Known officially as Rapa Nui, chances are you know this Polynesian island in the South Pacific as Easter Island (or Isla de Pascua in Spanish). The island was annexed by Chile in 1888, and today is one of the world’s most fascinating UNESCO World Heritage sites, mostly due to its mysterious past.
The isolated island was named “Easter Island” by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who first saw the island on Easter Sunday in the year 1722. Today, Easter Island is best known for the hundreds of gigantic stone statues that are lined up all around the coast. These surviving statues – called moai – are some of the only remains of the island’s native inhabitants. Most were thought to have died off more than 150 years ago due to the slave trade and disease brought to the island by European colonizers.
Today, the moai are by far the most popular reason for travelers to visit Easter Island. Much like Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids at Giza, archaeologists are not entirely sure how the moai were transported to their final locations, which makes these big-headed statues all the more interesting.
But driving/hiking around to see the moai aren’t the only things to do here. Visitors can also expect to find many archaeological sites scattered all around the island (many near the burial grounds that the moai are associated with), as well as volcanic craters, caves, white-sand beaches suitable for surfing, snorkeling and even scuba diving.