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Approximately 2,290 miles off the coast of Chile, Easter Island is a mythical place. More than 900 archeological stone head sculptures, called Moai, enchant you as you roam this historical island. Known to locals as Rapa Nui, the island was inhabited by Polynesian tribes thousands of years ago and has now become one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the southern hemisphere. Put your boots on and prepare to wander this land of historical discoveries.
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Coconut palm trees and popular bathing spots create an idyllic setting at the end of Anakena Bay. A cave can be found on the slopes off one of the beach’s green embankments, where ancient rock carvings are a must see. After getting your fill of prehistoric art, enjoy a picnic on the sunny beach, and repose as you dip your toes in the blue waters.
Thirteen fallen Moai scatter the grounds of Ahu Akahanga, once one of the biggest villages on the island. According to legend, the founding father of Easter Island, Hotu Matua, is buried in this abandoned village. The Ahu Te Peu ruins have remained virtually intact since the departure its inhabitants, and is one of the most important archeological sites on the island.
A cratered lake centers the ellipsis-shaped Rano Raraku, a dormant volcano that peaks at approximately 524 feet. It was the production point for many of the Moai sculptures, which is evident from the hundreds found across the volcano’s slopes. The volcano itself provided the stone used to create these ceremonial sculptures.
No word is held more sacred than Ahu to the Rapa Nui. Ahu represents the tribal burial grounds of their bestowed leaders, which are presented in the form of Moai statues. The Ahu Tongariki is the largest ahu on Easter Island, and is one of the most magical. As the sun sets, witness the orange glow of light pierce the gaps of these iconic stones.
Venture further down the Anakena Beach and you’ll find the Moai statues known as Ahu Nau Nau. Legend has it that Hotu Matua, the supreme chief of Easter Island, once landed in this location. Paenga House, the house in which the chief lived, is worthy of a visit alone.
Standing above the backdrop of a stunning beachside cove, the impressive Moai of Ahu Ature Huki has been restored into its original form after being toppled in a tribal feud. Take a breath before taking in this striking sculpture, and admire its imposing dimensions.
In the southwestern tip of Easter Island is Orongo, a stone village of sod-covered houses located next to volcanic caldera Rano Kau. This ceremonial village of 53 flat-stone houses dates to the 15th century, and provides an intimate portrayal of life beneath the natural wonderment of Rano Kau. Let your wandering spirit come out here, and lose yourself in the village’s many nooks and crannies.
Rano Kao is a dormant volcano with a freshwater lake at its center, a 1,050-foot mountain with a sheering face that leads to its cratered middle. Hike the face of this mountain if you’re feeling like a challenge—or, if you want something more relaxed, enjoy a drive up. Either way, prepare yourself for the waters and epic views on offer here.
At Ahu Akivi, seven Moai look out to sea in one of the epic landscapes that the island has to offer. According to oral tradition, the seven Moai are a symbol of the youthful explorers that came on a scouting mission for chief founder, Hoto Matu. Located on the southwest flank of the Maunga Terevaka Volcano, the flying Moai will stay in your memory long after your trip.
Located in the southwest region of Easter Island, the Puna Pau Quarry played a pivotal role in the stonemasonry that helped craft these giant sculptures. Explore the quarry at your own pace, and see the place that built the hats (pukao) that were placed on the heads of Moai statues.
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