Easter Island is a Chilean island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Read on and discover more about the history, myths, legends as well as the culture that make this mysterious island one of the most intriguing places you’ll ever visit!
Easter Island (or Rapa Nui as it is known to the locals) is approximately 3,500km from Chile in the Pacific Ocean. Polynesian settlers first inhabited the island between the 5th and 9th centuries. Over the years, the people of the island developed an incredibly unique and mysterious culture that intrigues many of its explorers.
There is much we still do not know about the people and culture of Easter Island, and the striking moai statues they produced between the 11th and 18th century. Carved from solidified volcanic ash, the large statues honour tribal chiefs and ancestors. Each statue reflected characteristics of the person it represented. A pukao on top of the statue symbolised long hair. The people of Rapa Nui viewed long hair as representing mana, a form of spiritual energy.
Carved using a handheld chisel, each Moai was created to watch over the tribe and bring good fortune. Each took incredible effort and had a deep significance and meaning to the tribe. There are between 800 and 1000 moai on the island.
A lesser-known but equally unique aspect of Rapa Nui life was the birdman competition. This occurred every year in order to elect the leader of the island. Thought to have been established around 1600 CE, the competition involved a young warrior being selected from each tribe and fighting for his leader to be considered ruler. The competition was daunting to say the least; it involved diving from the Orongo Cliffs, swimming to a small inlet to wait for the first manutara egg of the season and then swimming back to the Orongo village– all whilst keeping the egg safe! Many competitors were lost to sharks, drownings and falls; this was not for the faint of heart….
The fate of it’s once great people is the greatest mystery surrounding Easter Island. Once capable of building monolithic stone statues, it is still elusive why such a productive society collapsed. Many theories suggest that natural resources became depleted (possibly from the transport of the moai) or that disease introduced by the Europeans or Peruvians ravaged the population.
Another aspect of this fascinating society that continues to capture the imagination of people today is how these seemingly immovable moai were transported. Archaeologists have discovered paths leading from the island quarry to maoi sites but it is still unknown how they got there. A popular theory is that these massive statues were “walked”. This was a gentle rocking motion created by groups pulling on the moai with ropes.
Rano Raraku is where the statues were carved and it is where you will find half of the islands population of Moai. Many were never actually transported to their final sites so are simply awe-inspiring to see in one place.
Crystal clear waters and white sand beaches, what more could you ask for? There’s nowhere better to relax after a morning of exploring. This picturesque beach is the perfect place to watch the sunset over the nearby maoi and swaying palm trees…
Both offering breathtaking views over the sea, these caves boast a tumultuous history… According to legend, Ana Kai Tangata is referred to as “the cave of the cannibals”. Although, there is much speculation as to whether any cannibalism ever actually occurred here. Despite this, it has some of the best cave paintings on the island and is definitely worth visiting.
Ana Kakenga has a sad past; it was apparently the last resting place of a young couple that fled because of their forbidden love. Today the entrance requires a tight squeeze but it’s certainly worth it for the spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
There are several music and dance shows worth seeing in Hanga Roa. This is a fantastic way to engage with the Rapa Nui culture. Aimed to preserve their ancient culture, educate tourists as well as the young islanders, the dances tell many stories and are a great way to celebrate the history of the Rapa Nui.
Easter Island is like nowhere else in the world. This stunning island offers more than just intrigue and mystery; it offers a fascinating history, culture as well as boasting a stunning location you simply can’t beat!