Easter Island (Spanish: Isla de Pascua) is one of the most mysterious and isolated islands on Earth. In the past the island was called “Te Pito O Te Henua” (Navel of The World). Today, officially the island belongs to Chile, and
is located far off in the Pacific Ocean, roughly halfway to Tahiti. The most enigmatic thing here are massive stone statues, which reflect the history of the dramatic rise and fall of the most isolated Polynesian culture. The official date when they were built isn’t very clear. The English name of the island commemorates its European discovery by a Dutch exploration vessel on Easter Sunday in 1722.
How to get there
Many think that the Easter Island is at the end of the world and that the only way to get there is by long sailing. Yes, of course, you can reach the islands this way, but this place is also accessible by regular commercial air service to the airport Hanga Roa. Within 5.5 hours flying from the nearest continent, Easter Island isn’t really “along the way” for many tourists. The only regular flights are via LAN Airlines daily to Santiago de Chile and once per week to Tahiti. Another way to see this unique place is if you are cruise sailing around the world and if the ship stops there. There are ships that are sailing from New Zealand to Easter Islands once a year.
Where to go
The Island is quite small so you can get to see everything in a day or two. There isn’t public transportation so if you want to see the entire island and the archaeological sites you can go with a tour company. Also, you can rent a car and do your own tour, although it is not recommended to drive after dark because of the wild cows and horses. Bicycles are also available but not recommendable during the summer months because of heat and humidity. Some protection against wind and rain is highly recommended between June and August.
What to see
The biggest tourist attractions on Easter Island are the Moai. The Moai are standing upon ceremonial platforms called Ahu. The Moai and their platforms are protected by law and approaching close to the statues is prohibited. Do not walk on the Ahu.
Rano Raraku and Orongo require entrance to the national park that can be bought at the airport upon arrival or, alternatively, at the CONAF office. Ahus are mostly located along the coastline of the island. Two other worth seeing sites are the volcanic craters of Rano Kau and Rano Raraku. The slightly inland quarry at “Rano Raraku” is where the majority of moais were created, on a hillside.
Anakena is located on the north side of the island, is an excellent shore break body surfing location with a bit of north swell. The second beach is called Ovahe, and is not far from Anakena. The beach is surrounded by breathtaking cliffs and the path that leads down to the beach slightly unstable and best reached by foot Scuba diving and snorkeling are quite popular activity, although not everywhere on the island is allowed (near the islets Motu Nui and Motu Iti).
Local restaurants and accommodation
Restaurants of Hanga Roa are located on the main street and near harbor, but there’s a few others scattered in the surrounding areas. Traditional food includes Curanto and Tunu Ahi. Some of the most popular restaurants are Aringa Ora, Au Bout du Monde, Hetu’u etc. Chilean specialty, pisco, made from fermented grapes is a drink that must be tried. You can also try papaya sour, mango sour or guave sour depending on season. You can stay at the local hotels (or guest houses as some call them). Before booking make sure to check well where the hotel is situated, since some of the owners claim that they are situated near the beach which sometimes isn’t true.
Best time to visit
The most popular time of year to visit Easter Island is in December, January, February and March. This is the south hemisphere’s summer. The temperatures during these months averages around 30 degrees Celsius and the air can feel humid too. If you live on the north hemisphere this would be a lovely way to get away from the cold and the snow.