Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

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Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

Easter Island (Isla de Pascua, Rapa Nui, map) is one of the most isolated islands on Earth. Early settlers called the island “Te Pito O Te Henua” (The Navel of the World). It is a territory of Chile that lies far off in the Pacific Ocean, roughly halfway to Tahiti. the nearest continental point lies in central Chile, 3,512 km (2,182 mi) away

Known as one of the world’s sacred sites, it is most famous for its enigmatic giant stone statues or moai whose oversized heads, carved centuries ago, reflect the history of the dramatic rise and fall of the most isolated Polynesian culture.

Today, Rapa Nui National Park is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Its residents rely much on the tourism and economic links to Chile and daily flights to Santiago.

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About the only scenario in which Easter Island is “conveniently located” is on a round-the-world voyage, in which it provides an interesting stop on the way between Polynesia and South America, and will help bolster others’ perception that you went “everywhere”.

Easter Island is extremely small, so it is possible to get around fairly easily. There are rental cars, generally jeeps, available from a few rental agencies in Hanga Roa, as well as a few dirtbikes. With a car, it’s possible to see the main sites on the island in a day.

Easter Island had the same visa requirements as the rest of Chile. This was tightened in 2018 in an attempt to protect the natural environment and island heritage from an influx of voyagers. Maximum stay was limited to 30 days (instead of 90) with requirements that visitors fill out a special form, show return tickets and provide a copy of a hotel reservation or letter of invitation from an islander.

The biggest tourist attractions on Easter Island are, of course, the moai. The moai are archaeological features and should be treated with care as they are far more fragile than they seem. Often moai will be placed upon ceremonial platforms and burial sites called ahu. Do not walk on the ahu as it is an extremely disrespectful gesture. Even if you see others walking on the ahu, do not do so yourself.

The Rapa Nui National Park covers several areas of the island. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most (if not all) of the sites you will visit on the island are inside the National Park, so you will need a ticket to enter them. Tickets can be bought at the entrance, but the most practical choice is to buy them at the airport. Right after you leave the plane and before you reach the baggage claim area, you will find a booth selling tickets.

If you’ve managed to sail to Easter Island on your own, a logical next stop would be the infamous Pitcairn Islands (of “Bounty” mutiny fame, map), one of the island’s “nearest” neighbors and another contender for “most isolated”, with no air access and little tourism at all.

Public transport

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 BUS >   –

 RAIL >   –

 AIRPORTS >   Mataveri International Airport (at Hanga Roa in the southwest of the island). The primary passenger airport, with non-stop service to Santiago, Chile and Tahiti.  >> LATAM Airlines

 WATERWAYS >   –

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