Rediscover Easter Island
Easter Island is famous in its own right. But there are a lot of things that aren’t common knowledge about it. Starting with why it’s on a blog about South America. While geographically, Easter Island is in the middle of the Pacific, administratively it’s a Chilean Province, and you need to go to Santiago to get there.
The official name is not Easter Island, but Rapa Nui, the native name given to the volcanic island by its original Polynesian inhabitants. Rapa Nui means “navel of the world”, and it’s symbolic of its location in the middle of the open Pacific Ocean. The nearest land mass is over 3000Km away, and is the uninhabited Chilean island of Alejandro Selkirk, part of the Robinson Crusoe archipelago.
There are two ways to get to Rapa Nui. You can take one of the naval resupply ships that sail every three months from Valparaíso. This is the probably the more romantic option, but unless you are anxious to spend over a week staring at nothing but the sea, you should probably consider going by air. Lan Airlines flies daily from Santiago for the three hour flight to the principal town called Hanga Roa.
When landing, you will probably be surprised by how long the runway is. Easter Island has one of the three longest runways in the world, and was designed to be an emergency landing location for NASA’s Space Shuttle, although it was never required for that purpose.
The island is tropical, with rolling grassy hills and palm trees. The weather stays a balmy 80°F most of the year, changing little from day to night. This is ideal for walking on the white beaches that run along most of the island, and admire the Moai.
The Moai are what are known in popular culture as “Easter Island Heads”, and they are not heads at all. They are solid rock humanoid statues that are erected along the coastline. How they were transported to their locations remains an archeological mystery, and has made them famous.
While the island is volcanic in origin, the volcanoes are long dormant, and provide excellent vantage points to observe the whole island. If you are little more active and want to do more than just lounge on the beach, there are trails across the island that offer excellent trekking opportunities.
The local culture is principally Polynesian, with typical islander fare based on seafood. There are several festivals through the year, and it’s a popular vacation spot for Chileans during long weekends.