Easter Island

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Easter Island

One of the most isolated places on earth, afloat in the midst of the Pacific, until the arrival of an airport in 1961 tiny Easter Island (or Rapa Nui, as it’s known by the islanders) in the Pacific Ocean used to receive just visit each year by supply ship.

Most visitors now make the 3,500km trip from mainland Chile by plane, enticed by the mysterious moai (carved stone heads) that keep a watchful eye over the coastline. Thought to have been sculpted by early settlers between AD 700 and AD 1500, some 887 moai dot Easter Island, with the 15 giant heads of Ahu Tongariki the real stars of the show.

When you’re all moaied out, you can snorkel or dive among the coral and exotic fish of offshore islets, saddle up for a day of horse-riding, lounge on a white sand beach or throw some shapes on the dance floor with the fun-loving locals.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Meet the locals – they can be just as intriguing as the moai
  2. Experienced divers can plunge down to 45m around Motu Tautara and hang out with the fish
  3. Soak up the sun or go for a dip at the lovely Anakena Beach
  4. Pull up a chair at one of the bars along Av Atamu Tekena, order a pisco sour and watch the world go by

Wanderlust tips

Get up with the lark and see the moai at their most atmospheric by watching the sunrise at the eastern end of the island behind the 15 colossal figures at Ahu Tongariki. Easter Island is like a huge outdoor museum and it’s worth hiring a guide for at least one day to get the low down on all those big heads. Here is an excellent source of info prepared by the Easter Island Foundation.

Further Reading

Travel in Easter Island: vital stats

  • Capital of Easter Island: Hanga Roa
  • Population of Easter Island: 4,000
  • Languages in Easter Island: Spanish & Rapanui
  • Time in Easter Island: GMT-6 (GMT-5 Oct to Mar)
  • International dialling code for Easter Island: +56 32
  • Voltage in Easter Island: 220V 50Hz AC
  • Visas for Easter Island: Chile visas
  • Money in Easter Island: Chilean peso (CH$). US dollars are also widely accepted. Credit cards transactions are becoming more common but incur a whopping 10% service charge. Take plenty of cash in case of problems with the ATM.
  • Travel advice about Easter Island: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Tourist board: Turismo Chile

When to go to Easter Island

Easter Island has a sub-tropical climate with an average temperature of 21ºC and sporadic rain throughout the year. The main tourist season is from December to March. January and February are the hottest months; May and September the wettest. July and August can be cold but it’s an ideal time to go hiking if you want the place to yourself.
The Tapati Festival at the beginning of February is a colourful two-week celebration of Rapanui culture with traditional dancing, singing, sculpting, body painting, cooking and sports alongside the hotly fought Island Queen beauty pageant.

International airports

Aeropuerto Mataveri (IPC) is just south of the capital, Hanga Roa.

Getting around Easter Island

Various companies offer whistle-stop bus tours of the island, but if you really want to tick all those moais off your list, renting a car is your best option. Be warned that insurance is not normally included on rental vehicles.

Mountain biking is another good option and bikes can be hired easily in Hanga Roa. Much of the island has paved roads but you may need to hop off on the rough unpaved sections near some of the main sites.

Easter Island accommodation

Easter Island has plenty of mid-range options but few choices at the top or bottom end. All guesthouses are based around Hanga Roa where there are also a couple of campsites. Prices are generally much higher than on mainland Chile and quality can vary – the tourism office just off the main square in Hanga Roa has a list. Booking ahead isn’t necessary out of high season but if you do, you’ll normally be met with a warm welcome at the airport.

Easter Island food & drink

Unsurprisingly, seafood aficionados will love Easter Island. Succulent raw sea urchin (erizo de mar) is a local delicacy, as is tuna ceviche, a mix of onion, coriander and raw fish marinated in lemon juice. Food, wine and beer that have been shipped in from the mainland come with a hefty price tag, but local goodies like sweet potato and banana bread are considerably cheaper. Vegetarians won’t go hungry here.

Health & safety in Easter Island

No vaccines are required for Chile but several are recommended. Check with your GP or local travel clinic 4-8 weeks before departure. Make sure you take plenty of drinking water when you visit the sites, as there is no safe drinking water outside of Hanga Roa.

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