Easter Islands famously enigmatic statues still challenge rational explanation. This tiny Polynesian island is thousands of miles both from the coast of South America and its nearest inhabited Pacific neighbour, Pitcairn. But what makes Easter Island legendary are nearly 900 moai monolithic human figures carved from volcanic rock and dotted around the island.
A visit to Easter Island is one of the worlds great treasure hunts. Moai, many of which are displayed on ahu (stone platforms) are found all around the islands coast and interior.
Some questions remain about the moai: why they were carved in such volume, how they were erected and why so many were toppled.
The moai are thought to represent the faces of ancestors, to have been moved on wooden rollers or by rocking from side to side and many were pulled to the ground during civil strife on the island, possibly caused by deforestation.
Exploring Easter Island
Visitors can explore on foot, horseback or in a 4WD. Once youve seen the moai and the quarries at Rano Raraku from which they are carved, there are clear waters to scuba dive in and mighty waves to surf on from beautiful Playa Anakena.
Easter Island (or Rapa Nui, to give it its Polynesian name) can be visited year-round. It is only accessible by a Lan flight from Santiago (four a week) and Papeete (Tahiti), twice weekly.
Budgeting for your trip
On the island youll pay western prices for accommodation, food and tours. But dont be put off. Most visitors to Easter Island manage the cost of getting here by including it on a round-the-world air ticket but make sure you overnight rather than just make a refuelling stop or you wont get out of the airport.
© 2009 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd