Chile

Easter Island holidays

Moais in Ahu Tongariki, Easter island
© Anton Ivanov

This enigmatic isle, named after the day on which it was discovered by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, is home to some of the world’s most iconic figures. 887 magnificent stone statues, known as Moai, dot the landscape, standing as poignant memorials to the islanders’ ancient ancestors. Lying over 3,500 kilometres from the nearest continental land mass, the island’s second main attraction is its total and unrivalled remoteness.

Rapa Nui, as the island is known to the locals, has been the focus of huge intrigue and countless studies since the arrival of Europeans in 1722. Theories abound about many aspects of its fascinating past. The native population’s drastic decline from the estimated 15,000 who are thought to have been prosperous and resource rich as they built the Moai, to the mere 2,000 which remained when they were finally discovered by the wider world, has been variously attributed to rats, disease, deforestation, war and cannibalism.

The reasons for the Moai and the techniques used to create and transport them have also led to much debate. So to, has the story of the islanders’ origins – were they castaways from the Pacific islands to the west, or does the long standing dependence on the sweet potato in their diet indicate an influence from the South American continent to the east? These mysteries (along with some fairly outlandish possible explanations) have helped the island establish a reputation as a ‘must visit’ destination for those with an investigative streak and a curious mind. The consistently warm weather and stunning volcanic scenery help too.

Today the island, designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, is governed by Chile and is serviced by daily flights to and from the capital Santiago. It is an ideal add on for anyone visiting the other highlights of this magnificently diverse country.

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