Key information: Easter Island
- Walk across one of the most isolated places on earth, from site to ancient site.This remote island once sustained a mysterious people of craft and culture. The people are gone, but their amazing heritage has endured: discover their vast, awe-inspiring statues (moai) for yourself, with over eight hundred monoliths carved into heads and torsos, gazing steadily into the eternal distance.
- The island, heralded the navel of the world in the language of its indigenous people, is a serene mix of beauty and grandeur with volcanic hills and barren, treeless landscape.
Walkopedia rating(Top 100)
- Walkopedia rating88
- Natural interest13
- Human interest12
- Negative points0
- Total rating88
- Length: Variable
- Mostly day walks
- Maximum Altitude: 507m (Terevaka Volcano)
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
Easter Island is a place full of mystery, that astounds as much as it confounds, and which traces an intriguing path back to mankinds past. While the creators are gone, a massive cultural legacy remains; statures, wood and stone carvings, barkcloth crafts (tapa), music, dance, tattooing, string figures and the only written language of ancient Oceana, the Rongorongo script. The 887 upright statues, or moai (of which around 50 have been re-erected), offer a breathtaking insight into human versatility and cultural evolution, the craft and skills utilized still marvellous today. These statues, originally thought to be just heads but later found to include torsos too many lost in the shifting volcanic soils are what draw people here; the last vestige of a vanished Polynesian culture that began 1600 years ago.
The statues are indeed impressive; giant carved monoliths shaped using tools not dissimilar to those of the Incas (indeed, the similarity between Easter Islands stonework and Incan masonry led to initial theories that the island itself was settled by the Incas). They litter the coastline, most looking out to sea as sentinels of a haunted legacy, though an inexplicable few facing inland. They average around fifteen feet in height, and seem bizarrely cartoon-like, almost caricatures; all bear marked resemblances to Incan statues or Native American totems. These statues alone are worth the visit.
Rapa Nui, the Navel of the World, makes for wonderful walking. It will not take a physically fit person over three days to see the entire island; a volcanic rock triangle plunged into the heart of the South Pacific. The land is hilly, if devoid of trees, and only sixty-three square miles in size. There are, however, three extinct volcanoes, the largest 1,674 feet tall, so the scenery is spectacular in a desolate, grand way, and has been compared to Scotland and Wales. Trekking is not too difficult, and there is opportunity to see sprawling vistas of the whole island, sweeping bays, and resonant seas calm between cliffs, hills and mountains.
Suggested itineraries include visiting the Ahu Hanga Tee site, one of the altars for a moai, and then following the coast round, passing the Ahu Akahanga and Ahu Tetenga sites, all the time gawping reverently at the monoliths, both fallen and upright, that signal the maturity as artisans of the now disappeared society. A good idea is to take in the museum at Hanga Roa the islands harbour settlement first, thus enabling you to map stories onto the islands archeology and develop your own theories as to the logistics of the structures.
Alternatively, a climb up Rano Kau, the islands most spectacular volcano, to Orongo, a major archeological site placed precariously on its crater-rim, necessitates slightly more exertion. Although a taxi can be taken up the main track to the top, more exciting is to look for trails diverging from this road. In all, the climb should take no more than a few hours. The Crater Lake atop this volcano offers a beautiful, circuitous route in order to make a fuller day of the walk, though possibly a lengthy one and only for the more experienced walker.
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Books and Maps
Books on this walk
A Companion to Easter Island – James Grant Peterkin
Easter Island – by Caroline Arnold
Island at the End of the World: The Turbulent History of Easter Island – Steven Roger Fischer
Easter Island– Jennifer Vanderbes: a novel
Lonely Planet Chile and Easter Island – by Carolyn McCarthy and Kathryn Raub
Easter Island (Travel Reference Map) – International Travel Maps
Maps can be bought fairly easily once on the island.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
The best time to visit is in Summer – with more planes laid on and pleasant weather – high season in Easter Island. These months (December to the end of February) see temperatures average around 82° Fahrenheit. If you prefer to be alone on the island, then July and August are your best opportunity, though the weather can be inhospitable: rain, and chilly weather made to feel yet cooler by strong Antarctic winds are to be expected. Easter Island is in the Southern Hemisphere, so its seasons are reversed.
Easter Island has an average annual temperature of 20° Celsius, and though rainfall is year-round, it tends to be brief, intermittent showers (May has the most rainfall). Maximum temperatures are around 28°c in summer (the hottest month is February), and the annual minimum is 14°c (winter months; June to August).
As one of the most remote places in the world, Easter Island can be both difficult and very expensive to reach. There are only two airports offering flights to the island’s own mini-airport, each 2,500 miles away; Santiago, Chile, and Papeete, Tahiti. The five hour flight can cost upwards of USD500 to USD1,000, and further provision must be made for travel to and from the Santiago/Tahiti airports.
Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from arranged departure points, predominantly once on the island already.
Once on the island, no permits are needed. You should be able to organise any other entry requirements through whomever you use to book your flights.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Adverse weather: rain and wind are possible on this ocean-girt island at any time of year.
- Heat: and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself (sun cream!).
- Heights can be dangerous; some walks are not for those who have difficulties with heights.
- This is remote country: once on the island, that is your lot, so don’t expect readily available supplies and infrastructure if things go wrong.
- Health risks: this is relatively undeveloped – and moreover, extremely isolated – country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
Guided or independent?
You can do these walks independently, especially given the small size of the island, but come prepared. Once away from Hanga Roa, don’t expect to pop into a shop for supplies. Bring your own lunch and warm clothing!
- Explore! – www.explore.co.uk: absorbs Easter Island into a ‘grand tour’ of Chile. Reputable and experienced organisers.
Accommodation in Easter Island ranges from small hotels to smaller B&Bs, all found in Hanga Roa, the island’s only town. Try:
List of hotels with links - www.chile-hotels.com/easteris
Trip Advisor, for reliability - www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Easter_Island-Hotels
Other information and tips
With Hanga Roa the only settlement, there are no restaurants/cafes elsewhere: bring a packed lunch when going for a walk!!
Useful websites and information
Other things to do in the area
- None within 2,500 miles!!
Hire a traditional Polynesian outrigger-canoe, used by the indigenous people thousands of years ago.
Tour the island on horseback for around US$40 for two or three hours.
Hire a jeep for US$50-60 per day.
Surfing is possible – and done by many locals – in the harbour at Hanga Roa, the island’s only town.
There are two white, sandy beaches with scope for snorkeling.
Museum at Hanga Roa.
Shopping, if you must
Countless handicrafts available in town, and vital to the island’s small economy.
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