Easter Island is a name that many have heard of, but few know much about. The subtropical volcanic island, located some 2,200 miles off the Chilean coast is, in fact, home to one of the most unique and unusual archeological sites in the world. Across the island, 887 megaliths called ‘moai’ shaped like men with giant heads and short bodies stand in rows facing directions where the sun rises and sets on important dates in the seasons. Even the most knowledgeable and experienced historians and archeologists are completely perplexed as to how Easter Island’s ancient tribes managed to carve, move, or place these unusual megaliths without modern tools. In the last century, the moais have attracted the globe’s most curious travelers, but once they arrive, they see there is so very much more to this incredible island.
In this article, we will show you exactly what curious travelers like yourself can find on a tour of Easter Island. We share exciting insights into its history culture, nature, and cuisine to show you exactly why it is worth visiting, as well as the extraordinary sights you can expect to see on Easter Island tours.
Why is Easter Island Worth Visiting?
As one of the world’s most remote and least-traveled inhabited islands, Easter Island is a mystery to most. Yet, there are whispers of its wonders that pique the interest of intrepid travelers keen to discover the earth’s far-flung and unusual destinations. Those who do discover the island’s undeniable magic through its intelligent ancient civilizations, rich Polynesian culture, surprisingly spine-tingling landscapes, and unique cuisine.
To Explore Easter Island’s History and Archeology
Easter Island is thought to have been first inhabited by Polynesian tribes in the 800s. However, it was officially discovered by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen who arrived on its shores on Easter day in 1722, giving the island its name. It’s believed that just 40-odd years before his arrival, the island’s Short-Ears and Long-Ears groups fought in a civil war which resulted in the death of two-thirds of islanders. Many are thought to have been burned on a pyre in Poike on the northeast coast. Between the war, a slave raid, and a smallpox epidemic, the island’s once 3000-strong population shrank to just 111 by 1877. Yet, thanks to the intelligence, ingenuity, and creativity of this ancient civilization, its history remains ever-present on the island in the form of 887 head-shaped megaliths known as the Moai statues. After centuries of unrest regarding its claim, Easter island became Chilean in 1965, and it has remained so ever since.
To Fall in Love with Easter Island’s Culture
Although there were only 111 indigenous islanders left in the 19th century, around 60% of today’s population is of indigenous descent. Regardless of origins, however, all islanders have proudly embraced the history, values, and traditions of indigenous Easter Island, making it one of the richest and most charming cultures in the South Pacific. Many visitors will see Indigenous peoples celebrate their heritage by dressing in traditional costumes made from feathers, stone, and other natural materials, and dancing to the tune of conch shell trumpets and kauaha as they chat and sing. And as you explore the island’s ancient sites, you’ll be immersed in the ancient myths and legends behind them like Hotu Matu-a, the island’s first settler, and the mysterious ‘birdman’. The best time to immerse in Easter island culture is at the Tapati Festival where the islanders come together between January and February to honor their cultural traditions. As well as joyous singing, dancing, and music events to crown the Queen of Tapati, expect to witness spear-fishing, surfing, canoeing, and banana-trunk-sliding competitions too!
To Immerse in Easter Island’s Nature
Many know Easter Island for its unique history and culture which has been represented by its mystifying moai megaliths. As a result, its astonishing natural beauty is often wrongly overshadowed. Yet, its landscapes are worth visiting this remote subtropical island in their own right. Much of the island (just under half of which is protected land) has been formed by three (now inactive) shield volcanoes to create an undulating interior carpeted by grassy fields beneath which lies an ancient system of caves. The clearly defined Rano Kau crater marks the land with a breathtaking reminder of its natural origins. Meanwhile, the unforgiving ocean has crashed against the coastline creating breathtaking cliffscapes with volcanic stacks which give way to gorgeous white-sand beaches. So while many come to Easter Island to see the megaliths, they stay to hike its cliffs, climb its crater, sunbathe at the beaches, surf upon its waves, and discover the secrets within its caves.
To Taste the Unique Flavors of Easter Island’s Cuisine
As a South Pacific Island surrounded by an array of exotic marine life, seafood is at the heart of the home on Easter Island. Typical of Polynesia, you can expect fresh, zesty, and rich flavors from Pascuense (Easter island) cuisine. Think lobster, shrimp, mahi-mahi, ceviche, and tunu ahi (stone-grilled fish). This is often found among traditional foods from Latin America like empanadas, potatoes, plantain, and meats. While you won’t be able to get enough of the island’s moreish seafood, you can’t leave without trying one of its most famous dishes – umu. A delicious mix of meat, fish, vegetables and fruit wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked on a cooking pit dug from the ground called an umu pae.
The Best Things To See and Do on Easter Island Tours
The Moai’s of Easter Island
The strange and perplexing megaliths known as ‘moai’ have become recognized worldwide by their giant heads resting on squashed bodies. While they’re no ‘Statue of David’ by Michelangelo, the moai have attracted explorers, historians, scientists, and archeologists for centuries. It is believed they were built in honor of the islanders’ ancestors, but nobody knows how 887 of these giant monuments could have been carved or placed around the island without modern tools or transportation. They are, therefore, not just a striking representation of Rapa Nui culture, but they are also a representation of their exceptional skill and intelligence. On your Easter Island tour, be sure to see the Tongariki and Ahu Akivi moais which face sunset at the spring equinox.
The Ceremonial Village of Orongo
Placed between a vast volcano crater and a 300-meter-high cliff lies the ancient ceremonial village of Orongo, one of the world’s most unusual archeological sites. It consists of a village of sod-covered circular stone houses decorated with ancient paintings and intricately carved petroglyphs. When you visit this site on your Easter Island tour, not only will you get to admire Orongo’s fascinating stonework, but you will also learn about the myths and legends that enshrine it. For Orongo was once the seat of the birdman cult, a group of Ester Islanders who would annually choose a new leader, or ‘birdman’, with a deathly race.
Rano Kau Crater
On your Easter Island tour of Orongo, you’ll get the chance to stand at the edge of the mile-diameter Rano Kau Crater, the mouth of the island’s biggest volcano. Inside the crater, you’ll see the very place where lava once bubbled out of the volcano which is now dried up and glazed over with a crater lake containing floating pea bogs. As you look beyond the volcano from the crater’s edge, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean and the volcanic stacks that birdman cult members would swim to as part of their annual race for the crown.
Te Pahu Cave
Beneath the ground of Easter Island are miles of caves formed by a lava flow that was inhabited by ancient civilizations. At 4.5 miles long, the Te Pahu Cave is the biggest of all. This maze-like system is also known as the ‘banana cave’ because its entrance is shrouded by banana trees, as well as vines avocado trees, and tubers. However, its real name is thought to be translated as the ‘drum cave’ because it features a mile-in-diameter section naturally shaped like a drum that reverberates sound like nothing else. As you explore it on your Easter Island tour, you’ll find mind-blowing signs of ancient activity including petrified footprints, earth ovens, ruined walls, and even cave drawings.
No Pacific island trip is complete without visiting a white sandy beach, so be sure to stop at Anakena Beach on your Easter Island tour. While it has all the qualities of a typical Pacific island paradise like fine sand, palm trees, and a gin-clear cove, there’s something particularly special about Anakena. It’s home to the Ahu Nau Nau, a row of seven moais (four of which are uniquely crowned with headdresses) facing away from the beach that is often considered the best-preserved moais on the island. It’s a magical sight to admire between icecreams and sunbathing sessions.
Enjoy your Easter Island tours with Nayara Hangaroa
Built in the image of the Orongo village, Nayara Hangaroa promises the most enriching Easter island experiences both on and off the property. By day, allow Nayara Hangaroa to acquaint you with Rapa Nui’s cultural heritage on their exceptional Easter Island tours. By sunset, allow them to pamper you at the indigenous-inspired spa, tease your tastebuds with unparalleled Pascuense cuisine, and put you to sleep in your private villa.
Enquire about our Easter island Tours for 2024
From the history to the culture, nature, and cuisine, there are so many reasons Easter Island should be on your Latin America itinerary for 2024. To find out more about the Easter Island tours you can experience on your trip, speak to our Chile experts. Not only will they show you the best tours available on the island, but they will also weave them into an itinerary complete with flights and a luxury hotel to give you the very best Easter Island vacation. Contact us here or call toll-free at +1 855 217 9045, or direct on +51 84 656 421.