A moai sculpture sits partially buried in green grass on Easter Island

A spectacular Easter Island photo journey

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Easter Island, also known as Isla du Pascua and Rapa Nui has one of the most isolated populations in the world. Originally settled somewhere between 700 and 1200 CE by Polynesian Islanders, this South Pacific island has become one of the most incredible living examples of effects of overpopulation in existence. There is so much more to this Chilean province than many people expect when they arrive. We take a spectacular Easter Island photo journey to bring you some of the most incredible locations on this island of mysteries. Getting to Easter Island can be an adventure on its own. Easter Island is one of the most remote islands in the world. It’s nearest inhabited neighbor is 1,289 miles ( 2,017 km) away!

Hanga Roa

Hanga Roa is the capital and only city on Easter Island. This tiny city hosts the majority of the island’s population of 5,800 people. Around 60% of the island’s population are Rapanui. The town has a hip vibe with excellent restaurants, quaint lodgings, and refreshing cafes to help visitors settle into this isolated island. Just outside the town lies a replica of the famous Moai that demonstrates how they would have looked in their original condition, gazing inland, before they were toppled during clashes between island clans.

Woman wearing a green hat and blue shirt looks up at a completed replica sculpture of a moai backed with a blue sky on Easter Island

The marina in Hanga Roa offers a glimpse of the local fishing lifestyle. The waters surrounding Easter Island are teeming with life, and the abundant fish population helps to sustain the island’s human  inhabitants. Visitors to the island can be treated with incredible seafood platters at the local restaurants.

A small fishing boat sits on the green grass next to the ocean with a moai sculputre and a small town in the background

Rano Raraku

As we continue our Easter Island photo journey, we visit the famous Rano Raraku, otherwise known as The Quarry. This is where the Rapanui created the incredible moai that would grace the shores. This volcanic crater on the far east of Rapa Nui contains the volcanic ash the locals carved to create 95% of the mystical monolithic sculptures that guard the island.

Over 397 moai remain on the outer slopes of Rano Raraku, many still partially buried by the shifting soils, while others lie broken in a reminder that even great sculptors have bad days.

two moai lie incomplete at Rano Raraku on Easter Island. One sits partially carved out of a cliff, while a second lies on the ground in front of it

The view of these massive stone figures in various states of completion and disarray gives evidence to the massive amount of labour involved not only in sculpting these tremendous figures, which often consisted of not only the heads but shoulders, torsos and sometimes down to hips, but also of the work needed to bring these completed sculptures down from Rano Raraku to their final place of display on the shores of Easter Island.

two moai sit partially sunken in the green grass on a mountainside of Easter Island. In the background rocks and other partially sunken moai can be seen.

One of the most interesting moai found within Rano Raraku is Tukuturi. This moai is unique due to its bearded appearance, and the fact that it was placed inland and is sculpted to represent a kneeling figure.

A unique moai sits in a fenced off area on a mountainside. The moai is kneeling and has a beard. In the background an ahu with 15 moai can be seen.

Ahu Tongariki

Ahu is the name given to stone platforms found throughout Easter Island. With 15 moai, Ahu Tongariki is the largest ahu found on the island. Like many of the moai on the island, those at Ahu Tongariki were knocked over during the island’s civil unrest before western explorers happened upon the island. In the 1900’s, the ahu and sculptures were washed inland by a tsunami but have since been re-erected in their original place facing the sunset during the Summer Solstice.

15 moai sit on an ahu looking inland towards Rano Raraku. In the foreground a pregnant woman walks towards the camera, dwarfed by the sculptures

Nearby to Ahu Tongariki is the so-called “Travelling Moai”. This moai was given this name after wandering more than any other of the moai. It first made a trip from Rano Raraku to Japan where it was displayed at the World’s Fair and was used by western explorer Thor Heyerdahl, to determine how the locals moved the moai from place to place.

A moai stands overlooking an ahu with 15 moai sculptures on it. In the background is a mountain.

Ahu Te Pito Kura

Ahu Te Pito and Rano Raraku were the only two areas of the island which had moai still standing during the beginning of western influence on the island, but this location is not to be missed for another important and mystical reason. While the locals name for the island, Rapa Nui, is believed to translate to the “Naval of the World”, this area of the island is also commonly associated with the same phrase. It contains a very special rock that some claim lets off a magnetic force.  Whether you feel it’s power or not, it’s a beautiful location and a great spot to stop and relax.

A large round rock is circled by four smaller round rocks sitting on red ground within a stone foundation. Blue skies and a wavy ocean are in the background

Ana Kai Tangata

One of the more unique items on our Easter Island photo journey is Ana Kai Tangata. Ana Kai Tangata is a famous cave on Easter Island that is known locally as “The Painted Cave”.  This cave is easily accessible from Hanga Roa and it is believed to have been an ancient meeting place, or place of teaching on the island. The cave features paintings of birds drawn using natural earth pigments and animal fat.  Unfortunately, the environment of the cave has led to them being rendered very difficult to see, but they are worth a visit.

A woman smiles and points at painted petroglyphs on a wall of a cave on Easter Island

Petroglyphs and rock carvings

Makemake is believed by the Rapanui to be the creator of humanity as well as the god of fertility.  Several petroglyphs depicting this deity can be found throughout the island, including areas just outside of Hanga Roa.  Makemake was also the chief god of the bird-man cult and was believed to be in the form of sea-birds. Makemake can be seen in petroglyphs in the form of a man with a bird’s head.

Petroglyphs depicting birdman deities and men with elaborate headpieces on Easter Island

Rano Kau and Orongo

Orongo, on the southwestern tip of Easter Island, contains the remnants of a stone village which was the centre of much of the key ceremonies during the islands later years prior to western occupation. It has several low, grass-covered buildings with rounded walls situated near the tip of the Rano Kau volcanic crater.

a canoe shaped foundation that held the houses on Easter Island

Rano Kau is one of the most colourful areas of the island. The base of the 300-metre walls of the crater is a gorgeous marsh. The marsh is one of the islands only three bodies of fresh water.

A colourful marsh reflects the clouds within a volcanic crater surrounded by lush green cliffs

Rona Kau and Orongo were also central to the fascinating Tangata manu, or Bird-Man competitions that the islanders used during the later years to determine leadership. The Bird-Man was the winner of an annual competition whereupon they chose the greatest warrior from each tribe. This Tribesman would set out from Orongo to swim across through the shark-infested ocean waters to the islet of Motu Nui.

Once there, they would collect the first egg of the season of the sooty tern and then swim back to Rapa Nui. They would then have to climb the Rano Kau sea cliff and return the egg, undamaged to Orongo. The Tangata manu would be celebrated and given gifts while his clan would have sole rights to that years egg-harvest.

three small rocky island are framed between two large rocks and the sky in the ocean off Easter Island

Wrapping up our Easter Island Photo Journey

Our Easter Island photo journey concludes at Rona Kau, high above the waters of the South Pacific. We only touched the essentials of visiting Easter Island, there are more ahu and moai scattered throughout the island that are worth visiting. The island offers so much to see beyond the moai as well.

Is Easter Island on your bucket list?

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Kevin Wagar

Kevin Wagar is a creative designer and technology expert living in the Greater Toronto Area. His beautiful wife Christina impressed on him her love of travel and they have made exploring the world an integral part of their life.
With the birth of their two boys, Kevin and Christina have made it their mission to show others that travelling with children isn't as scary as it sounds and that kids can benefit from experiencing the world outside of their front door and beyond.
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82 Comments

  1. I’ve always wanted to go to Easter Island. I almost went a couple of years ago, but the flights were too expensive. Thanks for sharing your photos though, it’s almost makes me feel like I was there.

  2. Easter Island has always been fascinating to me. I hope there’s an opportunity for me to go someday. Your blog post pointed out so many different things to see there…including some I wasn’t aware of. Your photos are beautiful, and your post very informative!

  3. Easter Island comes up as a place with so many untold stories etched in stone. The massive stone figures are intriguing and all your photos are stunning.

  4. I think I twisted my tongues many times reading the names hahaha.. Eastern Island was not on my radar, I just learned about it now, because of you. And now thanks to you I’ve found another interesting place to check out. It looks so amazing, look at all those statues made me real curious. I’d sure love to see them up close.

  5. Thanks for sharing! I would totally love to head to easter island! I love the massive stone figures. Each of the stone figures seems to be telling you a story.

  6. Wow very interesting! I really do want to visit Easter Island someday. I didn’t know about the cool restaurants, so that makes it even more interesting to check out! Ancient civilization & good food? Sign me up.

  7. This was a great article to read, I’ve always wanted to visit Easter island and I will get there one day. The pictures are up there with some of the best I’ve seen of the carvings, it makes me want to hop on a plane and head there straight away.

  8. Awesome article! We hope to go there sometime within the next two years, and I’ll save this so I can get a fresh read when we go 🙂

  9. I love volcanic craters, history and sculptures- I’d love to go! Any tips on making it more affordable- I’ve heard it is very expensive to get there.

  10. This is definitely on my bucket list, it’s one of the islands I have wanted to visit since I was a kid. It’s really incredible, even if you’re seeing it from pictures. I can only imagine how lovely it must be when you’re actually there. I love the history behind it too.

  11. This is one place I’ve always wanted to go! It’s so cool to see what the statues would have looked like in one of your first pictures. The eyes are a bit jarring!

  12. When I first learned about Easter Island as a teenager, I thought it was the most interesting place I’ve ever heard of. I never heard about the caves there and really enjoyed all of your photos. They are beautiful.

  13. It’s really good to see there’s more to Easter Island than just the statues! We’re considering it for next year and weren’t sure if it would be worth the effort and expense but I’m thinking it is looking at this!

  14. Wow you always have some great photos but I love this article. Interesting to know a little bit more about the culture/history side of things.

  15. Made the trip to Easter Island with Intrepid 4 years ago. I’d love to return one day – it was such a fascinating place! Your article brought back so many memories. It’s a long trip from North America so we added on Peru with Intrepid too.

  16. I love when I can learn about the history of a place as I stare in awe at the photos. I can only imagine what it would have been like in person.

  17. Awesome photos you have taken there! To be honest, it has never been on my to-go list, but I also thought it is a British territory. I have also seen these weirdly looking heads and I loved the last story about swimming in the ocean with sharks and bringing the egg back. Amazing legend!

  18. Wow Hanga Roa only has 5,800 people? I’m from NYC and am used to a city of 9,000,000! Looks wonderful. I’m sure your pictures don’t do it justice. So cool to be somewhere quite secluded.

  19. This brought back such wonderful memories from our own trip! Easter Island is one of the only destinations which I found to live up to it’s hype. Many places over time have been hyped up and I’ve arrived disappointed – but not here. Every bit as magical as the photos and as everyone says!

  20. Love, love, love your photos and this post! I’ve been dying to visit Easter Island for awhile and I almost went when I was traveling through Chile a few years ago, but unfortunately never made it. Your post reminded me that it’s definitely a must-see destination!

  21. It is a shame how little I know about South America. The Easter Island sound like a very special place, though a bit too quiet and remote for me. However, I def. would love to see the statues 🙂

  22. I never thought to put it on my list, but now I think I should. The information you put in here is so interesting, and the sculptures are fascinating. Would love to see this in person!

  23. Way to capture and share moai shots that are more than the standard views. I love how they’re placed kind of everywhere, as well as other rock forms.

  24. The moai statues have always fascinated me! Does moai Tukuturi mean anything in English? It’s interesting that it has a beard and was placed inland and sculpted kneeling.

  25. Easter Island is absolutely on my bucket list, though the journey is quite long and expensive. Still, your photos just reinforce my desire to go. And I had no idea how large the moai are until I saw them here. Not only does Easter Island seem magical, but it seems like the powerful natural beauty and mystical qualities of the place would stay with you long after the trip is over.

  26. Easter Island is definitely a place I would like to go one day, but it’s not yet a priority. I’m trying to knock out all of the “traditional” spots first, with particular focus on Asia.

  27. The “Naval of the World” looks really interesting! There is so much more to Easter Island than the heads, and I love it. I’d absolutely love to travel there.

  28. Absolutely fascinating. I just can’t imagine I will ever get here, but it sounds like such a worthwhile experience. I love all the sculptures you saw – and it’s so interesting to find out that there’s so much more to do and see here too.

  29. I’ve long been fascinated with Easter Island and came close to making it there last month. Your pictures make me want to go even more now!

  30. Easter island is on my bucket list! I think it would be interesting to see and explore the island. Are there other things to do around the island apart from the archaeological side/seeing the animals? Can you go swimming or do they have any adventure sports as well?

  31. Looks like a fascinating place. The colors in that marsh area immediately said, “Come visit.” Your photos have me diving into learning more about Easter Island.

  32. Interesting to read about, and see photos of, the rest of Easter Island – as normally people only share photos of Ahu Tongaraki. So thank you for that. The rest of the island looks spectacular indeed.

    By the way, I love the idea of a “Travelling Moai”! 🙂

  33. Yes, Easter Island is definitely on my bucket list. I loved your post and feel like I know so much more about it now and exactly what it offers. Your photography is spectacular. I never would have guessed the town would be so hip!

  34. Beautiful photos (as always!) and what a fabulous trip! Easter Island is somewhere I have always wanted to go but I’ve always been put off by its remoteness – which translates as expensive – to reach it. I’m determined to get there someday tho – thanks for the inspiration!

  35. Oh, I so envy you. It’s one of the places I hope to visit before I die. Having said that, the sheer distance from Malaysia makes that immensely prohibitive. 🙁

  36. What a truly magical place, I would absolutely love to visit here! I really enjoyed the expressions that the maoi seem to have, particularly those two that are half-sunken into the soil. Great photos too.

  37. This place looks magical in so many ways, both mystical and wondrous to see. There’s obvious so much more to this place than just the statues most of us associate with it. I learned a bit more about the caves and petroglyphs. Thank you.

  38. Haha while reading this in my head, I definitely tripped over a lot of the names, but wow – incredible photos! I’ve always been intrigued by Easter Island, and would love to go someday (although getting there is quite pricey). I just remember when I was a lot younger, scrolling through country lists out of boredom and seeing the name, thinking “this exists???”. I’ve seen the big stone statues in museums before but going to the island itself must be something else. Someday, I hope!

  39. Easter Island has always been on my “eventually” list, even though I didn’t quite know what was there. Thank you for taking us on a photo journey around the island and giving excellent information on what there is to see. Your photos are stunning!

  40. Easter Island is wonderful and historical. 🙂 I would love to go here someday, and your post convinced me that I should. You’re so lucky to be able to explore the island. I’ve read in an esoteric book that the statues in Eater Island were big because a set of early humans was also giants. I think that’s interesting.

  41. For long I have been fascinated by these Moai . Thanks for such an informative and detailed post on these. I dont know when I can head here but I sure would like to see them myself.

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