Easter Island: The Most Isolated and Mysterious Island in the World

Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua, is the most isolated island in the world and home to one of the world’s greatest cultural mysteries.

Easter Island is governed by Chile, although it sits more than 3600 kilometers (2200 miles) off of the Chilean coast.

The volcanic island is grass covered and small, just 64 square miles, but full of activity and stunning natural sights such as the three extinct volcanoes that make up the island. The tallest volcano rises to 1674 feet, however, the entire island is said to form one large volcano that begins ten thousand feet below on the ocean floor.

Easter Island was originally called Te Pito or Te Henua, which means “the navel of the world,” but Tahitian sailors in the 1860’s began calling it Rapa Nui, which means “Great Rapa,” because it resembled another island in Polynesia named Rapa Iti. The name Easter Island was created by Dutch sea captain Jacob Roggeveen, who was the first European to visit the island and landed on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722.

Norwegian explorer/archeologist Thor Heyerdahl popularized the belief in the 1950’s that South American Indians sailed from Peru on Totora reed rafts similar to those still used on Lake Titicaca and populated Polynesia and Easter Island. Although evidence later confirmed that Polynesia was populated from Asia and not South America, Heyerdahl did prove that it was possible. He built a large totora raft, named the Kon-tiki, based on reports of rafts seen by Europeans in the Pacific and sailed across Polynesia.

Easter Island’s Moai

Many consider the Moai, or large stone statues found on Easter Island, to be one of the wonders of the world. The origins of the 25 meter-high stone sculptures still baffle many historians. The statues were erected between the 10th and 16th centuries and nearly 300 of them stand on enormous platforms called ahus. Nearly 600 other moai are scattered around the island in various stages of completion. Most of the moai were created from the stone of the Rano Raraku volcano and average 14 feet, 6 inches tall and weigh 14 tons. An estimated 50-150 people were theoretically needed to drag the stones across the island on sleds and rollers made of tree trunks.

Getting to Easter Island

Flights to Easter Island can be expensive, although if you combine a trip there with a trip to Tahiti or Australia it may be a bargain. LAN airlines flies direct to Easter Island from Tahiti and Santiago, Chile. Hanga Roa is the main settlement and most hotels, restaurants and amenities can be found there.

Hotels on Easter Island

Explora’s Casas Rapa Nui is the best hotel on the island. The seven rooms are quite posh and include top of the line amenities. Opening December.

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