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Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as the locals call it, is one of the most remote inhabited islands, located a whopping 3500 km from Chile's west coast.
First Polynesian settlers arrived by seagoing canoes around 500 AD from Mangareva, or the Marquesas
They were able navigators and may have had knowledge of mainland South America as well.
Initially the island had lush rainforests but when Jacob Roggeveen visited in 1722 the forests were gone and all the land was cultivated. He was also the first European to report on the large stone statues, called moais, that probable represent revered or important ancestors.
The moai culture ended with a period of violent unrest in which all the moais were toppled for unknown reasons and the Bird Man cult rose to power.
Disaster struck when in 1862 Peruvian slavers deported or murdered half of the population.  
After international protests a few survivors returned home only to bring with them smallpox that decimated the remaining population. Missionaries and especially privateer Dutrou-Bornier did their part to destroy what was left of the local culture.
Chile annexed the island in 1888 and locked up the locals in Hanga Roa with the rest of the island used for sheep farming. In 1956 Riroroko Tuki escaped in an open boat and brought the fate of the Rapanui in the international spotlight. Chile was forced to grand them full access to their island and since 2007 Rapa Nui is a special territory of Chile.
Some Rapanui strive for more autonomy and often clash with local authorities.
We visited Rapa Nui and its moais in August 2011 
When you are in a hurry click the Highlights album.
Hanga Roa
Ana Kai Tangata
Puna Pau
One Makihi
Rano Raraku
Te Pito Kura