As the world’s most remote inhabited place, Easter Island is a fascinating medley of huge mysterious statues and enthralling extinct volcanoes. Here are some sights on the island you absolutely must not miss.
If visiting Easter Island is still not on your bucket list, you need to add it on ASAP – this Chilean Polynesian island is a wondrous World Heritage Site, famous for its 887 massive ancient statues called moai.
Known locally as Rapa Nui, Easter Island is a fantastic oasis with tons of timeless wonders to be explored. Besides swimming in the warm Pacific waters and marvelling at the archaeology, travellers love to gape at the colossal moai: Each moai, resting on its stone platform called ahu, has its own name and distinctive features, and most of them wear a pukao (a hat or topknot).
Whatever it is that you may like, below are some of the top few sights you’d be foolish to overlook:
1. Hanga Roa
As the island’s only town and the base for all visitors, Hanga Roa has fewer than 4000 residents. Besides immersing yourself in the rich village life and surfing to your heart’s content, check out the moai in this urban area! Sure, the stone statues are everywhere on Easter Island but the two moai at Ahu Tautira overlooking Caleta Hango Roa will likely be the first ones you see.
On the edge of Hanga Roa, discover many other beautiful moai at the sacred ceremonial complex of Ahu Tahai, famous for its spectacular sunsets. On the Ahu Ko Te Riku, see for yourself the only moai on the island that is restored with eyes. Ruined boathouses where families of notable islanders used to live can also be found in the Tahai complex.
3. Ahu Akivi
This mysterious and gorgeous ahu is the site of the “Seven Moai”, located northwest of Hanga Roa. Strangely, the 7 moai here are gazing out to sea, instead of facing inland like the rest of the moai do. The Ahu Akivi is believed to have been used by Rapa Nui’s astronomers as the statues are orientated to the solar line of the equinox, staring directly into the setting sun.
4. Rano Kau
This beautiful extinct volcano is the island’s most awe-inspiring remaining natural sight, with a breath-taking freshwater crater lake – this is among the top 3 must-sees on the island! Take in the splendid views across the crater (it’s over a kilometre in diameter!), and the smattering of offshore islets. Close to the colourful crater’s inner wall, you can also admire the Village of Orongo, which is a ruined stone village with the most curious architecture and believed to have been a ceremonial centre for the Birdman Cult of the 18th and 19th Centuries.
5. Rano Raraku
As the main quarry for the moai, this unique collapsed volcano looks almost like a moai graveyard, with majority of the island’s colossal statues – almost 400 moai – nestled in its slopes. Many of the stone giants stand buried to their chins or noses, in various states of completion!
Swim in the beautiful crystal clear waters off the coast, and try to spot an unusual moai called Tukuturi which has a beard and a kneeling posture.
6. Ahu Tongariki
The largest ahu on the island, Ahu Tongariki contains 15 restored moai in a row and can be admired against the breath-taking backdrop of the Poike volcano’s staggering sea cliffs. It is situated on the Rano Raraku quarry (see above). Its monoliths were swept inland by a huge tidal wave caused by a massive earthquake along the Chilean Coast in 1960, but were restored in 1992.
7. Puna Pau
The hats (pukao) that crowned the moai were extracted and prepared by the ancient islanders in this small volcanic crater, using the quarry’s soft red rock. The red scoria rock was also used for the whole of the unusual Tukuturi moai located at Rano Raraku volcano (mentioned above). Puna Pau has a number of huge red scoria boulders as well, and features rolling green hills.
8. Te Pito o Te Henua
This huge round stone’s name stands for “The Navel of the World”, and was actually the original Polynesian name of Easter Island! Many people place their hands together on the enormous stone to feel the island’s mana, or spiritual presence. Besides, the largest moai ever to be sculpted can also be found nearby, on the Ahu Te Pito Kura.
Home to the 8 toppled moai, Vaihu is a beautiful place on the southern coast of the island. The 8 monoliths lie face down, likely after inter-clan wars which ended with many moai across the island being broken and tipped over from their ahu.