More than 1,500 years ago, a distinct Polynesian culture took root on an island far, far away from other human settlements. This culture could have risen, thrived, fallen, and disappeared without the rest of us knowing it ever existed, but for one thing: their art.
Today, the unique artwork of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Rapa Nui National Park each year.
Here are a few facts about this incredible adventure destination.
1. Easter Island Is One Of The Most Isolated Places In The World
Rapa Nui National Park is located on Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles from Santiago, Chile. Its nearest inhabited island neighbor is more than 1,000 miles away. (That neighbor is Pitcairn Island, if you’re curious.) From a human perspective, Rapa Nui is really in the middle of nowhere.
2. The Island Goes By Two Different Names
Travelers know the place as Easter Island, but that wasn’t what the original settlers of the land called it, of course. Rapa Nui is the indigenous moniker of the island, and it also happens to be the name of the national park.
3. Rapa Nui National Park Covers A Large Portion Of The Island
Rapa Nui National Park covers about 40 percent of the island (roughly 26 square miles). The park includes the most impressive artifacts left behind at the island’s many archaeological sites. The stated goals of the park leadership are to help maintain and protect the island’s habitat as well as to help restore and study its monuments.
4. There Are Almost 900 Statues On Rapa Nui
Easter Island was first inhabited as early as A.D. 300, and from the 10th century to the 16th century, the inhabitants built what are now some of the most recognized statues in the world. The massive stone bodies, known as moai, were physical representations of ancestors that were built to watch over and protect the citizens. There are almost 900 moai and 300 ceremonial platforms on the island.
5. There Are Not Enough Trees On The Island
You might notice something a little off in photos of the island. Sure, you would expect to see a rocky and somewhat severe landscape on a volcanic island in the middle of the ocean. But in addition to the rocky terrain, there’s a distinct lack of trees. While reforestation efforts added about 70,000 trees to the barren island by 2015, scientists say they need 200,000 more to stop the erosion that threatens the island and everything on it.
The island didn’t always look like this. In fact, scientists say that Rapa Nui used to be a lush forest. However, once the ancient people started cutting down trees, the region could not replenish itself fast enough. All the trees were gone by the 17th century, and reforestation efforts are ongoing.
6. Rapa Nui Offers Much More Than Moai
Be sure not to skip the other important sites on the island. The ancient village of Orongo is located at the southwestern tip of the island. The Rano Kau volcano, which is now a beautiful crater lake, is around the same area.
7. Getting To Rapa Nui May Be Easier Than You Think
Rapa Nui National Park is open year-round, but you’ll have to pay a park entrance fee. Only cash is accepted. You can purchase your ticket at the airport or at the park ranger station.
To get a flight to the island, you’ll have to stop in Chile or Tahiti. LATAM Airlines, a Latin American mainstay, offers multiple flights to Easter Island every week. They depart only from Santiago, Chile, and Papeete, Tahiti, but neither flight is brutally long; they’re both under 6 hours.
Once you’re on the island, you can take your pick of accomodations. There are plenty of resorts and even Airbnb residences to choose from. While some travelers say that you can see all the park’s sights in two days, most recommend staying at least four or five days on the island.
Some of us would happily spend a lifetime there.