Easter Island Main

easterisland-main

Stand on the rim of the volcanic crater at Orongo, a thousand feet above the sea. Look around the endless Pacific Ocean visibly curving along the horizon. Ask yourself how those early Polynesian navigators ever found this isolated volcanic rock surrounded by thousands of square miles of empty sea. And then ask yourself what drove them here - and what happened to them?

Easter Island (known locally as Rapa Nui) is the original mysterious island. The islanders developed the only written language in Oceania, but the meaning of the script has been lost. The island itself is best known, of course, for its massive stone statues, or moai; how they were moved across the island remains an unanswered question. Today, the island is part of Chile and its lengthy runway doubles as an emergency landing strip for the space shuttle. But the moai remain part of the landscape - unfenced, with no markers or signs, so that walking around the island is like touring a living, open-air museum.

You can walk to the major sites in three or four days, cover even more ground by horseback or four-wheel-drive. Surfers have been coming here for years, attracted by large, uncrowded waves, the diving off the southwest corner is incredible, and a pair of beaches on the north coast, Anakena and Ovahe, are gems. But it's the enigmatic landscape that you'll always remember.