Easter Island, known also as Rapa Nui, is full of intrigue. The name of the island evokes immediately the image of moai – the emblematic, famous stone statues with a mysterious background. The moai sculptures are spread all around the island, they stand in silence but the history behind them speaks very loud. In spite of a small size of the islet, there are numerous things to see and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the options. This is my recommendation list of the must-see places, mostly if your time is limited by the short holidays.
1. Rano Raraku – probably the most important archaeological site and a symbol of Rapa Nui. Known as the ‘nursery’, the place where the moai sculptures were manufactured, now serves as the best introduction to the island’s megalith history. More like a construction site, with the sculptures of different shapes and sizes lying around, it is a beautiful playground for everyone fascinated with the local culture. The site is located within a National Park and the access is restricted – it’s worth checking the opening hours in advance. The moai heads are just adorable and as magical as widely advertised.
2. Ahu Tongariki – located nearby Rano Raraku, the second most popular site in Easter Island. It is an altar consisting of fifteen impressive moai statues standing in a row. With it’s magical location, it’s the best explored during sunset and sunrise for a unique atmosphere and postcard-like photographs.
3. Ran Kau Volcano and Orongo Village – an amazing crater lake with a stunning scenery, one of the most dramatic landscape in a whole Polynesia. Just next to the sacred, ceremonial village the centre of a bird man cult, it is a place with an interesting history. You can enjoy the view of the crater and learn a lot about the culture of the ancient people of Rapa Nui at the same time.
If you are a curious explorer, with a rebellious soul, you can ignore the official path and de-tour through the steep hills of the volcano. I promise, you will be rewarded. We found an intriguing cave, definitely not fully abandoned, with the bed and the table inside. It was tiny, well-equipped and had the most amazing view ever. A truly romantic place to hide away.
5. Ana Te Pahu Caves – there are numerous easy-access cave systems around the island. They’re not big in size but interesting in shape, like a lava tube that opens into the ocean. Bring a flashlight with you and watch your steps!
4. Anakena Beach– although Easter Island has just one sandy beach, it’s a pretty one. Perfect for sun lovers, with its turquoise water and palm trees, it presents a wonderful opportunity to relax after hours of walking and sightseeing. At the back of the beach you can also admire the best preserved ahu (maoi statues with the red hats) which adds an extra value to the tanning experience.
Easter Island is one of the world’s most isolated places and you can feel that. Its enigmatic history and cultural heritage is alluring. Rangorongo script, left by ancient inhabitants, is the only written language in Oceania. It is a truly exceptional experience to walk around the island. The place has a unique vibe that makes you feel like a real traveler. I’ve been to many places, but just few of them have that special place in my heart. Rapa Nui is definitely one of them.