Easter Island, a magical place in the middle of the ocean
If you chose Chile as the destination for your trip, you probably already heard about Rapa Nui (or Easter Island) and, of course, you already reserved a couple of days of your itinerary to get to know it. Although, before just including it, you need to know a few things that maybe you didn’t considered. So put aside a few more days for this trip and get ready for a totally different Chile.
It’s a bit far
Many foreigners, and also many chileans, don’t know how far Rapa Nui is. This island is located in the Polynesia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and 3,700 km away from the continent. That means it’s right “in front” of the Valparaíso Region, but located so far into the sea that you need to fly for more than 5 hours from Santiago. Planes leave once a day from Santiago (Latam airlines) and also from Tahiti (twice a week), which is, surprisingly, the same distance.
The island belongs to Chile, but it works differently
Rapa Nui is so beautiful that many people have wanted to stay, so it’s a little overcrowded (compared to its amount of natural resources and sustainability). For this reason there are laws that prevents new people (continental chilean or foreigner), to stay and live on the island.
Conditions to enter as a tourist are:
- To stay for a maximum period of 30 days (chileans and foreigners).
- To have a round trip ticket.
- Hold an identity card or passport.
- Copy of the return ticket.
- Copy of your booked accommodation (if you stay in a hotel or established hostel) or invitation letter from a Rapa Nui person (if you are staying in a friend’s house or using platforms such as Airbnb). Specific information here.
¿Rapa Nui or Easter Island?
Before traveling somewhere it’s good to know a bit of its history. The official name of this island is Easter Island, after the Dutchman Jakob Roggeveen “discovered” it on April 5, 1722, during the Easter holidays. However, this name has no relation to the Rapa Nui culture and moreover, it recalls the slavery and abuse suffered by this people during the 19th and 20th centuries. This is why the islanders call the island Rapa Nui or Te pito o te henua, which means “The navel of the Earth”.
Most of the islanders are bilingual, as they speak Spanish and Rapa Nui (or pascuence). Formerly they also had their own writing, but that was lost and no one can read the old texts. So you can already prepare for your trip and learn some words like: Iorana = Hello / Good morning / Goodbye and Mauru-ur = Thank you.
How much time and when to go?
If you want to enjoy the island and not just “see” the most important places, I recommend five or more days. And if you really want to feel the “mana” or spiritual power of the island, one or two weeks is the ideal amount of time.
The high season to visit Easter Island goes from December to March, which is when the weather is warmer and there is less rain, but it’s also the time in which prices increase a lot. Accommodation on these dates can cost 30% more than in the low season and airfare can cost up to triple.
The peak of the high season are the first two weeks of February, during the celebration of the Tapati festival, where the population of the island is divided into two clans that perform traditional trials of the Rapa Nui culture. In the end they crown her queen for the year. An incredible party, but with a high cost for visitors.
If your budget is lower, I recommend going between September and November, when the weather is already warm, but prices aren’t too high.
What to do when you arrive?
As soon as you step on Rapa Nui, you will notice that everything changes. The colors of the island are of a great intensity, people know each other and everything becomes joyful. The airport is very small and you’ll see how the locals bring a lot of food from the mainland (it’s very expensive on the island). So try to go with the least amount of luggage possible, so you don’t stress with the baggage chaos. You can leave all the luggage you don’t need with one of our keepairs in Santiago.
It’s always better to book an accommodation before arriving on the island, because your host will go and pick you up at the airport (it’s almost always free), which includes a plus: flower wreaths for everybody. Without a doubt the best welcome in the world.
Before leaving the airport, I recommend buying your ticket to enter the Rapa Nui National Park. Without it you almost won’t be able to go anywhere, because this park covers more than 40% of the island and is the entrance to the most important archaeological and tourist sites. The price is CLP 20,000/ USD 31 for chilean adults and CPL 53,000/ USD 80 for foreign adults. For more information you can enter here.
Do you want to tour the island?
Already on the island, it’s very easy to locate, Hanga Roa is the center of the city and the only place where people live. it’s a small town and all its interesting places are within walking distance, so you can walk to the bay, eat something on its main street or go to Ahu Tahai on foot, one of the typical postcards of Rapa Nui, with the moai in front of the sea.
You can also walk to some caves, viewpoints and nearby archaeological sites, taking some of the trekking routes that start in the town.
Another way to explore the island is riding a bicycle; you can find rentals on the main street Atamu Tekena. Once you have your bike you can go to the Rano Kau volcano and see its crater from the edge (relax, there is no lava, only vegetation) or feel the speed when you go downhill to Anakena beach.
In general, the whole island can be toured on a bike, but if you are not used to pedaling, you can rent a car or a motorbike to travel to the farthest points. The two roads in Rapa Nui are paved.
Where else to go?
Besides the beach and the volcano, some places that you have to visit in the island are: Ahu Akivi, where 7 moais, one next to the other, represent the explorers sent by King Hotu Matu’a before the definitive colonizing trip. They are the only moais on the island that looking to the ocean, that’s why they are important. Another spot worth visiting is Rano Raraku, which is the quarry where the locals took the rocks and then sculpt them and form the moais. It all started here. At Rano Kau volcano, before going to Anakena, you can move to the right edge and visit Orongo, an ancient ceremonial village that is now an archaeological center. Here you will find 54 houses that were occupied to honor the gods. Cave paintings, related to ancestral ceremonies, have been found here.
If you like the sea, diving in Easter Island is something you will never forget. The underwater visibility is impressive. It’s also very calm and safe, full of corals and colors; if you are lucky you can swim with sea turtles. Wonderful. Next to the bay there are several diving schools and for CLP 40,000/ USD 62 approx, you can do a baptism (first diving experience). If you are already a diver, don’t miss the opportunity, because there are exclusive places you can go.
Rapa Nui is like an open-air museum, there are moais everywhere and every place is beautiful. So don’t stress with a strict itinerary, just enjoy and discover the island.