The remote Polynesian destination of Easter Island lies around 2,500 miles west of Chile and is best known for its ancient stone busts, the moai. It is halfway to Tahiti and is tough to get to, with flying or a cruise being the realistic options for getting here.
Known as the Navel of the World (Te Pito O Te Henua) to early settlers, Easter Island displays perfectly the Polynesian culture, and although not the most beautiful of the islands, its isolation and allure are captivating. The peak of the ancient culture that erected the busts was around 1400 AD.
Most people pay a visit to Easter Island to take in the centuries-old moai stone busts, built centuries ago. There are hundreds of them standing sentinel-like mostly around the rock shore, of which the largest stands at 33 feet tall. There is an even larger one that would have weighed about 135 tons, but it still lies in the quarry.
Some of the moai are complete body statues, while others are just heads sat on the earth or on ceremonial platforms. Tourists can see all but one site for free and there are also numerous other archaeological sites on the island. The moai were carved out of the Rano Raraku volcanic crater, which can also be visited.
LAN Airlines flies to Easter Island several times a week from Santiago de Chile and Tahiti, landing at the airport just south of Hanga Roa. It is about a 5-hour flight in either direction. Easter Island is often a stop-off point for those on round-the-world cruises, between South America and Polynesia. Hiring a car and driving around the island yourself is the best bet for taking the statues in.
What is it? One of the world’s most isolated places known for its moai statues.
When to go? December through March.
Nearest town: Hanga Roa on the island in the south; Santiago de Chile, 2,500 miles east.
Don’t miss: the hundreds of moai statues dotted around the island.
Trivia: in all there are almost 1,000 moai in Easter Island which were carved from the volcanic rock of a crater.