It’s located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean…seemingly in the middle of nowhere. And that’s probably why Easter Island garners quite a lot of mystique. This Chilean island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is most known for its intriguing monolithic statues. And while theses icons of Easter Island (called moai) are a huge tourist draw, the island itself has plenty of other mysterious elements to discover.
Easter Island is also known as Rapa Nui. It’s considered a Polynesian island and is located some 2,300 miles from Chile’s coast. That makes it one of the most isolated locations in the world. Three extinct volcanoes can be found at each of the island’s three corners. And its sandy beaches often take a beating from the rough Pacific surf. If you’re planning a trip to Easter Island, keep in mind that it’s only accessible by air from Santiago, Chile and Tahiti.
What makes Easter Island such an interesting place to visit? Most likely it’s the island’s rich history and cultural significance. And a lot of that comes from the imposing carved moai monoliths that can be found throughout the island. Easter Island also gives important insight into what overpopulation and overconsumption can do to a society. That’s because the island’s early inhabitants weren’t able to sustain their communities due to many environmental factors, including over-fishing, deforestation, and erosion of farmable lands.
So what can you expect to discover while visiting Easter Island? Here’s a look at a few suggestions to consider while roaming around this historic Polynesian destination…
Moai Spotting at Rano Raraku National Park
So what exactly is a moai? They are those large stone statues with seemingly human faces that Easter Island is famous for. Chances are you’ve seen pictures of them before. They’re pretty iconic. It’s thought that they were made to help protect the villages and ward off invaders.
These monolithic statues are thought to have been carved between 1,250 and 1500 AD. Rano Raraku National Park is one of the best places to see the moais. It was the main quarry used by the island’s inhabitants for the statues. And the cool thing about the park is that you’ll be able to see statues in various stages of development.
Check Out the Iconic Moais at Ahu Tongariki
Tongariki is another Easter Island icon. It’s famous for its fifteen moai statues that stand next to each other in a line formation. The statues were swept inland due to a tsunami in the 20th century but were later restored. This is where you’ll find the heaviest monolith…weighing in at 86 tonnes! You can find Tongariki in the Rapa Nui National Park. It’s located in the Hotu-iti area.
Decipher Ancient Petroglyphs at Papa Vaka
Petroglyphs are motifs and designs carved into rocks. And Easter Island definitely has its fair share of them! The archaeological site of Papa Vaka is the best destination to go to for checking out the intriguing petroglyths of Easter Island’s ancient inhabitants.
The petroglyphs mainly depict scenes having to do with the sea like fishing, marine animals, and canoes. The petroglyphs at Papa Vaka have several viewing platforms and informative signs to help figure out what the symbols mean. Petroglyphs can also be found throughout the island if you’re interested. Orongo, Tangata, and Ana Kai are some other sites to explore aside from Papa Vaka.
Hike Up the Terevaka Volcano
Terevaka Volcano is the tallest volcano on Easter Island it stands at 507 feet above sea level. Easter Island isn’t a mountainous island. The volcanoes are its tallest peaks. Hiking to the top of Terevaka will give you some pretty amazing panoramic views of Easter Island.
If hiking and trekking is your thing, you can also hike to the top of the Ranu Kau volcanic caldera. It’s located in Orongo and also gives hikers beautiful panoramic views of the island. At this location you can also check out the remnants of the ceremonial center and stone village that was once the town of Rapa Nui.
Relax at Anakena Beach
Easter Island isn’t exactly known for its beaches. Much of the coastline is volcanic and rocky. Anakena Beach is an exception though. It has a white sand beach with plenty of coconut palms to give you a tropical paradise feel. The waters here are clear and great for snorkeling. And of course…there are a few moai statues around to look after you while you sunbathe.
Go Cave Exploring Throughout the Island
Easter Island has a pretty impressive network of caves. Several of them can be visited on your own. So if you’re feeling adventurous, this is definitely a cool way to discover hidden treasures around the island. Some may be hard to find. Others are more easily accessible and fun to explore. Check out the Ana Kakenga cave, which has an opening looking towards the sea for some excellent views.
Easter Island isn’t very big. So a great way to explore it is by bicycle. The island can be biked in an entire day. And it’s a great way to see the islands sites while getting some great exercise. No matter how you decide to explore it though, Easter Island definitely has some great things to see and discover!