Easter Island, the easternmost settled island of Polynesia, received its European name in 1722 when the island was seen by a Dutch expedition under Roggeveen on Easter Sunday. The triangular-shaped island of 163 square kilometers is famous for the hundreds of statues known locally as moai. Rolling hills covered in grassland, eucalyptus forest and a rocky shore surround Hangaroa, the island’s only village on the southwestern coast. This is where Captain Cook landed in 1774, where missionaries built the first church and where ships find the best protection from winds and swells. Small beaches and transparent waters invite swimmers and snorkelers, but it is the cultural aspect which attracts visitors.
Since 1935 the island has been a National Historic Monument and today 43.5% of the island is a national park administered by the Chilean National Forest Corporation and Mau Henua, a local community group. The island’s national park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
Found slightly more than 3,500 kilometers west of Chile, the island was annexed in 1888. Used as a sheep ranch for many decades, the island was opened in 1965 and an airstrip was built. The US Air Force set up a base to record the behavior of the earth's outer atmosphere and by 1987 NASA had the runway extended as an emergency runway for the space shuttle. This never happened, but tourism benefitted from this improvement and today the island receives more than 100,000 visitors a year.