Easter Island Attractions
Evidence suggests the first Polynesians arrived on Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui or Isla Pascua) around 800 AD. It was first "discovered" by Europeans in 1722.
The Dutch mariner Admiral Jacob Roggeveen landed on the island on Easter Day, thus naming it Easter Island.Although the history of the island is the subject of some debate it is generally thought that as the islands population grew, clans developed and eventually battled each other over the limited resources of the island. There is evidence of stronger and weaker clans, suggesting one group controlled most of the resources. Estimates of the island's maximum population in the early 1800s range from 4,000 to 20,000. The total area of the island is only 117sq.km/72.5sq.mi.It is thought that the moai (stone statues for which the island is well known) were the pride of the individual clans who made them. As a result of the tribal warfare, many of the moai were damaged when clans would vandalize moai of other clans.In the mid 1800s, the island was recognized by Europe and North America as a prime "resource" for slaves and many of the islanders were captured and taken from the island. In 1862, on a particularly large raid, approximately 1,000 islanders were taken by Peruvian slavers to harvest guano on the Chincha Islands. After some international outrage over the event, Peru agreed to return them to Easter Island. However, most of them had already been killed by disease and working conditions and of the few that were still alive, most died of smallpox on the return voyage. Those who survived the journey brought the disease to the island, decimating the population. Following the outbreak only a couple of hundred islanders survived.Today the island has a population of about 3,000, the majority of which are Polynesian. The rest are primarily Chilean's from the mainland. The economy is based almost entirely on tourism, and to a lesser extent, agriculture and fishing.The flora and fauna of the island is limited compared to that of other islands in the South Pacific. With the islanders having cleared the forests during the population boom, most of the trees found on the island today have been imported and planted in the past 100 years. Native wildlife is almost non-existent, with even very few seabirds frequenting the area.
The moai (stone figures) are the most recognized symbols of Easter Island. Hundreds of them can be found on the island, some of which have been restored and re-erected. Most are lying on the ground near the sites where they were erected or at the quarry where they were create.The figures were carved at the quarry site, then broken off and, through the use of trees, hauled to the appropriate area. They would then be erected on a stone base called an ahu. The process of building one of these carvings would take between 12 and 15 months.It is thought that the moai were commemorative images of chiefs or lineage heads.
The ruins of hare paenga can be seen throughout the island and are generally found near ahu sites. They consist of stones which outline the floor and formed the foundation of boat-shaped houses. Curved depressions in the stones indicate where supporting walls once stood.Archeological evidence indicates they were in use from the 14th to the 19th C.
The ahu are large stone platforms on which the moai were erected. Approximately 350 ahu can be found along the coast of the island and some inland. They were also used as burial sites, with bodies either in or around the ahu.
Hanga Roa, Easter Island, Chile
The main settlement on Easter Island is Hanga Roa, which is home to almost the entire population of the island. It also has all of the islands amenities, including bank, hotels, hospital, and other major services.
Museo Antropológico Sebastián Englert
The museum explores the history of the Polynesian people on the island and their traditional way of life, with an emphasis on their farming methods. There are also photographs and information on the arrival of the Europeans and their influence on the island.
Parque Nacional Rapa Nui
Parque Nacional Rapa Nui was established in 1935 to protect the archeological monuments. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Southeastern Coast and Interior
From Hanga Roa a road runs east along the east coast to the Península Poike and loops back through the interior of the island.
On the slopes of the volcano Rano Raraku is the quarry used for the moai. Many moai can be seen here in all stages of development, both standing and fallen. Several very large moai remain here, including the largest one ever carved, measuring 21m/68ft. There are also moai inside the crater, many of which are standing, others have fallen and some are incomplete.
Ahu Te Pito Kura
Ahu Te Pito Kura is the largest moai ever erected on an ahu, although it now lies faces down on the slope to the platform. It is almost 10m/32ft long and is thought to be the last moai erected on an ahu and also possibly the last one to fall.
At the eastern end of the island is Península Poike with the extinct volcano Maunga Pu A Katiki.
This small beach is less busy and has some interesting caves in the area.
Playa Anakena is one of the island's most popular white-sand beaches.
There are several attractions along the western side of the island, including Puna Pau, Ahu Akivi, Ana Te Pahu, Ahu Vinapu, and Orongo Ceremonial Village.
Orongo Ceremonial Village
The Orongo Ceremonial Village is perched above the Rano Kau crater lake, on the crater wall. The site, which was the ceremonial village of a bird cult, was active in the 18th and 19th centuries. The village looks out over the ocean and offshore islands. It has been partially restored and is open to visitors.Boulders in the area display petroglyphs, with bird-like carvings. A nearby trail leads down into the crater.
At Ahu Vinapu are two major ahu where moai once stood. The fallen remains of the broken moai can now be seen lying on the ground. The figures here are slightly different from most others. While most do not have legs this site contains moai with short legs.
This site, which includes seven moai, was restored in the 1960s. At the equinoxes the figures are facing directly towards the setting sun.
Ana Te Pahu
Ana Te Pahu is a former cave dwelling. In front is an a garden with traditional island fruits and vegetables.
On the slopes of Orito is an obsidian quarry, which was used to create spearheads and various types of tools.
Puna Pau, with a small crater, is known for its red scoria which was used to make pukao, the topknot on the head of a moai.