Tropical Chile is located in Polynesia, in the Pacific Ocean, being the largest of the islands of insular Chile. It belongs to the region of Valparaiso and has the Parque Nacional Rapa Nui (Rapa Nui National Park), which is considered a World Heritage Site since 1995.
It is thenumber one tourist destination in Chile for its large and exotic natural beauty and mystery of the Rapa Nui culture that inhabits in this territory, builders of the huge Moai and an interesting mythology that attracts visitors throughout the year.
In the language Rapa Nui, Easter Island is called Te Pito o Te Henua, meaning the navel of the world and Mata ki te rangi, eyes that look at the sky.
The first inhabitants of Easter Island settled between the years 400 and 800, period in which the enigmatic Moai were built and the major parts of the ceremonial ahu. Then in 800 until 1680 the cult tangata manu, or birdman was practiced. In 1680, the first contacts with Western sailors were made, and these were who discovered the island in April 1722, on the very day of Easter, a name which became internationally known.
The traditional name however is Rapa Nui, meaning "Big Rapa" in Tahitian, language of sailors who visited the territory during the nineteenth century.
According to the history of the Rapa Nui, the first settlers came to the island from Hiva, a mythological island, under the guidance of Hoto Matu'a, the first ariki or king. According to research, this legend is related to the migration of the people to Easter Island from the Marquesas Islands in Polynesia.
The Rapanui people society was divided into tribes that occupied coastal areas of the island and was also stratified into classes. Cultivations were performed in the interior of the island, while the coastline was used for religious, political and ceremonial centers of culture, especially in Anakena and Akahanga beach, where people worshipped their ancestors, who were represented by the Moais.
It is believed that between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Rapa Nui people suffered a crisis of overpopulation, which caused wars between the tribes, destruction of the altars and abandonment of the quarries where the Moais were made from volcanic stone.
At this time, the ceremonial of tangata manu-bird man began, where representatives of the clans engaged in a kind of sports competition, where the first man to return from the islet Motu Nui with a manutara egg (a pascuense tern) would become the chief of his tribe for one year.
Later, between 1859 and 1863, the slavers kidnapped over 1000 Rapanui people, representing a huge loss, since the loss of these islanders meant the disappearance of the Polynesia script Rongorongo which still remains a mystery.
In 1877, Chile decided to annex this territory to the country, achieving in 1988 a treaty ceding sovereignty to Chile and maintaining the titles of the heads of the clans. The lands of the islanders began to be returned at the end of the twentieth century.
Where to go
Between beaches, archaeological sites and natural places, Easter Island surprises and enchants with its many attractions.
This wonderful beach with white sands and turquoise waters, is located 18 kilometers from the capital of Rapa Nui, Hanga Roa. It is the only beach on the island officially fit for bathing. It also has palm trees that were brought from Tahiti during the 60s, giving it a charming atmosphere.
In addition to swimming, scuba diving and other water activities, in Anakena you can relax in one of the kiosks and enjoy a beer and a delicious cheese or tuna empanada.
Near Anakena is the famous AhuNauNau.
This is one of the best conditioned ceremonial platforms found on Easter Island. It is characterized by its Moais decorated with red caps. The statues of this ahu were restored in the late 70's, so they are well maintained and in have great detail, such as tattoos and clothing.
This is one of the most beautiful places on Easter Island. With 15 Moais lined up, the largest quantity of these statues found in order in Rapa Nui and one of the postcards of the this place.
This is the downtown area of Easter Island where you can find banks, supermarkets, shops, craft shops, car rentals, hotels and tourist information. Its main avenue, Poicarpo Toro, has all the necessary amenities for visitors, in addition to many culinary offers and options to taste the local flavors.
You cannot fail to visit Hanga Roa, where several diving schools, cafeterias and restaurants are located. It also features a Craft Fair where you can find many different elements worked by craftsmen, with a Polynesian Style.
It also is worth knowing the Parroquia Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz Parish), where Sunday Mass with a Rapa Nui style of singing is celebrated.
El RanoKau is located in the southwest tip of Easter Island and has an altitude of 324 meters above sea level. It has a large crater where a lagoon of about 250 feet deep is located. Also, it is identified for its impressive cliffs that allow a view of the landscape of Rapa Nui. On the western side we find the ceremonial village of Orongo.
It is an important archaeological site on the island, which was used as a ceremonial center at the base of the volcano RanoKau. It has 50 stone houses, located in a sort of underground cave-like structure. This was a place where the priests stayed to perform rites such as the Bird Man. In Orongo you can see Moais and petroglyphs.
This volcano is located in the northwestern tip of Hanga Roa. Here is the location of the open quarry where the Easter Island Moais were carved in their entirety and 400 Moais in different forms, shapes and sizes were left unfinished. It is a mysterious place where questions arise about how these huge statues were transported, since they weighed several tons.
It has also a crater where you can find a lake of totora.
This is the highest volcano in Easter Island, 511 meters above sea level. It is located on the northern tip of Rapa Nui and has several craters. El RanoAroi is the most important and is on the southern part of the summit. On its slopes are several caverns, including the Cueva de Los Platanos, famous for its steep overlooking cliffs. It also has some ceremonial ahu, but of difficult access.
Museo Antropológico Sebastián Englert:
In this museum we can find a collection of objects and materials that compile the customs and traditions of the indigenous people of Easter Island. It was created with objects that the priest Sebastian Englert was able to collect, who lived 30 years in the area.
It is located north of Hanga Roa and near the ceremonial center of Tahai.
This is the place on Easter Island where you can see the best sunsets. Here are two ceremonial platforms, one with 5 Moais and the other with a single statue, with the sea at its back.
The lone Moai, named Ko Te Riku, has a bun made from a red stone and is the only one throughout the island with coral eyes.
In Tahai there is also a pier, built entirely of stone.
The AhuTahai is located 10 minutes walking distance from the center of Hanga Roa, north of the island.
The magical and mysterious Easter Island has many attractions to go and visit. From the enigmatic charm of its archaeological sites to its wonderful beaches, the island is to tour and to enjoy all around, by renting a car, riding horses or just walking around with a bottle of water and sunscreen.
One of the most iconic and unique tours is to know the impressive Moais which can be seen in the ceremonial ahu. On Easter Island there are about 300 ceremonial platforms, including some of the most famous like AhuTongariki, Akivi, NauNau, among others. It is said that a sunset in the AhuTahai is one of the most beautiful that can be seen in the world.
The large quarry of RanoRaraku, with over 400 buried Moais is another place that should be seen on the island. This mysterious place seems frozen in time, as if the work had been abandoned at the time, which is part of one the enigmas of Rapa Nui.
On the slopes of RanoRaraku the Ruta Patrimonial (Heritage Route) begins with 3.31 kilmeters of length and 9 stations. It is a hiking circuit that allows you to climb the volcano and ends at the ceremonial village of Orongo. This road was even once used to access Orongo during the Rite of Tangata Manu.
During the climb you can enjoy wonderful views of the island, plus see exemplaries of native flora and like the toromiros and gnaoho as well as other introduced species such as eucalyptus, guava and lúcumas.
Walking around the Rapa Nui beaches is another activity that must be done. Anakena is a tropical paradise of white sands, warm turquoise waters and palm trees in the background. Here, in addition to resting and relaxing, the more adventurous activities include sailing, scuba diving and sport fishing.
Another popular beach is Ovahe with spectacular cliffs and reddish sands. It is a sector with strong waves, so caution is recommended, but the landscapes are simply unforgettable.
Being in Rapa Nui you cannot miss a show of traditional music and dance. There are many shows including dances, ceremonies and food from the area, as the Polynesian "curanto", based on different types of fish and seafood.
Horseback riding is another activity that takes place on the island, where there are even horses that are not stabled. This trip lets you experience the trails of Rapa Nui from another perspective, experiencing the freedom of the horse. In these excursions you can reach the Maunga Terevaka volcano crater, which is the highest point of the whole island, 580 meters above sea level.
Now, if Easter Island is visited during the month of February, you can enjoy the traditional festival of Tapati Rapa Nui, where athletic contests, election of the Queen of Rapa Nui, food sampling and crafts, dances, music and much more are performed. Since this is one of the most attractive island activities, we recommend booking flights and accommodation months in advance.
In Easter Island the Chilean pesos and U.S. dollar are used. It is recommended to pay by cash, since many places do not accept credit cards.
There is a money exchange where you can exchange foreign currency and an ATM where you can withdraw money.
When being far away from the mainland, the cost of goods is usually considerably higher than in continental Chile.
On Easter Island there is no public transport system. However there are several taxis that take you to the most representative places of Rapa Nui and several companies that rent cars so you can tour the city.
The telephone code for Easter Island is 32, the same code as the fifth region of Valparaíso. To call from abroad, dial the code for Chile, which is 56, then 32 and the telephone number.
Where and what to eat
Easter Island's food is characterized by the presence of marine products. Exotic fish and seafood prepared with Polynesian flavors and accompanied by natives fruits and vegetables, provide distinctive and unique flavors to every dish.
Among the more traditional preparations is ceviche, with different types of fish other than tuna fish. Toremo mata huia, kanakana and pisci to name a few.
Also known are preparations with fried banana and coconut milk, one of the typical spices and dressings of this style of food. Most dishes are accompanied by po'e, a kind of cake prepared with tapioca flour, banana or cassava, very traditional of Easter Island.
The UmuTa'o Rapa Nui or Rapa Nui curanto is another one of the typical local dishes. It is prepared with plenty of fish and seafood, using banana leaves to separate the ingredients and cooked with the heat of hot volcanic stones. It is enjoyed accompanied by sweet potatoes.
Pork such as ribs is also another traditional preparation of Rapa Nui, as well as lamb.
On Easter Island there are 15 varieties of banana, so the food using flour or fruit, is used in all the dishes in the kitchens of Rapa Nui.