This island is called many names.
Isla de Pascua in Spanish.
Rapa Nui by the original inhabitants.
But most know it as Easter Island, named by a Dutch explorer who sighted it on Easter Sunday in 1622.
So, on this Easter weekend I thought it would be great to write about it!
Here is an honest account of our experience of Easter Island in 2016.
Getting there and general stuff:
- It’s part of Chile (South America)
- The official language is Spanish and the currency used is the Chilean Peso.
- The flight from Santiago (Chile) takes about 5 hours and it’s on a Dreamliner (yay!)
- The airport is called Mataveri and the main terminal is a grass covered building.
- There is one luggage carousel and it takes forever for your bags to arrive. This is because, the flight doubles up as a cargo flight so they offload that bit first. Expect to see strange things passing you on the luggage carousel…..crates of all kinds 😊
- The runway is very long and wide because it’s an emergency landing site for the space shuttle. (thank you NASA)
- You can hire a car to get around but it’s much easier to book a 2 day tour package with a local operator to go around the island with a local guide, who can tell you about the culture and history too. (We included the Easter Island package as part of a bigger South American trip, which I’ll write about in future blogs)
- Don’t go there if you don’t like fish and seafood. Meat is available but a bit of a rarity on most menus. Note: I had the best calamari there 😊
- There are loads of artisan shops and markets in Hanga Roa (the main town and capital) to support local arts and crafts.
- There are lots of stray dogs in Hanga Roa… but don’t worry, they are harmless.
- You can get a special stamp for your passport from the post office in ‘downtown’ Hanga Roa.
- There is a parliament building.
About the sites:
- A moai is one single head, an ahu is a collection of moai.
- The ahu at Tongariki and at Anakena beach are the largest.
- Don’t touch anything – a Finnish tourist accidentally broke a moai and was fined US $17 000 (not kidding) and banned for 3 years. To summarise: look, take loads of pictures but don’t touch!!
- We found the quarry visit the most interesting – especially where the moai were carved out of the rocks – some are still there, abandoned when the culture started to decline. (This also dispels the myths about aliens being involved in some way!)
- The current population of true Easter Islanders is a few thousand and they are descended from the original 111 that survived the internal wars, famine and disease to be ‘rescued’ by French missionaries in the 1870’s. The population increased to about 250 by the outbreak of World War 1. Interestingly, the original population declined because of internal fighting between rival rulers and the depletion of food resources, not because of European influences.
- Our guide on the island was saying that because so few islanders survived, when they take someone out on a date on the Island nowadays, they have an app to check that they aren’t related so it doesn’t cause any issues later….(well, obvs, there’s an app for everything!)
- The Birdman cult was the Easter Island / Rapa Nui version of the Hunger games. It involved a contest that included a dangerous swim to a smaller set of islands (sharks, lots and lots of sharks!), followed by scaling of a cliff face to retrieve an egg of the manu tara bird also known as the sooty tern (apparently a very, very angry bird) and then swimming back with the egg intact.
- The ruins of the stone settlement of Orongo and the associated visitors’ centre and museum provide insight to this interesting cult.
- The 1994 film ‘Rapa Nui’ is about the Birdman cult and was actually filmed on Easter Island with the local population as extras.
- The volcanic craters at Rano Raraku and Rano Kau are worth a visit as well as the petroglyphs sites.
- And finally – take note of what to do in the case of tsunamis. There are signs for this everywhere.
Overall, Easter Island is a very special place. You have to experience it at least once to understand the magnitude and scale of the sites, the rather interesting Birdman cult and the absolute destruction of a civilisation by sheer greed and power.
Something to add to the post COVID travel list.
The photographs used in this blog are our personal travel snaps from 2016.
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Opinions expressed are our own based on personal experience.
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This is brilliant! I like the format and content, and I find the information is a great starting point for deciding whether it’s a place of interest or not. I also enjoyed reading the personal tips and seeing the photographs.
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Thank you Heidi 😊