Easter Island

April 12, 2009|By Liz Atwood

Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen arrived on this isolated South Pacific island on Easter Day in 1722 and gave the island its name, but Polynesians had already been living there for more than 1,000 years. It is a territory of Chile, which lies 2,000 miles to the east. While the island has only a few thousand residents year round, it draws tens of thousands of tourists each year who come to see its mysterious monuments.


Roam Rano Raraku : This volcanic crater in the Rapa Nui National Park was, for 500 years, a quarry from which the island's inhabitants dug the boulders that they used to make the mysterious sculptures called Moai. Nearly 400 of these monoliths remain in the quarry in various stages of completion. Rano Raraku is a world heritage site.


Fly to Orongo : This stone village at the southwestern tip of the island was the ceremonial center of the ancient birdman cult. Numerous petroglyphs can be seen of birdmen who each year raced to bring tern eggs to the spot. Orongo is one of the highest spots on the island, offering spectacular views.


Lineup at Ahu Tongariki : This is the spot where the famous 15 Moai stand in a row, looking out to the sea. Although the island's wars and a tidal wave knocked the sculptures down, they have been restored to their upright position. The group includes an 86-ton Moai that was the heaviest ever erected on the island.


Catch a wave : Islanders have long enjoyed surfing the big waves that crash against the island.


Take a dive : The waters around the island are among the most transparent in the world, perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving.

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