5 Ways to Explore Easter Island
More than 2,300 miles from the coast of Chile lies Rapa Nui, also known by its English name, Easter Island. This tiny parcel of land may be just 63 square miles in size, but it’s overflowing with incredible ancient lore and mystery. Rapa Nui is the home of 887 moai, the famous carved stone heads built by the Polynesian peoples who originally settled the island between A.D. 700 and 1100.
Visitors to Rapa Nui feel like they are in a different land, far from other countries and cultures. Volcanic craters adorned with moai create amazing vistas, while white-sand beaches present exhilarating diving and surfing opportunities. One airline runs flights into and out of the island from Chile, of which Rapa Nui is a territory, though there are also flights available from Tahiti. Private-guided tours are the preferred way to explore the wonders of Rapa Nui.
Ready to get away from it all? Here are five things you must do during your tour of Easter Island:
See the Incredible Moai
You’ve likely seen pictures of the so-called Easter Island “heads” – though in recent years they were discovered to have bodies – but nothing compares to seeing them in person. It’s a truly humbling experience to hike the side of a volcanic crater on Rapa Nui and gaze up at the imposing stone statues. The moai are important spiritual emblems of the the island’s original inhabitants.
According to historians, when they arrived on Rapa Nui after a long boat journey, they were greeted by 16 million trees and ample fish, birds and other sources of food. The settlers were gracious for these abundant resources, and erected the moai as signs of gratitude to the gods that granted them such gifts. That is why the moai face inland – they are watching over the island.
Hike Rugged Trails
While Rapa Nui was covered with trees thousands of years ago, their numbers began to dwindle over time, possibly due to deforestation. Today, there are hardly any trees on the island, yet the landscape still maintains a magnificent rugged, otherworldly aura that truly makes you feel like you are thousands of miles away from other civilizations. There are many hiking opportunities on Easter Island, though the many local regulations mean that it is best to follow a private tour and stick to the designated trails.
Visit Natural Bathing Pools
If you’re visiting Rapa Nui during the summer – December through February – cool off in the island’s sparkling natural bathing pools. Nestled along the coast, these glimmering pools beckon travelers and locals alike with Rapa Nui’s famous clear blue waters. For ultimate leisure, relax on the shore of Anakena, a beautiful white-sand beach, or the less well-known Ovahe, a hidden gem.
View Archeological Sites
Rapa Nui has an intriguing, dramatic history, and you can delve into this past by visiting its several archeological sites. Head to the important stone structure Ahu Te Pito Kura, which means “The Navel of the World.” Here, a large egg-like stone rests in the center of a circle, surrounded by four smaller stones and then a circle of rocks. According to legend, King Hotu Matua brought the center stone to the island around A.D. 450, and it’s believed to give off spiritual power, or mana. Another interesting archeological site to visit is Orongo, an ancient ceremonial village located on the southwestern region of the island.
Peek Inside a Volcano
Ancient volcanoes give Rapa Nui a unique and imposing landscape. On your expert guided tour, hike up Rano Kau, an extinct volcano, and then make your way down to the center of the crater, where an stunning and primordial lake can be found. You should also make your way to Rano Raraku, another volcanic crater that features many imposing moais of various sizes that peek out of the ground – including one 21 meters long.