Hanga Roa, the only town on the island and Rapa Nui´s capital, offers the basic services for a stay. With a great majority of the island´s population living here, Hanga Roa represents a good host for those travelers who land on this spectacular destination. But…Which is its main attraction? Why do so many people set out on such a long trip to visit it?
Beyond the challenge of reaching the island, Rapa Nui is home to an exceptional cultural and architectural wealth that surely makes it worth the journey. The Moais (huge monolithic statues) spread all over the territory are a landmark of the Rapa Nui culture and the mysteries of the island. Still, as well as these giant heads, there are plenty of other stunning attractions that will for sure make your trip unforgettable.
To gain further knowledge on this natural wonder we talked to the spokesperson of the Ma’u Henua Indigenous Community, who manages the Rapa Nui National Park, a reserve that protects and places high value on the archeological, cultural and non-material heritage. During a brief yet emotional conversation, he shared with us details about the way they live, some facts about this World Heritage Site, as well as a few recommendations for travelers to bear in mind while visiting the island.
Initially, he highlights the significance of the very location of Easter Island and its ancestral wealth when it comes to understanding the impact of this island. “Precisely due to its location in the middle of the ocean, it is surprising how our ancestors managed to find it by simply following the stars in the sky. From the moment they set foot and settled down in Rapa Nui they became a civilization with a way of life that was centered in the building of Moais and Ahus (stone pedestals where the Moais stand) related to each of the family hamlets. This way of living has remained in time and today we are the heirs to an exceptional culture in the world that has been in existence for over 1,000 years.”
Besides, he explains that they have always known how to live in harmony with their natural resources. Yet, they point out that over the last few years they have been receiving supplies from the continent. “Living off the land, the sea, and the rain, always taking pleasure in the colors and sceneries of our Rapa Nui”: this is the main advice given by this community.
Certainly, one of the most special moments during the interview revolved around life on the island, how they perceive it and wish to show it to the world. “It is a small island where almost 10,000 of us live, out of which at least 50% belong to the Rapa Nui ethnic group, and a great part of the other half of the population are somehow related to this ethnic group. We are like a big family in which we all know each other and interact with each other on a daily basis. A community where we say hello to everybody we walk past in the streets, and where even drivers stop their cars halfway down the road just to greet others”.
“This is a place where people vibrate with music, which, along with the dances, is a fundamental element in our lives. This is a place where the word still has great value, where commitments are fulfilled and where life outdoors and in harmony with nature is central in our life style. We Rapa Nui people are immensely proud of our history, culture and traditions”, finally added the spokesperson of the Ma’u Henua Indigenous Community.
Not only does he offer us a myriad of reasons to go and discover it, but he also invites adventurers to get to know it from a different and unique perspective, that is, understanding and respecting the value it has for its people and the meaning of each site within the island. “We expect the traveler to live experiences, to appreciate our landscapes and to learn about our culture. A more passive tourist who may enjoy their stay and who may calmly and respectfully understand our ancestral, contemporary and current history.”
He also emphasizes that travelers should find out the legal conditions and restrictions in force for visitors in Rapa Nui, such as the Residence Law and the Monuments Law, and hire a local guide as well as book their visits to each site in advance. “They should come and leisurely enjoy our landscapes, nature and each of the experiences they live, while learning about our history and living our culture, always respecting each site, its regulations and of course, the health protocols.”