Mangareva, with a population around 1,000, is the farthest island from Tahiti (1,033 mi away) and virtually the only inhabited one. It's certainly the only one with tourist accommodations. Pearl farming is the primary industry and there's a farm in the lagoon.

About 5 mi long and less than 3 mi wide, the island's steep-sided and strikingly terraced with two main peaks, Mt. Duff (1,444 feet [440 meters]) and Mt. Mokoto 129 feet (423 meters). It shares a lagoon with five small islands, the largest of which are Aukena, Akamaru, and Taravai. A string of motu and a coral reef—measuring some 64 km (40 mi) in circumference—surrounds the lagoon.

A cradle of Catholicism in the Pacific, Mangareva has several remains of religious buildings dating from the mid-1800s. The altar at Saint Michel Cathedral, in the village of Rikitea, is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and studded with black pearls.

Things have changed little in the past 100 years or so; today the small town of Rikitea has just a few small grocery stores, one café (which is really a grocery store selling sandwiches), a post office, medical center and the cathedral. There's no bank, though there is an ATM. As only one of the four pensions on the island accepts credit cards, it is wise to bring adequate cash.

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