Easter Island is one of the remotest places on Earth – its nearest inhabited neighbour, Pitcairn Island, is 2250km away in the South Pacific Ocean – and is less than half the size of the Isle of Wight. Despite its diminutive size, this triangle-shaped island (known locally as Rapa Nui) is packed with truly unique sights. Here are five not to miss.
This volcanic crag in the east of the island is where the majority of the moai (the iconic Easter Island statues) were produced, carved directly from compacted volcanic ash. The moai – which can weigh over 80 tonnes – were then transported, presumably on wooden sleds, though the island’s oral history claims they were able to “walk”, to their ahus (platforms). Some, however, proved too heavy to move – or refused to walk – and today dozens of giant heads sprout up from the green slopes of Rano Raraku. The largest moai ever carved, the 20-metre tall El Gigante (“The Giant”), is also here, still attached to the rock face from which he was carved.
East of Rano Raraku, right on the coast, is the dramatic Ahu Tongariki, a 200m-long ahu upon which 15 colossal moai are lined up – the largest number of Easter Island statues ever erected on a single platform. A tsunami in 1960 swept across this corner of the island, dragging the ahu and the moai more than 90m inland and as a result of a lack of funds, little was done for decades until a Japanese man saw a TV programme about the incident and decided to start fundraising. A five-year restoration project – which involved Chilean archeologists, around 40 islanders, specialists from the Nara Institute of Japan and international stone-carving experts – was eventually completed in 1995.