Easter Island - Rapa Nui, or Isla de Pascua in Spanish language - is a fantastic open-air museum and the most isolated inhabited island in the world.
It will astonish and fascinate you at the same time.
It's the most mysterious and absolutely unique island we've ever visited in our lives.
Remember walking to "La Caleta" every day, waiting for the fishing boats to bring our dinner of fresh tuna steaks, and the innumerable horseback rides, in the days when tourism was very little and we could have all the scenery almost by ourselves.
Until the 1960s, the only way to reach it was through the annual supply ship and the occasional cruise.
Later, with the opening of Mataveri airport in the 1970s, Easter Island became accessible to the world.
Best known for its giant stone monoliths - Moais - scattered throughout the island, Rapa Nui's origin it's been subject to many different theories -including the inevitable extraterrestrial option.
Even though Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki theorized the island was settled from South America, it's widely believed that Easter Island was colonized by Polynesians from the Marquesas island or Mangareva, around 4th. or 5th. century.
We're far from being Anthropologists ourselves, but just looking at their physical features and listening to their music and language (Rapa Nui), which we don't speak by the way - was obvious to us their ethnicity is much more Polynesian than South American related.
Guess the reason they are part of South America is not because of their culture, language and traditions, but the fact they were annexed by Chile in 1888 and placed under the jurisdiction of Valparaiso.
Early settlers called themselves the Rapa Nui, which means "hospitable" or "peace-loving people".
The island in turn was named Te Pito O Te Henua - The Navel of the World - by King Hotu Matua. Matua is a Polynesian word for "ancestor".
On Easter day of 1722 the island was discovered by Jakob Roggeneen, and later visited by famous sailors such as Captain Cook (1774) and La Perouse, some ten years later.
By then, the Moai building culture has stopped completely, as captain Cook noted.
In the following years, contact with the outside world proved disastrous for Easter Island population, narrowly escaping total obliteration at some point.
First came the whalers, who raided the South Pacific from Chile to Australia, and later they became victims of the Peruvian slave trade looking for a source of free labor to work the guano deposits.
From a healthy number of 10,00 inhabitants or so, Easter Island was decimated to just over one hundred people. Smallpox completed the job slave traders couldn't.
You will love hiking in this triangular shaped volcanic rock island of 171 sq. km. sitting in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Apart from its incredible archaeological value, you can practice many outdoor activities such as...
Horseback riding is a great way to explore the surroundings of Hanga Roa, but to visit the whole island you're better off by contacting one of the many operators that conduct Easter Island tours, using vans and trilingual guides.
Whichever way you choose to discover the place - you could also rent a jeep for that matter - don't miss the following attractions...
And don't forget to visit some caves as well - carry a flash light with you.
Note: Back in 1978 we visited several caves guided by a local Pascuense, however, we are not sure this is an option at present time.
There are over eight hundred moais scattered around the island.
Some of them are standing on long, rectangular platforms - Ahu - considered to be ceremonial centers, and carrying no less than six moais towering up to six meters high.
Moais were carved out of compressed ash from Rano Raraku volcano, also known as the "nursery".
You can see moais still attached to the mother rock in different phases of construction.
In some cases, moais wear a Pukao - kind of hat of reddish stone that comes from Puna Pao - and also eyes of cut coral fitted in place.
Easter Island is a truly fantastic place that should be on every adventurer's destination list.
Bit pricey though - round trip from Santiago will cost you between 650 and 1,000 US dollars - but definitely a very, very unique South America travel experience like no other...
Lan Chile flies from Santiago, Chile, three times a week, on its way to Papeete (French Polynesia).
The flight takes around five hours to Mataveri airport, located just outside the village of Hanga Roa. To learn more about this airport visit Airports in Chile.