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Easter Island: Rapa Nui…Rapa What?

In the afternoon after visiting Salar de Uyuni we had a couple of hours in the town of Uyuni where I could get back to the business of my flights. [Click here if you missed Salar de Uyuni]

Of course, the flights I tried booking a couple days before were no longer available so I made some adjustments. My original plan was to first fly to Abadiânia, Brazil and then to Easter Island, I was able to swap these around and still fly out the following day upon arriving back to San Pedro de Atacama.

So, off I am now to Rapa Nui. Rapa what?

Yes, Rapa Nui [Big Rapa], it’s the Polynesian name for Easter Island, but have you ever wondered why Easter Island is called Easter Island? It’s actually the name given to the Island by a Dutch explorer in the 1700’s when he, so called, ‘discovered’ the Island on Easter day.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me where the heck Easter Island is, but mostly likely you already know this island by its iconic moai [monolithic] stone statues.

Easter Island is located in the Pacific Ocean approximately 2500 miles east Tahiti and approximately 2300 miles west of Chile’s Pacific coast. 

It is a province of Chile and is also known as Isla de Pascua in Spanish.  It’s a 5+ hour flight from Santiago, Chile.

Here’s a visual to give a sense of this tiny spec in the Pacific:

The island is about approximately 7 miles wide and 14 miles long. It’s population is approximately 6,500 and its main economic resource is tourism, which brings in over 15,000 people annually.   Most of the island is designated as a national park.

I found it interesting that to this day, nobody can be certain for the reasons the moai statues were built. What I did learn is that there has been much turmoil in the island’s history and like so many other places, ego, perhaps got in the way throughout the years as the statues would get larger and larger over time.

Overall, it has an interesting history and if you are interested to learn more, click here for a good succinct overview.

Have you heard the story that natives burned all their trees down, well click here, for a couple of perspectives.

People I met in my travels who’ve already been to Easter Island suggested you needed no more than three days there. With this in mind, I thought let me book an extra day or two so I’m not rushed, especially after the back to back trips of the Amazon, San Pedro de Atacama and Salar de Uyuni. Of course, I was also thinking that I can now catch up with civilization again, my Airbnb did say there was WiFi, after all.

Easter Island happens to be described as world’s most isolated inhabited island.  So once again, I find myself in a lovely place with incredibly unreliable and slow internet; so much for the thought of catching up! Oh well, here we go.

My Airbnb host picked me up from the airport and provided a little tour around the main town Hanga Roa before checking in. Given the time of day, it was perfect to walk around and suss out the area.

Charismatic guide

While doing so, I decided to book a tour to see the main sites around the island for the following day, with this charismatic man, pictured to the left.

Our first visit was to Akahanga, which is ceremonial platform not yet restored, as you can see below it looks like a lot of rubble. It’s known as the ‘kings platform’ as it is thought the first king of the island was buried there.

Rano Raraku. It’s known as the volcano quarry and the place where the moai’s were carved before being moved to their resting places around the island.

There are still approximately over 300 moai which appear to be left unfinished. The views from the quarry are amazing. [estimates are 800-900 moai across the island].

In some of the moai located here, the heads that are visible only represent about 1/3rd of the entire statue with the remaining portion being buried.

There are numerous theories on how the moais were moved to their locations, click here to learn about one.

Views from Rano Raraku:

Next stop is Tongariki, in my opinion the most infamous of moais. Most moais face inward [to watch over their villages], however, notice these face outward.

Tongariki appears to be the largest ceremonial structure on the island.

The Japanese funded a restoration of Tongariki in the 1990’s after it had been destroyed and toppled by a tsunami in the 1960’s.

Before I left the island I made sure to come back to catch the sunrise, which is spectacular. However, the first morning I came it was raining and on the second, it was a bit overcast, so here is the best I could do.

Pito Kura ‘naval of light’ was our next stop where there is only one moai. 

It’s known as the biggest ever erected [10 meters approx. 33 feet] weighing approximately 80 tons. The headdress alone weighs 12 tons.

Tradition says it was erected by a widow in memory of her late husband, and was one of the last moai to be knocked down after 1838.

View from Pito Kura

View from Pito Kura

This is also the site which contains a polished oval rock, which legend says it was brought to the island by the first king and it contains ‘spiritual powers’.   It makes compasses act erratically given its high iron content.


Over the next couple of days, I put my legs to work, and either walked, hiked or cycled on an  ‘electric’ bicycle. That electric certainly came in handy going uphill in some places, what a savior!

Views from Te Ara o te Ao.  Its said that this trail is the same used about 150 years ago to reach the ceremonial village of Orongo to celebrate the ritual of the Bird-man.

Rano Kau wetlands and crater

Rano Kau wetlands and crater

It is believed that Orongo village was used only a few weeks during the year at the beginning of spring.  It was used as a  ceremonial center where initiation rites and the entry of children into adulthood were practiced.


Aother moai facing the sea.

Ana Te Pora Cave – entrance
Ana Te Pora Cave

Take a look at this cemetery…

…and a peaceful spot to be surrounded by the Archangels.

One of the most beautiful sites on Easter Island are the horses.  From what I was told by the islanders, they are wild but owned.  They roam free so you need to be careful certainly when driving.  Their population is said to be anywhere from 3,000 to as many as the 6,000 depending on who you ask.

Of course there are many more caves and moais to see, however I hope this gives you a nice taste of Easter Island.

Leaving Easter Island, I have had my first mishaps of travel. One of which I would not realize was a mishap until months later. I will update you both on future posts ;-)…stay tuned!

Happy journeys,


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I tried to add links for more information on each moai where I could find them, just click on the moai names above.  Here is another site you might want to look at regarding Easter Island’s history, and below a map which highlights some of the main sites:

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