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Easter Island

Easter Island, Valparaiso Region, Chile

About Easter Island

Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in Chile is a remote island surrounded by 4,000 km of ocean and with a mysterious past.

Discovered by Dutch explorers in 1722, Easter Island – so named because the explorers landed on Easter Sunday – is thought to have been inhabited since 700AD and perhaps even as early as the fourth century AD. This is still disputed, as is the origin of the people of Easter Island. Most scientists now believe that the first inhabitants were of Polynesian descent.

Perhaps the most famous aspects of Easter Island are its almost 900 head shaped statues, known as moai. Originally known as the “living faces of our ancestors”, the moai are incredibly large and heavy stone statues which are thought to have been built in around 1000AD to protect the islanders. When they were found, the moai were not standing and a large number have since been erected upright.

Much of the reason behind the mystery of Easter Island is due to the vast reduction in its population over the years. When found, Easter Island had around 12,000 inhabitants, since diminished to around 110 for a variety of reasons.

Prior to the arrival of the explorers, evidence suggests that, in the seventeenth century, Easter Island underwent a period of civil war, even cannibalism. During this time, the moai were pulled down. However, the people of Easter Island were found to be healthy and at peace when the Dutch arrived. It was only afterwards that disease and natural disasters took their toll.

Today, Easter Island makes up the Rapa Nui National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once there, visitors can explore the sites, including the moai heads and the quarry at the Rano Raraku volcano. Easter Island is quite small, so it can be toured within a day or two.