What is Easter Island?

From: Easter Island Travel Guide

See also: Easter Island ToursEaster Island History

and: Where is Easter Island?

What is Easter Island?
Also known as Rapa Nui, this unique island is famed for its intriguing past and for its well known stone carved monoliths called Moai.

The triangular shaped island which covers an area of some 63.2 square miles is located in the South Pacific Ocean around 3600 kilometers from Chile and known as the most remote island on Earth.

What was once a fairly inaccessible place to visit has now thanks to the Mataveri airport become more and more accessible with regular flights from Chile and Tahiti.

Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where visitors can enjoy not only the Moai statues which can be found quite literally all around the island and number around 887. The Moai can be found in various forms of completion from the quarry where they were carved to the newly restored Moai standing prominent on their Ahu platforms with red Topknots proudly positioned on top.

Petroglyph's are also prominent around the island especially around the site of Orongo near the Ranu Kau volcano where artistic rock carvings of birdmen can be found. Birdmen formed a big part of the Rapa Nui culture at one time and involved competitors having to climb down the dangerous rocky cliffs to the shore and then swim across to the nearby islet of Motu Nui, there they would collect a bird egg and swim back across the treacherous waters, climb back up the cliff edge and present the egg to the King, in so doing the winner would have gained certain island rights.

Easter island is home to three large extinct volcanoes called Poike, Rano Kau and Terevaka. The views from these volcanoes is superb and you can also enjoy looking at the fresh water crater lakes which can be found at Terevaka and Rano Kau.

The coastline is rugged with jagged rocks practically all the way around. There are two sandy beaches at Anakeena and Ovahe where you can enjoy the tranquil setting surrounded by a scattering of Palm trees.

The main town and port is Hanga Roa which is located along the south western edge of the island and is the most inhabited part of the island. There are ample shops, markets, restaurants, hotels and the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum which is full of fascinating artefacts and information about the island.

Much about Easter Island remains a mystery, exactly what happened to the people that caused them to topple over the Moai statues and to the eventual destruction of what would have originally been a richly fertile island filled with plants and trees still remains unknown, it does however lead many to believe that they were indeed victims of their own success and that overpopulation of the island led to its ultimate demise, forcing the Rapa Nui population to have to fight for their own survival.

Events in history though also played a significant role in the islands history with outsiders causing severe damage to the population along with the Rapa Nui's own internal turmoil over the years affecting the island.

The island is now largely centered around the tourism industry with plenty of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops catering for the ever increasing numbers of intrepid travellers.