What to Expect When You Travel to Easter Island From Chile
Easter Island is one of the most magical and impressive spots on the planet.
La Isla de Pascua—also known as Rapa Nui or Easter Island—is an island that belongs to Chile as a territorio especial (special territory) in the region of Valparaíso, one of the 16 regions that constitute the country.
Easter Island statues are the most famous aspect of the island. These are large rock structures known as moai, and each one resembles a big head. But Rapa Nui is so much more than just those statues.
Are you interested in traveling to Easter Island for your next vacation? Read this blog post to explore la Isla de Pascua, learn what makes it a perfect destination, and prepare for your travels.
A Brief History of Easter Island
La Isla de Pascua got its name thanks to Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutch explorer who discovered the island on Easter Sunday in 1722. It’s been the official name ever since.
The island’s Polynesian name, Rapa Nui, refers to its topographic resemblance to another island which is also called Rapa. Rapa Nui means “big Rapa.”
The Island is home to 7,750 inhabitants, and 45% identify as Rapa Nui, the native inhabitants of Easter Island. The word for non-native residents is pascuense.
Easter Island is a territory of Chile. However, it is in the Polynesian triangle in Oceania, so it is not considered part of America. In 1995, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site, and most of the island is protected within Rapa Nui National Park.
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How to Get to Easter Island
Rapa Nui is one of the most isolated and remote destinations in the world. Getting there is challenging but not impossible! Travelers may reach Easter Island by boat or plane.
Getting to la Isla de Pascua by boat is expensive, but it’s also a magical and romantic experience. Boat trips to Easter Island are limited. To go there in your own boat or rent one for the occasion, you need official permission. Set sail from Valparaiso and anchor in Hanga Roa or Hotuiti on the island.
Alternatively, secure a spot on el Aquiles, a Chilean Army ship that sails to the island twice a year. While this is the cheapest option to get to the island by boat (tickets cost approximately $155), it’s also the slowest way to get there.
After the 7-day trip, the ship docks at the island for just a few days. You either have to go back to the mainland on the same boat or prove that you have a return plane ticket.
The last option to travel to Rapa Nui by boat is on a cruise. However, the island is just a port-of-call, not a final destination. This is the most expensive option, as tickets cost over $3,500 per person.
Air travel is the simplest way to get to Easter Island. Latam Airlines is the only airline that manages flights to the island in Latin America, and the only direct flight leaves from Santiago, Chile.
With your flight secured and already in Santiago de Chile, it is time to order all your documents so you can fly without a worry. What you need to have on hand is:
- A passport or a personal identification document
- An hotel reservation or invitation letter
- Return airplane ticket
- El formulario único de Ingreso (single entry form)
Daily flights depart from Santiago to Easter Island; the flight duration is approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes. Your destination, Mataveri International Airport on Easter Island, is the most remote airport in the world.
Restrictions and Considerations
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to note the following restrictions.
- Only Chileans citizens and foreign residents of Chile can enter the country without special permission
- Visitors and tourists must request a special document called salvoconducto (safe passage) at the Chilean Embassy
- You must present a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of boarding your final flight to Chile
- You may need a Pase de Movilidad (Mobility Pass) to be able to travel in the country
- A 7-day quarantine is required for everyone before traveling or moving within Chile
Refer to the US Embassy in Chile for more in-depth information about the restrictions in place.
See also: Your Ultimate Guide to Chilean Slang
5 Must-See Sites on Easter Island
While getting to Rapa Nui is an adventure of its own, being on the island is a truly magical experience. Prepare your bucket list because it is time to add these next 5 activities for you to enjoy during your visit to Rapa Nui.
1. Learn about the Moai
Easter Island is best known for its mystical statues that resemble giant heads. These “Moai” structures are distributed across the island on altars called “ahus.”
Learn about the history, importance, and legends behind these pieces at the quarry of the Rano Raraku Volcano.
2. Walk through Hanga Roa
Hanga Roa is the main town and harbor of Rapa Nui. It’s small enough to explore in a few hours to learn more about the island and its culture.
Visit the Chilean post office in Hanga Roa to stamp your passport with the special emblematic stamp that features the Moai.
3. Try the Tuna Empanadas
Enjoy one of Easter Island’s most famous foods: empanadas de atún (tuna empanadas).
They’re handmade with fresh ingredients. These delicious and hearty treats aren’t as expensive as other dishes on the island, which makes them a perfect midday snack.
4. Watch the Sunset in Tahai
Known as Tahai Ceremonial Complex, this archeological site on Rapa Nui is a magical place. with three ceremonial altars:
- Ahu Vi Uri
- Ahu Tahai
- Ahu Ko Te Riku
While visiting this place during the day is a splendid experience, the real spectacle is at sunset. Witness how the sun goes down behind the immense Moai statues. It’s a fabulous way to end a day of activities and adventure.
5. Visit Orongo
Orongo is a ceremonial village where ancestral Rapa Nui competitions and traditions take place every February.
Natives and visitors celebrate Tapati, a festival that rescues several Rapa Nui ancient traditions. But even if you can’t get there in February, Orongo still is a must on your itinerary.
Most of Easter Island is part of Rapa Nui National Park. Tickets for entrance to the park last 10 days and allow you to visit several places more than once, except the areas of Orongo and Rano Raraku.
Buy these tickets at Mataveri International Airport or at the CONAF office in Mataveri ($80 for adults and $40 for children under 12).
Prepare for Your Easter Island Trip by Learning Spanish
While the indigenous people of Easter Island speak the Rapanui language, the official language of Chile is Spanish. Did you know that learning Spanish actually helps your cognition and decision-making abilities? To prepare for your trip to this remote and amazing site, sign up for a free, 1-to-1 class with a certified, native Spanish-speaking teacher at Homeschool Spanish Academy and tell them all about your Easter Island travel plans!
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