Chile’s Easter Island tops Forbes’ list of life-changing trips

Rapa Nui was selected for the mystery of an ancient culture whose relics
– the imposing Moai statues – are deemed more intriguing than Mayan,
Incan or Egyptian ruins.

Chile’s Easter Island is a place as comfortable with accolades as it is with superlatives, so when journalists from Forbes were coming up with a list of “once-in-a-lifetime adventures,” the most remote inhabited place on earth must have been an easy pick.

The island, known as Rapa Nui in the language of the indigenous Polynesian islanders, topped a list designed to inspire readers to forgo their normal new year’s resolution list for something “completely new and life changing” – a resolution “that you’ll want to keep” in 2012.

The main reason for Forbes’ selection: the “awe-inspiring mystery” of the nearly 900 Moai statues that dot the island, turning it into a UNESCO world heritage site and, at 180 square kilometers, the largest outdoor museum on earth.

“No one knows for sure why an ancient people built the towering statues known as Moai, why they eventually turned on the Moai and tried to destroy them, or why their entire civilization became extinct,” writes the magazine, describing Easter Island’s ruins as “even more compelling” than those of the Mayans, Incas and Egyptians.

The island’s archaeological wonders aren’t limited solely to the famous statues, however, and the article notes the rich assortment of historic sites that Easter Island has to offer, adding to the feeling of “awe” generated by proximity to one of the world’s great unsolved mysteries.

If ancient mysteries weren’t enough, the magazine describes Easter Island’s natural beauty as “unmatched,” mentioning the “perfect volcanic crater filled with an iridescent lake” in one of the island’s three extinct volcanoes, as well as its network of fascinating caves.

Forbes’ endorsement tops off a stellar year for Chile’s burgeoning tourism industry, in which one of the most-read newspapers in the United States, the New York Times, listed Santiago as the number one place in the world to visit.