Latin America specialist Issy Younger tells us why Easter Island should be the
next destination on your ultimate bucket list...
Although somewhat deserving, Easter island has a reputation of being so incredibly remote, that visiting it is a slightly unobtainable idea that is reserved only for explorers and National Geographic partners. In reality, arriving onto the shores of Easter island was far easier than I anticipated. With multiple flights weekly to and from Santiago (even one flight that carries on to the pacific islands if you wanted to incorporate it with a pristine beach experience) combining Easter island with an adventurous Chilean itinerary is a must (such as our Ultimate Chile itinerary).
Upon landing you are instantly drawn into a strong Polynesian island experience - large airport terminals are shunned in favour of a rather quaint thatched wooden building, and before you know it, you are off the plane, through customs and welcomed into the inviting hub of the island, Hanga Roa. You get a real sense that all the locals are so proud of their culture and their heritage, speaking with such enthusiasm on about the island that it’s hard to come away anything other than captivated.
Throughout my time on Easter Island, I was lucky enough to be staying in Hanga Roa Eco Lodge and Spa, one of the handful of luxury properties on the island. Its unique location, combining the peace and serenity being right on the coast, with the hustle and bustle of the energetic town just a short walk away, makes a brilliant choice when wanting to experience the luxury Easter Island has to offer. Waking up in the morning, looking out across your uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean (all 2,300 miles of it) whilst being accompanied by roaming horses quietly grazing between the rooms, you really do feel as though you are in a completely different world.
Combining an intoxicating mix of Polynesian spirit and rolling green fields, Easter Island is a unique contradiction of being an island that is both incredibly alive, and incredibly deserted. During the evenings the island comes to life with the rhythm of drums and local music rolling through the pastures, the perfect setting for a Pisco Sour. But when it matters, whilst you are standing in front of the incredible Maoi statues at sunset, or walking through the Rano Raraku quarry where every statue started its story, there is not a soul to be seen, and you are left feeling truly alone centuries of history.
The mo’ai statues stand frozen in time, surrounded by mystery and eerie beauty. Each statue was individually carved and tribe members chipped away tirelessly with basaltic tools to ensure the features resembled those of their ancestors, including their tattoos. With the help of our brilliant local guide Hugo, our eyes were opened to the intricate and fascinating history of the island, from the devastating civil wars to the Birdman Cult. Journey along the winding coast of the UNESCO World Heritage Site from one incredible monument to another, all the time trying to wrap your head around how the statues were transported, or how a 10 tonne stone topknot (or Pukao) was separately lifted 20 meters and placed upon the mo’ais head – unanswered questions are rife!
And its not just the Mo’ai that Easter island has to offer, coupled with incredible diving, surfing and birdwatching, Easter Island truly is a destination for the top of your bucket. It lives up to every expectation you could possibly imagine, and quite simply, there is just noting else like it.
TOP TIP: Off season is by far the best time to go, tourists are even scarcer than normal, and the moderate temperatures mean hiking from one destination to another is an incredibly rewarding way to see the island.