In recent years, many travelers have sought to add more thrills, more adventures, more sights and sounds and experiences, to their trips by combining a jaunt to Easter Island with an exploration of the Atacama Desert. No mere “add-on,” Atacama offers more than its share of wonders in a way that both complements and contrasts the more tourist-popular Easter Island.
Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. Some 6,000 people call the island home, and thousands of visitors make the trek to see, first-hand, the mysterious and imposing sculptures that make the destination so appealing. The moai statues are, on average, 4 meters tall and weigh 14 tons.
The mystery is why: why did ancient people create this monument – and to what or whom is it a tribute? Many believe that the statues honor ancestors or important people in the tribe. Of equal interest is why the intrepid founders of the society ventured thousands of miles from any known civilization to carve out a life in the rugged terrain of the island. Today, you can see the completed stones and visit the Rano Raraku quarry, the source for the stones. In the quarry, there are 400 statues in various states of completion, another fascinating glimpse into this ancient culture.
When you’ve had your fill of stone-viewing, you can take advantage of Easter Island’s beaches. Diving and surfing are excellent, as is simply lounging on the sand. It is a nice way to cap off your day of exploration.
Visitors leave the lapping waves of Easter Island and enter one of the driest regions on earth. Atacama is located on the Pacific coast of Chile and is the hottest, driest desert on earth. Why visit one of the world’s most unforgiving landscapes? Because it also happens to be one of the most beautiful. It is easy, when traveling through the plains and salt lakes, to imagine yourself in another world. In fact, Atacama is often compared to Mars or the surface of the moon.
Abandoned nitrate mining towns give the Atacama Desert the appearance of a ghost town, but it is livelier than you might expect. Extreme sports fanatics find the terrain a thrilling challenge, and many adventurous runners take part in the Atacama Crossing, a week-long foot race. In addition, there are weather observatories, solar car races, and, of course, tours. This is Chile’s third most popular tourist spot, but for all that, you are sure to find plenty of solitude.
Easter Island and Atacama are wonderful destinations and provide a stunning contrast that will only enhance their unique offerings more.