People Love Visiting Easter Island, but Not for Bunnies and Egg Hunts
Easter will be arriving this Sunday, April 1, and you might soon find yourself coming across a remote island that shares a name with the holiday.
The Polynesian Easter Island has little to do with the holiday besides the origins of the name we've come to call it today, but the location offers a fascinating history and attractions that are worth a visit all on their own.
The island is famous today for its close to 1,000 ancient and massive stone statues known as moai (often called Easter Island Heads) that dot its terrain, creating a mesmerizing open-air museum for visitors to enjoy.
Polynesian settlers who came to the island as early as 300 A.D. created the wide scope of monuments, building shrines and the large Easter Island statues from the 10th to the 16th century, without any influence from outside cultures, according to UENSCO.
An estimated 900 of these head statues are located within the Rapa Nui National Park, which makes up about 40 percent of the island. The national park is also home to 300 ceremonial platforms and thousands of structures showcasing the agricultural and housing traditions of the Rapa Nui people.
Besides their sheer size, with some standing at heights of 65 feet, the statues are impressive to admire considering they were carved from lava tuff using picks made out of hard basalt, according to UNESCO. Statues range from being fully carved to still remaining in the process of creation.
The island was isolated from the outside world until Dutch explorers landed on the island on Easter Day in 1772, naming it Paaseiland, or Easter Island. Chile eventually annexed the island in the 19th century, after a tumultuous history that included civil war, with the island standing today as a tourism hotspot despite its remote location.
In addition to its architectural gems, the island is home to pink-sand beaches, expansive grasslands, a variety of volcanic cones, and prime opportunities for diving, surfing, and hiking.
The area’s vast natural landscape can be explored by foot, mountain bike, or on horseback. You can viisit locations like Rano Kau, which is the largest volcanic crater on the island and hosts a freshwater lagoon, and Anakena Beach, where you can go for a dip before indulging in local specialties that include tuna empanadas and poe (a sweet pudding made with pumpkin and flour).
Getting to the island will require some planning. At the moment, the only airline that flies into Easter Island is LATAM, which is headquartered in Santiago and requires that flyers depart out of Chile.
The flight from Santiago to Haga Roa, the island’s capital, will take you five-and-a-half-hours. Another option is to visit the island as part of a cruise itinerary.