Muster a thought of the mystical Easter Island, and you’ll likely picture its iconic Moai statues.
Understandable when there are almost 900 of these symbolic stone figures - all scattered across this ancient and isolated Eden. We say figures because many of the bodies of these “Easter Island Heads” are submerged underground. Averaging 13 feet tall and 14 tons, these monolithic sculptures were carved between 1250 and 1500 CE by the Rapu Nui people, tenaciously toiling to deify their ancestors. Today, their immortality can be felt in the monuments that mark the island’s horizon.
It would be a tall task to see all these massive megaliths in one trip, but if you want to catch some of the most iconic, the legendary Ahu Tongariki is a good place to start. This is the largest ceremonial structure ever built on Easter Island and features 15 painstakingly restored Moai standing ceremoniously in a row. Other notable areas include Rano Raraku Quarry - a site that supplied the stone for about 95% of the statues - and the iconic Ahu Akivi. Although it’s often assumed these statues were placed here to face the ocean, they were meant to look over a large village now in ruins. The site was later restored in 1960 by the American archaeologist William Mulloy.
But it’s not just the Moai that make this tiny jewel in the Pacific Ocean a living museum; on Easter Island, there are archaic reminders of yesteryear around every turn. And a good place to go next is the ceremonial home of the cult that succeeded the Moai.
Located on the southwestern coast of the Island, Orongo is an important ceremonial village that's tied to the Birdman cult. Exploring these ruins will reveal ancient stone dwellings and intricately-designed petroglyphs. And while this site may not be as world-renowned as the Moai, it’s a must for the stories you’ll learn - all against one of the most breathtaking panoramic backdrops on the island. Not that this enchanting paradise is short of those.
Just a half-hour’s drive away from Orongo is the pristinely-preserved Anakena Beach. One of the few sandy beaches on the island, its lovely turquoise waters are fringed by palm trees and perfect for snorkelling. Down below, you might spot Numerous whitebar surgeonfish, blue-striped, orange tamarins and a few Easter Island butterflyfish; the latter is endemic. Come up to the surface in time to see the sunset and create a string silhouette of the Ahu Nau Nau. Standing tall and staring into the ocean just 150 metres inland from the shore, it’s a potent reminder of a bygone era - and the magical hold the Moai still have over this ancient place. Visit Easter Island once and feel its powerful presence forever.