NOTE: Rob and Ange spent a week on Easter Island at the end of January 2013 to produce most of the information we have here.
Easter Island is known by the local people as Rapa Nui. In Spanish the island is called Isla de Pascua.
How did it get its name? Well, the island was discovered on Easter day (Sunday 6 April 1722) by the Dutch Admiral Jacob Roggeveen.
Easter Island is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about 3,700km from the Chilean Coast making it the most isolated inhabited island in the world. With its petroglyphs and imposing Moai statues, the island is like an outdoor museum that cannot be found anywhere else.
The Moai Statues were carved from the island's volcanic rock at Rano Raraku. They can have a diameter of more than 3 meters and heights that can reach up to 24 meters. The height of the statues grew over time so you can roughly say that the smaller the statue, the older it is. Considering that many statues weigh up to 80 tonnes, we can only wonder how they were put into their upright position.
A curious fact is that almost all of the statues have their back to the sea, looking towards the interior of the island. The only statues that do look towards the sea can be found north-east of Hanga Roa at Ahu Akivi. Here there are 7 statues representing the original explorers that came to this island and that are now looking out to sea towards their homeland.
What to see and do on Easter Island?
We recommend that you visit the museum in Hanga Roa before you visit any of the Moais or other touristy places so you get an idea of what its all about and you will appreciate the visit a lot more.
Some of the Main attractions and places to visit on Easter Island are:
The Rano Raraku volcano, located to the Northeast of Hanga Roa, is considered one of the greatest and most valuable archaeological sites of the island. It contains the open quarry that was once used to carve the statues out of the rock before they were taken to their final position. There are over 300 statues in varying states of completion scattered about the quarry which give us a very good idea of how they were made. This quarry is also home to the Tukuturi Moai, also know as the kneeling moai, which strangely was made at another part of the island (Puna Pau) and brought to this site. At this same place you can walk up to the Rano Raraku crater lake.
The famous line of statues (the most photographed ones) are at Ahu Tongariki. There are 15 large Moai standing looking towards the center of the island. See all of our photos of Ahu Tongariki.
You can walk about two hours south of Hanga Roa along a trail to get to a beautiful lake (Rano Kau) in the old crater of a volcano. While you can't go down to the lake (unless you accidentally fall down the steep sides of the crater), the view from above is amazing. Perched on the edge of the crater you will find Orongo village which is where the birdman competitions were held.
Another attraction of Easter Island is the main beach called Anakena. It is the only white sand beach on the island (along with the must smaller Ovahe beach) and has the distinction of also having Moai standing nearby. There are also many recreational activities available to do on the island such as surfing, diving, horse riding and fishing amongst others.
Other places to visit on Easter Island are:
Ahu Akahanga - Hotu Matu’a, the founder of Rapa Nui, is supposed to be buried here.
Other useful information about Easter Island:
Hare Moa - The stone chicken houses.
Hare Vaka - Learn about the boat houses were people used to live
The best place to watch the sunset on Easter Island
Many people walk 15-20 minutes north of Hanga Roa to take photos of Ahu Tahai at sunset. To get there, head down to the water at Hanga Roa, past the football/soccer field and past the caleta (where the fishing boats are tied up and where you can get some diving equipment, or a great ice cream). You will go past a small park to the left with outdoor gym equipment and a kids' playground. In the distance you will see the cemetery. Walk around this (to the left on the ocean side is better) and in the distance, not too far away, you will see a line of 5 moai and two other ones by themselves. This is Ahu Tahai.
Rent a car on Easter Island
One of the best ways to wander around the island is to rent a car or scooter on Easter Island. In your own vehicle you can see most of the sites in a couple of days (though we recommend you take your time to enjoy each site more). We did a full day private tour to learn a lot about the Moai and Rapa Nui culture and then had a better understanding of things when we went alone in our rental car. Doing the private tour and then visiting places ourselves, we were at most sites alone and were able to take pictures without other people getting in the way.
The car rental company we used was Oceanic Rapa Nui (Rent a Car) which is the largest one on the island. The owner was the first to rent transport on the island starting with a couple of scooters at the feria (market). Eventually he bought another scooter when he could and now he has a fleet of 90+ vehicles.
Oceanic Rapa Nui
Av. Atamu Tekena (no number)
Phone: (56-32 210 0985)
Spanish is the official language of Easter Island though you will hear (and see) a lot of the local language (Rapa Nui) spoken (for Maori speakers of New Zealand, you will find a large number of similarities). You can usually get by with English though a Japanese tourist told us that he found it difficult that almost nobody spoke his language at hotels or tourist attractions. (Let us know about your nationality!!!!!)
Where to Stay
As you come in the airport you will find some counters offering accommodation. Most places will give you a free pickup to take you to their hotel or cabin since the airport is at the end of the main road. When deciding where to stay, you need to consider how far away the place is from the main street or the caleta (fishing boat area). We found many cabañas (cabins) and even some hotels quite far from where the action is so guests would either have to walk a lot or take a taxi every time. We were fortunate to find Rapa Nui Adventures and stay in our own cabin right in the middle of town (behind a carver's store) and only a block or two from the ocean. We also did our private tours with them.
Things on Easter island are generally expensive because they have to fly most of their products from Chile. To give you an idea, a typical Chilean empanada costs around $2.000 Chilean Pesos (2013) but apparently they are really good.
Flights leave most days of the week from Santiago via Lan Chile airlines and take around 5 hours.
If you have any other information or tips for us, please let us know so we can help others.
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