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Marquesas Islands: the wildest islands of Polynesia

The Marquesas Islands are the part of French Polynesia closest to the equator. In fact they are located between 8 ° and 11 ° latitude south of the equator, and about 1,400 km north east of Tahiti, their longitude is between 141 ° and 137 ° west. The archipelago is made up of a group of mountainous and wild volcanic islands, which have a total area of 997 sq km and just over nine thousand inhabitants. The main islands are eleven, of which only six are inhabited today. These islands are rich in dramatic shaped peaks and reach their maximum height with Mount Oave (1,230 meters) on the island of Ua Pou.

This archipelago is the most spectacular and remote of those that make up French Polynesia. They are islands of volcanic origin dominated by high lava peaks, the highest of which exceed 1,000 meters. The Marquesas are one of the little known jewels of French Polynesia. Unlike the others in French Polynesia, these islands are not protected by a coral reef and do not have a lagoon. Their coasts are mainly characterized by rugged and steep basaltic cliffs that plunge into the intense blue of the Pacific ocean.


The islands were discovered in 1595 by the Spanish navigator and explorer Álvaro de Mendaña y Neira. The discoverer called them islands of “Las Marquesas de Mendoza” in honor of his protector, the viceroy of Peru, García Hurtado de Mendoza y Manrique, marquis of Cañete. The Polynesian name of the archipelago is “Te Fenua Enata” (“the land of men”). The French painter Paul Gauguin and the Belgian singer Jacques Brel spent the last years of their lives in the Marquesas, and are buried here.

The Marquesas are generally divided into two groups to the south are the islands of Fatu Hiva (84 sq km, 587 inhabitants), Tahuata (61 sq km, 671 inhabitants), Hiva Oa (316 sq km, 1,986 inhabitants), Mohotani (15 sq km, uninhabited) and the islet of Fatu Huku (1 sq. km, uninhabited). The most important island of this group is the island of Hiva Oa where the town of Atuona is located, which is also the burial place of Paul Gauguin.

The northern group consists of the islands of Ua Pou (105 sq km, 2,157 inhabitants), Ua Huka (83 sq km, 571 inhabitants), Nuku Hiva (387 sq km, 2,660 inhabitants) and the uninhabited Eiao (43.8 sq km, uninhabited), Hatutu (6.5 sq km, uninhabited), Motu Iti and the small sandy island of Motu One. The capital and main administrative center of the Marquesas Islands is the village of Taiohae on the island of Nuku Hiva.


The islands of Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou and Ua Huka are connected by Air Tahiti flights with Tahiti (3 hours flight) and between them. All other islands are connected only by cargo. An interesting alternative to visit the Marquesas islands is the cruise on the Aranui cruise / cargo ship, a truly unforgettable experience.

  • Surface: 1,049 sq km
  • Population: 9,000 inhabitants

The climate of the Marquesas islands.


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