The mystery

Easter island, Chile

"In the middle of the Great Ocean, in a region where no one ever passes, there is a mysterious and isolated island; there is no land in the vicinity and, for more than eight hundred leagues in all directions, empty and moving vastness surrounds it. It is planted with tall, monstrous statues, the work of some now vanished race, and its past remains an enigma."
Pierre Loti, pseudonym of Julien Viaud (1850-1923) French novelist and naval officer.


Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Rapa Nui (its eastern Polynesian name) is half way between Tahiti and South America. The nearest inhabited land is Pitcairn Island at 2,075 kilometres (1,289 mi), and the nearest continental point lies in central Chile, at 3,512 kilometres (2,182 mi). Easter Island is a special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888. Administratively, it belongs to the Valparaíso Region as the Province Isla de Pascua. It has about 5,800 residents, of which some 60% are descendants of the Rapa Nui polynesian inhabitants.

Geography and climate

The island is about 24.6 km (15.3 mi) long by 12.3 km (7.6 mi) at its widest point; its overall shape is triangular. It has an area of 163.6 square kilometres (63.2 sq mi), and a maximum altitude of 507 meters (1,663 ft). There are three Rano (freshwater crater lakes), at Rano Kau, Rano Raraku and Rano Aroi, near the summit of Terevaka, but no permanent streams or rivers.

It's a volcanic island, consisting mainly of three extinct volcanoes: Terevaka (altitude 507 metres) forms the bulk of the island, while two other volcanoes, Poike and Rano Kau, form the eastern and southern headlands and give the island its roughly triangular shape.

The climate is classified as a tropical rainforest climate (Af) that borders on a humid subtropical climate. The lowest temperatures are recorded in July and August (18 °C or 64 °F) and the highest in February (max 28 °C or 82 °F), the summer season in the southern hemisphere. The rainiest month is May, though the island experiences year-round rainfall.

Getting there, accomodation

The only way to get to Easter Island is by air. The island is served by LAN Airlines. They have direct flights to Easter Island from Santiago (Chile), Tahiti (French Polynesia) and seasonally from Lima (Peru). The flight, takes about 5 hours and operated by modern aircrafts. There are also several companies who can arrange package trips, including hotels, tours etc. Island's airport is Mataveri (IPC).
As for the currecny, the island uses a dual currency of both Chilean Pesos and US Dollars. Some shops and restaurants will also accept Euros, and credit cards are increasingly accepted.

Accomodations vary from larger hotels to small residenciales. Many provide meals and can arrange for rental cars, guided tours and other acitivities. You may wish to make reservations before traveling to the island, although the adventurous traveler can probably find a place to stay upon arrival. Keep in mind that during the annual Tapati festival and during other holidays, it is important to arrange for accomodations in advance.

Easter Island is small, so it is possible to get around fairly easily. There are rental cars and a few dirt bikes. With a car, it's possible to see most of the sights on the island in a few hours. Bicycles can be hired on a daily basis.

There has been much controversy and confusion concerning the origins of the Easter Islanders. Thor Heyerdahl proposed that the people who built the statues were of Peruvian descent, due to a similarity between Rapa Nui and Incan stonework. Some have suggested that Easter Island is the remnant of a lost continent . Archaeological evidence, however, indicates discovery of the island by Polynesians at about 400 AD - led, according to legend, by Hotu Matua. Upon their arrival, an impressive and enigmatic culture began to develop. In addition to the statues, the islanders possessed the Rongorongo script; the only written language in Oceania.

The first-recorded European contact with the island was on April 5 (Easter Sunday), 1722, when Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen visited the island for a week and estimated a population of 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants. The number may have been greater, since some may have been frightened into hiding by a misunderstanding that led Roggeveen's men to fire on the natives, killing more than a dozen and wounding several more. The next foreign visitors (on November 15, 1770) were two Spanish ships, San Lorenzo and Santa Rosalia.

Moai are human figures carved from the rock of the island. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu around the island's perimeter. Almost all moai have overly large heads three-fifths the size of their bodies. The moai are the living faces of deified ancestors. The production and transportation of the statues are considered remarkable creative and physical feats. The tallest moai erected, called Paro, was almost 10 metres (33 ft) high and weighed 82 tons; the heaviest erected was a shorter but squatter moai at Ahu Tongariki, weighing 86 tons; and one unfinished sculpture, if completed, would have been approximately 21 metres (69 ft) tall with a weight of about 270 tons. The moai were either carved by a distinguished class of professional carvers who were comparable in status to high-ranking members of other Polynesian craft guilds, or, alternatively, by members of each clan.

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Easter Island



Do you know that

In the event of an abort during launch, NASA had several international locations designated as Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites. Easter island Mataveri airport, is one of them.

Useful info

The Island counts three ATMs (Banco Estado, Banco Santander and Puna Vai gas station). They accept local bank cards and Cirrus cards.

In most Chilean bars and restaurants, tips are not included in the check. The usual amount in these places varies from 10% to 15% of the total.

Time zone: Winter: -6 hours GMT. Summer: -5 hours GMT.

Electrical voltage is of 220 volts, 50Hz.