OUR Thoughts on EASTER ISLAND

Easter Island, which is also known by the local Polynesian inhabitants as “Rapa Nui” and by its official Chilean name of “Isla de Pascua”, sits in solitary splendour in the South Pacific Ocean between Tahiti and Chile.  It takes just under 6 hours to fly in each direction between Papeete and Easter Island by LAN Chile Airlines jet which services the route once a week.  For those looking to include Easter Island with a visit to South America, there are 6 flights each week between Easter Island and Santiago Chile and a twice weekly service to Lima Peru. Most Kiwi travellers visiting Easter Island pair Tahiti (French Polynesia) with Easter Island.

If you were to look down at Easter Island from a great height it would appear like a triangular-shaped stealth aircraft  travelling alone in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.  The town of Hanga Roa is located near the end of the left wing of the imaginary aircraft and the number one attraction, the Ahu Tongariki near the end of the right hand wing.  The Easter Island airport is located right beside the town of Hanga Roa.

Even though Easter Island is a territory of Chile and Spanish is an official language (English is widely spoken), the history and the native inhabitants of the island are inextricably linked to Tahiti and New Zealand through Polynesian ancestry, language roots and culture.  A major Polynesian event, the Tapati Rapa Nui Festival is held annually during the first two weeks of February and this is a great opportunity to discover the different aspects of the Rapa Nui culture in traditional sports, dance and song. Accommodation on Easter Island books out 6 to 12 months in advance for this event, so get in early if you’re keen to be a part of this terrific event.

Tied in with the Rapa Nui culture are the world-famous stone sculptures, the Moai, which are unique to Easter Island and which can be seen and enjoyed in various parts of the island.  At the Ahu Tongariki site, fifteen of these remarkable statues have been partially restored and stand on a huge rock platform (Ahu) near the sea facing towards the land and seemingly gazing at the sky.  The sight of them at dawn or dusk is awe-inspiring.  At Rano Raraku on the eastern end of the south coast which is reputedly the place where the Moai were first carved out of the rocks, the Moai have been left untouched and the contrast between the raw sculptures, the green grassy fields, the sky and the sea is magical. We have only mentioned a few of the major sites for seeing Moai, but as you travel around Easter Island, you come across many more locations where these massive statues exist.

Naturally there are tours available ranging from half-day to two-day tours and Our Specialists are happy to pre-arrange any of these for you.  For the reasonably fit, many of Easter Island’s sights are relatively easy to walk or cycle to from Hanga Roa.  Taxis are readily available and for the sights handy to Hanga Roa like the Orongo area on the side of the volcano crater near the town with its historic stone houses and the stunningly picturesque volcano crater itself, it’s possible to take a taxi up the hill and walk back.  On a clear day, the sight from the crater rim out over the never-ending ocean where the horizon seems to curve around you is something surely unforgettable. 

For other sights, such as the beautiful Anakina white-sand beach in a bay on the north coast or a visit to Ahu Tongariki at sunset, a rental car is necessary if you wish to explore these places at your own speed. In season there is good surfing and Scuba Diving to be enjoyed. There are bars, cafés and restaurants in town as well as very good restaurants in the main resort hotel.

There is something wonderfully different about Easter Island – don’t overlook this unique island and its extraordinary environment, history and culture if you are seeking an exceptional and special South Pacific holiday experience.