Easter Island: Exploring an Ancient and Enigmatic Land

riders appreciate the opportunity to enjoy vigorous exercise while discovering the ancient sites and statues that are found throughout the island. Thousands of horses are found on the island, and hiking areas abound.


The beaches around the island offer both the expected joys of Pacific beaches — soft white sand, brilliant sunlight, the soothing crash of waves, craggy coastlines, aquamarine water – and new opportunities to explore the island’s cultural treasure. Anakena Beach is a popular stop, its attractive beach surrounded by a forest of coconut trees. Several caves dot the beach, one of which is said to be the home of King Hotu Matua. Two archeological sites are also found here. Perched on an overhanging hill above the beach is the Ahu Ature Huki, featuring a long platform or “ahu” with a solitary remaining moai. The legendary Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl helped restore this moai, and in doing so, was able to demonstrate how such massive stones could have been erected and moved centuries before. The great Ahu Nau Nau is also found here, its platform containing seven moai in various states of repair.

Ohave Beach is another beautiful spot on the shore Located at the foot of a volcanic cliff, the beach is less visited than Anakena Beach– but beware of the potential danger of falling rocks. Near the beach area lies a cave that looks out over the ocean.

Island Culture

For those who want to explore the islanders’ roots and culture, the moai are not the only avenue for exploration. Once a visitor has recovered from the awe instilled by the giant moai, we recommend a visit to the restored village that is home of the island’s “Bird Man” culture. Orongo, lying between a volcano and a cliff drop-off, is the setting for at least 150 carvings depicting figures with men’s bodies and bird heads. They are believed to represent an ancient religious cult, but their origins remain somewhat obscure.

Throughout the island, you’ll find unique representations of a fallen culture, in petroglyphs, tattooed figures, and fragments of written language. But ancient relics are beginning to blend with more contemporary cultural representations. The island’s ancient culture is undergoing something of a revival, as young islanders tattoo themselves in traditional culture symbols and embrace the ancient arts, sports, and dances. Displays of artfully carved wooden decorations and other wares highlight the work of local artists.

During February, the Tapati Festival is a fascinating way to explore island culture. Each year the island hosts a series of competitions that are based on ancient sports and arts, such as body painting, tobogganing, and spear throwing. In one competition, the Haka Pei, loin-clothed islands toboggan down the side of an ancient volcano on logs of banana trees. Parades, food exhibits, and dance competitions all make the Tapati Festival a one-of-a-kind treat.

If you’re looking for a vacation destination that’s truly off the beaten track, Easter Island fits the bill – but you won’t have to sacrifice your comfort. Several eco-lodges have sprung up on the island, offering modern amenities to visitors. Whether you visit Rapa Nui to explore its ancient mysteries and island culture or to enjoy the contemporary pleasures of a Pacific paradise, you will find that Easter Island offers much more than a typical island vacation.

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