Search for the meaning of ancient stone sculptures on this small island off Chile’s coast. When you’re not exploring history, enjoy splendid beaches.
Easter Island brings to mind history and mystery. See its giant moai, statues of elongated human-like figures carved from volcanic rock. They rest on stone platforms called ahus and some wear stone headdresses. Learn about the ancient people who created these pieces as well as the explorers who pondered over them centuries later.
The island has about 900 moai, many in and around the Rano Raraku Quarry, with lava from the Rano Raraku volcano. They range in size from about 3 feet (1 meter) to 70 feet (21 meters) tall. Ahu Tongariki has one of the most prestigious displays. As you gaze at these amazing statues, marvel at the primitive engineering that transported the heavy carvings more than 10 miles (16 kilometers) across the island. Archaeologists have determined how the islanders used ropes, logs and human energy to complete this work, but don’t know why.
Explore distinct cultural developments over the last 1,200 years. The date is still debated but experts believe the Polynesians arrived in about A.D. 300 and developed moai starting about 700 A.D. but later destroyed many to build larger ones. After resource depletion and a fierce civil war, the local population dramatically declined. Europeans arrived on Easter Sunday 1722, giving the island its current name. Chile annexed the island, also known as Rapa Nui, in 1888 for sheep farming. Today tourism is the key industry.
Besides its historical significance, Easter Island offers very pleasant South Pacific beach vacation conditions. Travel to Anakena Beach on the northern shore to swim in azure waters the color of lapis lazuli gemstones, laze on the soft white sands under the shade of coconut palms or try bodysurfing. Gaze at the Ahu Nau Nau, with moai that are in exceptional condition after they were buried here in the sand for centuries.
Reach Easter Island by flying from Santiago, Chile, to Mataveri International Airport in the main city of Hanga Roa. Rent a four-wheel drive or use taxis to get around. Join a tour for best moai access and information.