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EASTER ISLAND

With a mixture of awe, fear and admiration, Dutch Admiral Jacob Roggeveen and his men first viewed the gigantic stone figures that seemed to stare at them stubbornly and imperturbably as their ships approached a solitary and unknown island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Moais Easter Island Chile TravelHowever, they were not too afraid to land. The moment Roggeveen arrived he felt fascinated by the monumental creations over 10 meters tall which had been erected on this unfamiliar spot, which he christened Easter Island, as the discovery day, April 5 1722, also happened to be Resurrection Sunday.
With the Dutch sailor's landing, after turning its back to the world for 1400 years, a new chapter in the virtually unknown island's history began. At last western eyes were able to view the mysterious and gigantic sculptures known as Moai that still captivate and dazzle observers. The Moai monuments represent ancestors who had attained the status of gods. These fabulous carvings rest on immense platforms known as Ahu that were used as ceremonial centers and are scattered along the coast of the island.
Moai Profile Easter Island Chile Travel The people living on this remote corner of the planet called their island Te Pito o Te Henua (the navel of the world), a name which was given it by king Hotu Matu'a; they called themselves the Rapa Nui, which meant "peace-loving and hospitable people", a fact that was attested to by the Spanish (1770), British (1774) and French (1786) navies, that were subsequently to visit Easter Island.
Only on September 9, 1888 would this paradise-like island - located 3700 kilometers from the Chilean coast - become part of that country, currently falling within the jurisdiction of the Valparaiso Region. By that time, the native population, which once had numbered several thousands, had been reduced to no more than 180 inhabitants, since all the rest had been taken as slaves to the guano deposits in Peru.
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    Islander with Moai Tahai Chile Easter Island TravelHowever, the natives survived. They now number over 1,500 and keep their ancestral happy and outgoing nature, and their skills for music making and stone and wood carving. Their origin can be traced back to the 4th century, when the first human beings arrived at the "world's navel" from the Marquesas Islands, according to anthropological and linguistic researchers.
    Easter Island - a Garden of Eden dotted with volcanoes and guarded by the huge and taciturn Moai and the mysterious Ahus- extends approximately 180 square kilometers over a triangular surface, a reminder that it was formed three million years ago by the activity of three volcanoes: Maunga Terevaca, Rano Kau and Poike, fiery colossi that although now dormant are still imposing.
    Lagoon of Rano Raraku Easter Island Chile Travel Time goes by and the questions raised by the island remain, and multiply. As no answers are found for them, it continues to attract the world's attention with its impressive archaeological heritage and its mysterious ancient inhabitants, able to carve the wooden rongo rongo boards with a still undecipherable script and to carve and then haul massive stone statues weighing several tons, without having discovered the wheel.
    These are only a few of the attractions on a long and varied list, because on this isolated spot we will find the Easter Island National Park, occupying 40% of the area of the island, as well as almost a thousand Moai and hundreds of Ahus, ancient volcanoes, caves and caverns containing paintings and rock carvings, plus a wide variety of flora and fauna.
    This is no longer the world's loneliest island. Now there is Hanga Roa, the only town on the island, and Mataveri, the airport that receives flights from Santiago, turning Easter Island into one of Chile's prime tourist destinations, because besides its multiple natural and cultural riches, it offers a warmly pleasant climate and chances to experience all kinds of adventures.
    Today this far away place is no longer the exclusive preserve of daring seamen. It is now an advance post for researchers, scientists, anthropologists and for travelers and globetrotters also. Everyone in his or her way seeks an answer to the puzzle of Easter Island and its stone guardians.



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