Easter Island is the Eastern Polinesian Island, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the island is inhabited by the Rapa Nui people, conserving their unique culture and language. Their ancestors got here guided by their first King or Ariki during the IV century. During the XVIII the Rapa Nui people faced some overpopulation and colonial issues that reduced their population drastically. Nowadays the island is a Chilean Insular Territory
James Cook visited the island in 1774 and since then Easter Island is on the bucket list of almost every traveler. Nowadays you can Mark it Off, living an unforgettable experience for a lot less than you would expect. Here are some Tour packages including lodging and Tours run by local Rapa Nui people that will tell you all about the island, its secrets and culture.
Easter Island is one of the most remote islands in the world. Despite being part of Chile, it’s located a good five hour flight away from the Chilean coast in the southeast of the Pacific Ocean, around 3,512km (2,182 miles) away. It’s most famous for the indigenous Rapa Nui culture which has left behind almost 900 gigantic statues of stone human heads, known as moai. Along with these impressive statues, you can find remnants of old houses as well as rock paintings made centuries ago by the Rapa Nui. The entire island was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, after officials decided to protect the Rapa Nui National Park and the history of its people.
The Moai were carved by the Rapa Nui people between 1250 and 1500 AD. At the time, over 1000 stone heads were carved, although now only 887 remain. By the late 19th Century, all of the statues had fallen over from lack of maintenance, however nowadays some have been returned to their original formations in rows and are better maintained. Many were carved by the Rapa Nui from the main quarry on the island, Rano Raraku, and it’s an incredible feat that the indigenous people were able to find ways to transport these giant heads across the island. The largest was almost 10 metres (33 ft) high and weighed 82 tonnes (90.4 tons).
Polynesians likely settled on the island between 700 and 1100 AD. However after increasing deforestation due to the increase in human population, as well as the introduction of the Polynesian rat, led to a struggle to maintain adequate resources to survive for the Rapa Nui. When European settlers arrived in 1722, it’s estimated that problems with lack of resources had reduced the indigenous population from 15,000 to 3,000 over the course of the century. Disease brought by the Europeans and then later slave raids led by the Peruvians in the late 1800s then further reduced the Rapa Nui population, so much so that there were estimated to only be just over 100 indigenous people living on Easter Island in 1877.
Easter Island was annexed by Chile in 1888, and today, there are roughly 5,800 residents, with 60% of these estimated to be of Rapa Nui indigenous descent. The Rapa Nui people on the island still speak the indigenous language, with road signs all listed in both Rapa Nui and Spanish.
Easter Island was given its name by the first European visitor recorded, Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who landed on the island on Easter Sunday in 1722. The Spanish refer to the island as Isla de Pascua, which also means ‘Easter Island’.
Easter Island is only 24.6 km (15.3 mi) long by 12.3 km (7.6 mi) at its widest point. It’s area is 163.6 square kilometres (63.2 sq mi), and its highest altitude is 507 metres (1,663 ft). It has three volcanoes on the island which are now extinct but these give the island a triangular shape; the larger one forms the main bulk of the island itself whilst the other two create the headlands at the eastern and southern ends of the island. You can visit the crater Rano Raraku, which is now filled with a blue lake near the Orongo site, or the origins of the ‘Birdman Cult’.
The Birdman or the Tangata Manu was the winner of an ancient competition on Easter Island where selected men had the chance to prove themselves and receive a sacred status for up to a year. Prophets in each clan would dream of the contestants to be, and then each contestant was allowed to appoint a number of men to compete on his behalf. The chosen men had to climb down the treacherous cliffs of Easter Island, swim to a nearby small rock outcrop, and try to steal the very first egg laid by tern birds that year. The man who returned with the first egg of the season would present this to his sponsor and the selected man would then live in seclusion for a year in a ceremonial house. Many competitors perished from falling from the cliffs, sharks in the water, or even drowning as they tried to swim to shore. Eventually, Christian missionaries who arrived in the 1860s stopped the tradition. You can still visit the Orongo site today and learn more about this ancient tradition as well as see the real challenge the men had to go through to get this sacred honor.
One of the best ways to get around the island is by bike, as the roads are all well paved and there is very limited traffic. For those less interested in a physical challenge, you could also rent a quadbike instead for one or two people which is another fun way to get around if you don’t have a car! Whilst many things on the island are known to be expensive, renting a car is not a bad option as bike rental may cost around 15.000 CLP per day, whilst a car is around 40.000 CLP per day.
Almost all hotels and hostels are located in the main town on the southwestern part of the island, Hanga Roa. The town is very small and is easily walkable from end to end, so no matter where you stay you will have easy access to restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops or bike rental shops. The best beach on the island is Anakena beach, so if you’re here to relax and simply enjoy the weather, beautiful sand, and clear blue sea, then rent a car and stay in a hotel as near to the northern side of the island as you can. You can also find some AirBnB options on the island that can provide cheaper alternatives to the more expensive hotels.
Easter Island is a tropical paradise! To make the most of the island, try to visit in the summer months between October and March. You are most likely to experience rain or even tropical storms in the winter months of July and August. Saying that, temperatures on the island will be much higher than those in Chile in the winter months, so to avoid the crowds and go during off-season cheaper periods then April, May and September are still great options.
There is a festival that happens on the island in the first two weeks of February every year which celebrates the Rapa Nui history and culture. This would be an ideal time to visit for greater cultural understanding, however please be aware that prices are greatly increased both for accommodation and restaurants during this time, and you must book many months in advance in order to secure good lodging.
Easter Island is famous for is seafood and fish, most notably tuna. However it’s worth noting that food on Easter Island is extremely expensive! We highly recommend that to save money you take food with you from Santiago to the island, such as breakfast and lunch items. A dinner with just two main courses and a bottle of wine at an average restaurant in town will set you back roughly 60.000 CLP in total. It might be worth considering accommodation that has cooking facilities to allow you to make your own dinners on some evenings with food you have brought from the mainland. Saying that, it’s worth trying at least one dish from a local restaurant to get the flavors and experience of trying seafood fished locally from just off the island!
First of all you will no doubt wish to visit the fantastic moai statues located around the island. The most famous of these are in Rano Raraku National Park, which used to be the main quarry of the island. About half of the statues are located in this quarry. Note that you must pay $60 USD in order to be able to visit the quarry and the Orongo Birdman site on the island. You can pay for this either upon arrival at the airport, or in town, though for convenience we would recommend paying at the airport.
Tongariki is the next most famous site with 15 moai statues lined up in a row, and is a favorite place to see the sunrise. Be warned, there will be many crowds trying to see the sunrise here so if you don’t mind missing the early morning light on the faces of the statues then it’s worth waiting a few hours and you might even have the whole place to yourself!
If you miss the sunrise then just catch the sunset at Tahai instead where you will find five large standing statues overlooking the sea. Alternatively, the sunset at Tongariki would still give you a lovely view!
Another not-to-be-missed activity is hiking up the volcano Rano Kau in the southwestern part of the island. For the brave, you could try biking up it, or if not then many people either hike, go up by quad bike or drive. Once you get to the top you will have 360 degree views of the island and can see the beautiful lake in the crater now. You will also find the Orongo Birdman site at the top of this volcano – this is the second place that the $60USD tourist card will grant you access to. This one off fee allows you to visit the Rano Raraku quarry and the Orongo site once each within 10 days.
If you are there to just relax then definitely visit Anakena beach with its beautiful sand and clear blue seas. You can also enjoy a dance show over dinner if you would like to see some traditional costumes and traditions. For those explorers amongst you, you can visit the caves on the western side of the island, although note that many of these are no longer possible to enter due to disrepair. There are however some fantastic sites with rock paintings and carvings which you can see all along the southern and eastern coastal roads. As you make your way towards Tongariki then we highly recommend you stop off at each of the sites to see the diverse paintings and the fallen moai along the way.
The only way you can travel to Easter Island is by air. LAN are currently the only airline operating flights there. Whether you are taking an Easter Island tour or traveling by yourself, you must travel from Santiago airport (SCL) from which there are daily flights that take around five hours to arrive. Prices can vary from $550USD to $900 even in off-peak seasons, so it’s best to keep a lookout for deals or the best off-season prices.