Mystery and history on Easter Island

Many travelers have likely heard of Easter Island, or are at least familiar with the mysterious stone monoliths that have made the destination famous over the years. Yet even though it might be recognizable at first glance, it's not typically thought of as a vacation destination since its location makes the island somewhat isolated. Fortunately, those traveling on a world cruise will have a chance to visit this amazing place - and see its famous statues - if their itinerary allows for it.

The island is technically a part of the South American nation of Chile, although it is located approximately 2,200 miles away from the country. The trip is well worth it, as up until recently Easter Island was one of the few mysteries left on planet Earth.

If you're wondering about the giant stone heads that have put the island on the map, your tour guide will explain all about the latest research on your trip to Rapa Nui National Park. There are 887 of these massive statues, known as "moai," in the park. Even more impressive, the island boasts some 20,000 archaeological sites, making it a dream destination for those interested in culture and history.

For many years, how the moai - and the island's native Rapa Nui people - arrived on the island was a topic of heated debate among researchers and anthropologists. Nowadays, most agree that the Rapa Nui arrived in the 8th century as descendants from the Polynesian people on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. The island was left nearly untouched until 1722, when a group of Dutch explorers found the land on Easter Sunday, hence giving the island its Western name.

You'll have the chance to learn much more about this historically-rich location when you book shore excursions here. For example, take a trip to Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater where many believe the moai were originally built, and see incomplete statues in various stages of production. Or head to Anu Tahai, a recently-discovered ceremonial complex that will give you further insight into the Rapa Nui and their customs.