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When it comes to ancient mysteries, there are few as fascinating as the one surrounding Easter Island, Chile. Undoubtedly one of Chile’s major tourist attractions, the island was once populated by the Rapa Nui people who mysteriously disappeared in the mid 1800s. Nowadays, the island is frequented by people who want to experience the mystical vibe of this curious patch of land.
You have probably seen photos of the giant head statues that populate the island. These are called moai and are yet another of the island’s mysteries as it is still unknown why they were built and what or whom they are supposed to represent. But, these enigmatic statues are not the only reason to visit Easter Island. There are fantastic surfing, snorkeling and hiking opportunities to keep you occupied during your Easter Island tour. Nothing quite compares to navigating through the rugged natural beauty that prevails across the island in thick swathes or lounging around on one of the island’s pristine beaches. Below, we give you top reasons to travel to Easter Island (in particular order):
For most people, the image that comes to mind when Easter Island is mentioned is a row of huge-headed statues standing on a platform (pictured above). These statues were meticulously restored after they were damaged by a civil war and then a tsunami. The platform holds 15 moai statues and is the biggest of its kind on the island. This is where you will be getting those Instagram-worthy snaps!
Hanga Roa is the only town on the island so be prepared to base yourself there whilst visiting Easter Island. From here you can easily access a lot of the island’s archaeological sites and you will be within walking distance of numerous accommodation and dining options. With little more than 5,000 inhabitants, Hanga Roa is a far cry from the bustling cities of Santiago and Valparaiso in mainland Chile. But, what it lacks in population, it more than makes up for with charm.
These volcanoes are an absolute must-see during your trip to Easter Island. It was at Rano Raraku that the moai were carved before being carted off around the island and erected on various ahus (stone platforms). The rocks here are formed from volcanic ash, making them easier to cut through. Surrounding the volcano are almost 400 partially finished moai that were abandoned because they had some kind of defect. Seeing the half-finished heads lying around the periphery of the volcano is quite a sight to behold!
Easter Island’s main beach, Anakena is a postcard-perfect patch of white powder sand and sparkling, turquoise water, which remains at an ideal bathing temperature throughout the year. But, this beach is more than just a pretty face. It is an area of great historical significance as it was here that the founders of the Rapa Nui culture first landed on the island. As the home of the island’s first ancient city, this beach has witnessed all kinds of fascinating developments over the course of hundreds of years.
With over half of the island’s population being of Rapa Nui origin, the community of Easter Island still maintains many traces of their ancestors’ culture. Noticeably different to mainland Chileans, the culture of the Islanders has a strong focus on music and even has a number of its own musical instruments. Singing is often done in choirs or in a chanting style, to the backing sound of percussion fashioned from all sorts of strange things, like the jawbone of a horse. The music is accompanied by different dances, including the Sau-Sau, Island Tango and Tari-Tarita. Every year, the island holds the Tapati festival in celebration of Rapa Nui culture so if you time your Easter Island tour well, you could bear witness to some incredible examples of Rapa Nui culture.
It will come as little surprise that fish and seafood are the primary ingredients in Easter Island’s cuisine. Lobster, swordfish and tuna all make regular appearances at the dinner table and are often accompanied by plantains or yams.
If you’re looking to get an authentic taste of the island then make sure you try the island’s most famous dish: Umu Rapa Nui. The cooking method for the dish has remained very traditional and the taste of the end result is sublime. Satisfy your sweet tooth at the end of the meal by tucking into Po’e, a sponge cake made of pumpkin and plantain.
Step one of your holiday is going to involve getting to the island – and it isn’t a easy thing to do. Pretty much your only option to get to Easter Island is to take a flight from Santiago de Chile, the capital of Chile. The flight lasts around 5 hours and is only serviced by LATAM airlines. On the bright side, travellers to Chile (Easter Island included) can stay in the country for up to 90 days without a visa – one less thing to think about.
Once you have worked out how to get to the island, you will need to book some accommodation. Easter Island attracts around 100,000 visitors every year. Naturally, with this many people visiting such a small island, accommodation can fill up quickly, so be sure to book your Easter Island tour well in advance when you do. Virtually all of the hotels are in Hanga Roa so this is where you will be basing yourself. You can opt for popular hotels and resorts on your visit to the island, budget hostels or just Airbnb. Finally, if you are feeling adventurous, you could shack up in a campsite for the ultimate budget experience.
A trip to Easter Island is an experience you will never forget. A lot of travelers on their trip to Chile avoid it as it is certainly a tricky destination to visit. But if you are ready to take on the challenge, you will reap the rewards once you’re there.
Travelling to Chile? Chat with a local travel specialist in Chile who can help organize your trip.
Ezequiel Fernandez Estelrich Travel Expert in Argentina & Chile
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