After a few short days on Easter Island, I left feeling a) reluctant to leave and b) completely in awe at all the history, culture and tradition I had soaked up in these past few days. Mysterious and cryptic, the remnants of the island’s famed statues have left a trail that archeologists continue to marvel over and tourists arrive by the planeload to see. But the history is just one facet of the island – the people, contemporary island life culture and jaw-dropping scenery are often overlooked by those planning a trip to the island. However once here, it’s a combination of all of the above that will leave you talking about Rapa Nui for years to come.
Easter Island – An Introduction
As one of the most famous archeological sites in the world, due to it’s remote geographical positioning, Easter Island is still one of the least visited – but that too is quickly changing.
Easter Island is located in the Pacific Ocean, approx. 3600 kilometres (or a 5 hour plane trip) from the coast of Chile, whom own and govern the island. While most tourists arrive via this route, you can also fly into Rapa Nui from Tahiti – but those would be your only two options. It is 63 square miles in size with 3 extinct volcanoes, but technically the island itself is one massive volcano rising from the Pacific Ocean floor.
Easter Island History
- The oldest known names of Easter island are Te Pito o Te Henua, (‘The Center of the World’) and Mata-Ki-Te-Rani, (‘Eyes Looking at Heaven’).
- Tahitian sailors gave the island the name Rapa Nui in the 1860s, meaning ‘Great Rapa,’ due to its resemblance to another island in Polynesia called Rapa Iti, meaning ‘Little Rapa’.
- The island received its current name, Easter Island, from the Dutch sea captain Jacob Roggeveen who was the first European to visit on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722.
The Moai Statues
Maybe your ideas of Easter Island prior to reading this article were as limited as mine, maybe not. But I’ll be the first to admit that I have long associated Easter Island with the moai statues, yet have never taken the time to learn their purpose or origins. As it turns out, it’s still considered to somewhat of a mystery.
My guide (Vai from Explora) did however give me all the information available and it was truly fascinating to hear the history of the island and these statues. At least 288 of the moai statues were once standing, with a further 600 spread across the island in various locations and in various stages of completion. Nearly all of the moai were carved from the hard stone of the Rano Raraku volcano on the island and transported to various locations from there. The statues vary in size, though it is estimated 50-150 people were needed to transport each statue – to give some kind of idea as to how big + heavy these are!
The average moai statue is 14 feet 6 inches and weighs 14 tons though they were a number of larger statues as well.
Visiting Easter Island
One thing seems to be certain, the mysteries and intrigue of the island are captivating… but its the moai that attract oodles of tourists, a number that is rising each year.
If you want an all-incllusive, no hassle, everything-done-for-you luxury stay, I can strongly recommend Explora Rapa Nui. Here you will find all your expenses are included – National Park fees, round-trip airport transfers, food, alcohol, professional guides… the list goes on. Otherwise, there are a range of other accommodations on offer on the island as well as rental cars – just be sure to do your research in advance!
In addition to this post I will have a full review of my Explora experience coming shortly!