By Christopher Feddersen
Easter Island
Chile
Photo gallery
One of the most remote slivers of land on the planet, Easter Island has become an iconic symbol for exotic and long-distance journeys. This Polynesian island which belongs to Chile lies in the incredibly vast expanses of the eastern Pacific Ocean and is among the last inhabited places to be discovered by westerners. Images of the island's moai, the giant stone statues, though well-known to all of us will remain unattainable, nearly mythical relics for most travelers.

EscapeWizard.com makes travel to Easter Island simple. Click on the following link to find flights to Easter Island's Mataveri International Airport (IPC) at (www.escapewizard.com/flight.php). Find hotels on Easter Island through EscapeWizard's search engine at (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl). 

There is a dreaminess to Easter Island that comes not only from its remoteness, but also its incredible history written by the Rapa Nui people. The Rapa Nui settled on Easter Island about one thousand years ago, arriving on catamarans or other sea-faring boats from Polynesian islands thousands of miles away in the South Pacific. For hundreds of years, the people here lived in complete and frightening isolation. Eventually, the Rapa Nui came to believe that they must be the last people on the planet. Those unique circumstances gave rise to spiritual beliefs found nowhere else. When deforestation, war and even cannibalism broke out among the desperate inhabitants, the now famous birdman competition was born. Tied to the arrival of migratory terns, the birdman competition reasoned that power came not from the moai, but could be won by competitors in a dangerous race down volcanic cliffs and through shark-infested waters.

The lessons drawn from the experiences of the isolated Rapa Nui people continue to impact visitors to this enchantingly beautiful Pacific island today. The island is small, refreshingly undeveloped, and can easily be explored in its entirety. Exploring Easter Island means basking in the unmatched beauty of the South Pacific while unraveling, first hand, the mysteries of the history of the Rapa Nui people.

EscapeWizard.com recommends visiting Rapa Nui National Park, a carefully preserved area of the island where moai were carved out of the ground and then moved, epically, to each corner of the island. Visitors to the park will be able to see partially carved moai, broken moai in the process of having been moved and even tools used to shape the statues. This is where historians have begun to piece together how the Rapa Nui were able to achieve their incredible feats of multi-ton construction and logistics. You may want to construct your own theories as to how it was done. Like the rest of the island, this area is remarkably untouched by modern influences and, standing on the gentle volcanic slopes of Rapa Nui National Park, you can see the island exactly as it was hundreds of years ago.

Just as it was for the Rapa Nui, Rano Kau offers a pilgrimage for tourists. Forming the southwest corner of the island, the volcanic cauldron of Rano Kau is a natural marvel as well as the location of the annual birdman competition. Offering fantastic views of the island and the Pacific Ocean, standing on the lip of the volcano is a magnificent vantage point. It was here that spiritual leaders would gather to live in stone hamlets on the volcano to prepare for the birdman competition which brought together all of the inhabitants of the island. In the cauldron below is a peculiar marshland where rainwater has collected over thousands of years. At the western-most edge of the volcano is Orongo, the cliff face where the birdman competitors raced down - often to their doom - to swim to Motu Nui to collect the all-important eggs of the migratory tern.

The only town on Easter Island is Hanga Roa. The town thrives through the generous hospitality of the local people and remains pleasantly quaint due to the small number of tourists that visit Easter Island. In true Polynesian fashion, you are likely to find yourself invited to Rapa Nui Luau in which meat and vegetables are cooked underground with hot stones. Everyone is invited and everyone is made to feel welcome. There is a tremendous feeling of community on this small island. Hanga Roa also benefits from having access to some of the best seafood in the world, which can be found expertly prepared even in small neighborhood restaurants throughout town.

There are almost no tourist traps on Easter Island. Surfing, traditional Polynesian dancing, scuba diving, mountain biking and horseback riding are popular and the beaches, such as Anakena in the north, are beautiful and offer a backdrop like nowhere else in the world. Visit many of the moai resting on ahu throughout the island because each one is different, and each offers magnificent panoramic vistas thanks to the pristine nature of the island. Ahu Tahai, Ahu Tongariki which is the largest ahu, Ahu Kivi and Ahu Vinapu are among the most popular collections of moai on the island.

Visiting Easter Island is not only a stunning and exotic escape to remote Polynesia, but it is an achievement for many visitors, finally bringing those iconic images we have seen in magazines and postcards to life. Plan your visit to Easter Island with EscapeWizard.com by following the links above.