Destination List > Easter Island
Photo by Lee Coursey
Easter Island is a territory of Chile in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania.
The island is famous for its nearly 900 monumental statues, called moai, which were created by the early Rapa Nui people.
Experts disagree on when the island's Polynesian inhabitants first reached the island. While many believe they arrived around the year 800, there is compelling evidence presented in a 2007 study that places their arrival closer to 1200.
The inhabitants created a thriving and industrious culture, as evidenced by the island's numerous enormous stone moai and other artifacts. However, land clearing for cultivation and the introduction of the Polynesian rat led to gradual deforestation. By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population was estimated to be 2,000 to 3,000. European diseases, Peruvian slave raiding expeditions in the 1860s, and emigration to other islands such as Tahiti further depleted the population, reducing it to a low of 111 native inhabitants in 1877.
Chile annexed Easter Island in 1888. In 1966, the Rapa Nui were granted Chilean citizenship. In 2007 the island gained the constitutional status of "special territory". The 2017 Chilean census registered 7,750 people on the island, of whom 3,512 (45%) considered themselves Rapa Nui.
Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The nearest inhabited land (around 50 residents in 2013) is Pitcairn Island, 2,075 kilometres (1,289 mi) away; the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea, on the island of Mangareva, 2,606 km (1,619 mi) away; the nearest continental point lies in central Chile, 3,512 km (2,182 mi) away.
In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.