NEVER BEEN TO... EASTER ISLAND
SLAP BANG IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN, 2,300 miles from the coast of Chile, Easter Island (or Rapa Nui, in its native language) is one of the most remote places on the planet. Triangular in shape, it occupies just 63 square miles and has three extinct volcanoes, which share the skyline with the famous long-faced moai statues.
The latter number 900 or so altogether, and are carved mainly from compressed volcanic ash – testament to the thriving Polynesian civilisation that occupied the island during the Middle Ages. Scientists disagree over what hastened the demise of the island’s fragile ecosystem in later centuries, but European disease, slave raiding, internecine warfare and deforestation caused by over-farming certainly didn’t help.
Tourists can visit this Polynesian wonder – part of Chile since the 1880s – thanks to Mataveri International airport. The first half of February is popular, when the Tapati festival sees teams of Rapa Nui people competing in cultural and sports competitions, including perilous hill descents in a hollowed-out banana-tree trunk.