousands of pre-European remnants lie, one will discover wild horses, goats and boars.
HIVA OA (the island of Gaugin)
According to legend, Hiva Oa is the main beam of Gods’ “big house”. Nowadays, it is commonly named the “Garden of the Marquesas” thanks to its fertile and lush land. The island features endless untouched nature, as roads and houses are rarely seen. The island’s rugged landscapes blend with sharp ridges. Peaks and valleys scattered with archaeological sites and ruins, are home to the largest tiki statues of French Polynesia. Hiva Oa is lined with black sand beaches and sharp cliffs diving into the Pacific Ocean. This was the place where two famous artists chose to live their lives: the French painter Paul Gauguin and the Belgian poet, singer and actor, Jacques Brel. For Gauguin, it was at the beginning of the 20th century, while for Brel, it was in the 1970’s, but both were here in a quest for what could be referred to as “personal inner-peace”. Nobody knows if they ever found it but every morning, as the sun rises, the light over the island is breathtakingly pure, so pure that one feels part of eternity. This is an unspeakable feeling that every traveller will experience.
UA POU (Following the ancestors’ footsteps)
Ua Pou symbolises the entrance pillars to God’s house. Huge basaltic columns reaching the sky and holding the names of legendary warriors: Poutetaunui and Poumaka. In 1888, they inspired poet Robert Louis Stevenson, who mentioned them as “volcanic arrows looking like a church bell tower”. They proudly overlook the bay of Hakahau village, the main village on the island.
UA HUKA (nature and culture)
Ua Huka symbolises the “food basket” at God’s house and features more untouched beauty and is renowned for its dry soil and landscapes. Wild horses gallop as far as the eye can see around this desert-coloured land. Goats climb up on the island’s high peaceful and mystical plains. Ua Huka invites the traveller to discover a secluded universe, where the island’s ancestors are not just a part of the past but still very much part of the islanders’ every-day life.