One of the remotest inhabited islands in the world, The Easter Island is stranded in the Pacific Ocean, and is one of the most intriguing destinations for tourists from around the globe. Despite its isolation from globalisation and modernisation, it is home to the wonderful Rapa Nui culture. It is famous for its mysterious 1000 giant stone figures that dot this volcanic Chilean island. The statues are called Moai, distinguished by its disproportionately large heads, which have earned them the more common term ‘Eastern Island Heads’. By Shubhanjana Das
This mysterious island is situated at a distance of a five-hour-long flight from Santiago in Chile via the LATAM Airways. The moment you step out of your car and explore the islands, the sense of acute remoteness of this place strikes you hard, and you slowly begin to try and understand the mystery of the place, if not unveil it.
Hanga Roa is a short drive from the airport and the only town in this volcanic island. Remember that there is no public transport here and one of the first things that you’ll have to do is look for a means of exploring the island. We suggest you hire a car but you can also opt between mountain bikes, scooters, jeeps, and even ATVs.
Head to Rano Raraku which is also known as the ‘nursery’ of the stone head Moai statues. When you reach, look closely and you will find statues partially carved out of the volcanic crater and others which are scattered across the field. 53 out of the 887 statues here were carved out of compressed volcanic ash back in the Stone Age, a mind boggling fact that archaeologists are still breaking their heads over. In fact, it was only recently in 2012 when archaeologists dug out the bodies of these Easter Island heads. Climb to the top of the crater at Rano Rararku to be prepared to enjoy a one-of-a-kind view.
Ahu Tongariki is considered the most photogenic Moai site in all of Easter Island. ‘Ahu’ is referred to the village burial sites, which have a stone platform with a sea-facing vertical wall. The statues face towards the island, and are believed to have been placed here by the Rapa Nui people who have a blend of Polynesian and Chilean descent. Archaeologists suggest that these statues are a representation of the Polynesian ancestors of the Rapa Nui people, which also joins dots with why the statues face the island and not the ocean – to exercise a watch over the people.
But, how did these ‘Easter Island Heads’ end up here in this island, popping out of the Pacific? That’s one question archaeologists have been pondering over since the 1940s. And, while there is some clarity, there are still bits of the puzzle which remain missing. The giant statues reach a whopping height of 21m.
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This small island has multiple locations to visit but, an overwhelming sense of mystery looms throughout as you make your way from one destination to the next. The best time to visit is during February when the annual Rapa Nui festival takes place, allowing the most comprehensive display of their unique culture, history, ancestry, traditions, and not to mention, the Moai.