10 Reasons Easter Island should be top of your list for 2021
1. It's remote, yet accessible
As a child I remember gazing wide eyed at images of Easter Island – where on the planet was this magical location? And what are the magnificent moai? Did I see one blink, it’s mouth move? Is this real, or the stuff of legend? After many years of dreaming and anticipation, in just 5.5 hours flight from Santiago, Chile, I found myself on the most isolated of islands. Steeped in culture, landscape diversity and history, this is Rapa Nui, a.k.a, Easter Island. Despite modern advantages of air travel, Easter Island is still one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world, some 3,700km from Chile, South America.
2. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, steeped in history
Easter Island was given this name by the Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen , purported to “discover” the island on Easter Sunday, 1722. It has been reported through the years that anthropological evidence and radiocarbon dating suggest the indigenous Easter Islanders, or the Rapa Nui, landed on the island during 400-600 AD. They heralded originally from South-East Polynesia, and were close relatives of the Mangarevans, the largest island of the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia. For its remoteness, geographical beauty, and rich culture, Rapa Nui was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.
3. It's perfect for those looking to escape the crowd
Whilst the present local population constituted both by ethnically indigenous Rapa Nui and those from mainland South America has increased steadily - particularly over the last 20 years - Rapa Nui population remains compact with full time residents at just over 5,000 in number. This enables the intimacy of one’s experience with both the landscape and personal connectivity. The residents are wonderfully relaxed and welcoming, with every effort made to ensure one is enjoying the fullness of the island’s both natural and ancient historical experiences.
The mystery and mythology that envelops Easter Island is so inexorably intriguing, and one is transported to the other-world the moment one steps foot on the island. The landscape, it’s people, the culture, the moai tradition, and the Rapa Nui accomplishments stagger belief, and is certain to engage and intrigue every traveller who takes the literal and spiritual journey.
4. It's a place of natural beauty
It is the marriage of this stunning natural landscape, unfettered by modern over-development, and seemingly impossible feats of dedication to clan devotion that will inspire each day of one’s island exploration.
A rare location on the world’s travel destination map, Easter Island has retained its natural beauty and landscape. Low rise buildings and the wider community are concentrated in the main harbour coastal town of Hanga Roa which enables the island to stay true to its open form. The moment one arrives, one is immediately transported to a land of wonder and awe.
5. You can come face to face with ancient artefacts
The moai are at once grand and delicate, stunning in their detail, and mesmerising in their scale and repose. Clusters of just some of the 880 plus moai are dotted all over the island and are said to be carved by hand from the volcanic quarry between 1400 and 1650 AD; each tell their own story, their own legacy. It is suggested that each moai represents the clan leader of their time therefore no two are alike; I found myself in reverie, gazing into this incredible monolithic icon devoted to tribe and human faith, imagining the time, the person, their voice.
Signature locations on the island include Ahu Tongariki, home to the full standing fifteen moai. With a sudden and strong coastal breeze whipping my hair about my face, I stood motionless staring into the faces of deities, curious as to why they stood with their back to the ocean, when other moai face outward. I wondered at how the lone pukao (topknot) had been achieved, and how long the entire moai hand carving had taken. What does one say when face to face with a god?
6. You'll enjoy an active adventure, full of spectacular scenery
As I hiked along the stunning coastline, I met two moai tilted out of the ground as though laughing and creased over sharing a joke told an aeon ago. Continuing along the path, I hiked up the volcanic rim of Rano Raraku and gazed into the caldera, bejewelled by the turquoise lake within.
As I descended into Ana Te Pahu, the subterranean volcanic arteries, I could not help but imagine fleeing slave traders that ravaged the island in the mid-19th Century and praying that Ahu Akivi – the 7 Moai - would protect me. Memories of the islands’ fauna, people, and events are beautifully etched into stone petroglyphs in Te Peu.
As though interloping into the gods’ private sanctuary, I visited Anakena, a beach of pure white sand, palm trees, and azure blue waters, with an eerie serenity to this location. This is the signature location for two of the most significant archaeological sites: Ahu Ature Huki, the mystifying and solitary moai with resplendent back tattoos carved into the stone, and the Ahu Nau Nau who represent the Miru Clan that founded the Rapa Nui civilisation during the early Middle Ages and crowned Ariki Hotu Matu’a the first king of the island.
7. Stay at award-winning accommodation
The full experience of Easter Island is stunningly exemplified by such properties as Explora Rapa Nui. Award-winning in its design, the property boasts incredible views of the Pacific Ocean from all 30 guest rooms in addition to the Explorer’s Bar, Spa and Pool, and Dining Area; a constant and incredible immersion in the Island’s unique geography and peacefulness of one’s surrounds. Included during one’s stay are a selection of over 30 different guided hikes, bike rides, snorkelling, scuba diving, and relaxed private vehicle style explorations to discover Easter Island. These adventures suit all travellers as they range from easy to expert in physical activity, and a choice of half day or full day. Most of Explora Rapa Nui’s staff are local, which allows travellers to interact with authentic Rapa Nui who are extremely knowledgeable and proud of their indigenous heritage. Explora properties are synonymous with their philosophy named the art of travel, and it is based on three pillars defined as remote areas, in-depth explorations and luxury of the essential.
8. Take part in a local festival and meet the island community
Waves crashing formed images of family clan heroes of yesteryear bravely swimming in competition around craggy rocks, large swell, and shark infested waters in an annual festival famously known as the Birdman Cult Ceremony. A nod to this event is still celebrated annually in February as the Tapati Rapa Nui festival where two families compete in cultural competitions all over the island, such as music, sculpture, sports, body painting, fishing and more.
9. Discover endemic species and marine wildlife
The diversity of the marine wildlife surrounding the Island boasts over 150 different species. Like their stony-faced co-inhabitants, scientists have identified that around 25% of the species are endemic to the Island. Easter Island and the Rapa Nui culture appears to be a natural contradiction; “found by Europeans” yet still with an active indigenous population, inhabited by both giant monolithic deities and Chilean mortals, and clear evidence of a mystical civilisation.
10. Visit a land which time forgot
I say leave your watch at home on this journey. Be guided by the sunrise and sunset as the dramatic colour palette paint the sky over Ahu Tongariki . Let meal times be suggested by the incredible aromas of traditional recipes of the island, such as Umu Tao, still cooked as it was hundreds of years ago with red-hot volcanic stones and wood in the ground, upon which banana leaves hold your fresh fish, chicken, or pork to be prepared to succulent perfection. Allow your daily explorations to capture your imagination, and take you to the far corners and the eternal mysteries that are Easter Island.
Adventure World Travel can tailor-make a stay at Explora Rapa Nui from $2,599* per person, twin share. Or combine a visit to Easter Island with a customised tour of Chile starting in Santiago. Discover more suggested itineraries to design your own tour below.