The giant heads of Easter Island are an iconic image for almost any traveler. The remote island, one of the most out-of-the-way places in the world, for some reason draws travelers in. Easter Island is a fascinating place but due to its location very few people who dream about seeing it actually make it. If seeing Easter Island is on your bucket list, you will have to do more than just book a flight. Here are our top tips for visiting Easter Island and seeing this unique wonder.
When we say Easter Island is remote, we aren’t joking. While this small south Pacific island is technically part of Chile, flights from the mainland take over 5 hours. The only airline flying regularly to the island is LAN and without competition, flights can be very expensive. A popular option is to book flights to the Island as part of a RTW ticket or with airline miles to avoid the unusually high costs. If you have a bit of flexibility though, LAN does run occasional sales which make the journey more affordable.
For the really adventurous, you can actually sail to Easter Island from either South America or from the other islands in the Pacific. If you have the time, the tall ship Soren Larsen makes the Pacific crossing from New Zealand to Easter Island, over the course of 35 days once a year.
On the Island
Before you arrive on Easter Island, it is a good idea to pre-book a hotel and possibly a tour. The small island’s economy runs on tourism and there are plenty of accommodation options but the most affordable book up fast. You can opt for everything from $1000/night hotel rooms to hostels or even camping.
Getting around the island, due to its small size, really isn’t that hard. If you’d like to tour the island independently, there are many car rental options and if you are up for hiking, most of the island can even be explored by foot. Keep in mind that some months out of the year it is very hot and humid, making trekking quite difficult as there is little shade and few places to rest. Lastly, you can sign up for a tour, most of which run 2 days, around the island and main archaeological sites.
One more thing to keep in mind about the island is that food prices are often quite high. Anything that has to be flown in from the mainland will be substantially marked up. A good option for the budget traveler is to stock up on food and snacks before leaving the mainland.
The Moai of Rapa Nui
While most people know the island of the giant heads as Easter Island, it is known locally as Rapa Nui. And those giant heads? The are called moai. The moai are of course the main reason visitors come to this remote island and the vast number and size of the moai definitely make the journey worth it. Seeing the various moai and related archaeological sites around the island usually takes around 2-3 days as part of a tour or independently with a rental car. You can of course spread this out though more than a week, or week and a half, on the island isn’t really recommended due to its small size and limited number of activities.
All the sites, other than two, are free and open to the public. Many of the Moai and the bases that they sit on, called ahu, are located along the coastlines. The two sites that require an entrance fee are the rock quarry at Rano Raraku, where most of the moai were carved, and Orongo, famous for the Bird Man Festival.