Updated August 10, 2020.
This Throwback Thursday, we’re throwin’ it way back to last week on Easter Island, Chile! We spent 5 days there, and it was truly a trip of a lifetime. Here is our itinerary… and a few things we would have done differently! We hope this will help you plan your perfect trip to beautiful Easter Island! These days can be arranged in any order that works for you.
Day 1: Fly In and Visit the Museum
1. Getting Settled
Our flight from Santiago landed around 1:00pm, and after 5 hours in-flight, we needed to stretch our legs! We stayed at the Hotel Puku Vai, just about a quarter mile walk from the airport. We dropped our stuff and headed out to find an empanada for lunch. We found a great little place with fresh empanadas and some incredible desserts, too! I got a chicken and cheese empanada.
Hungry for more? What to Eat on Easter Island
Then it was on to visit the Museum and find some Moai! The museum was awesome. Coming here first was definitely the right thing to do! We learned a lot–especially since we didn’t know much about the island or the Moai to begin with! Admission was FREE, and they have some artifacts you won’t find anywhere else. They are closed on Mondays, but open every other day of the week. It was sort of a hike from town, but there is signage, and we got to get some blood pumping back through our legs!
3. Next up: Moai!
We continued down the road from the museum, and found what we were looking for. We stopped over at Hanga Kio’e and Ahu Tahai, which are locations of several Moai (the big heads on Easter Island).
We continued along the shoreline and found supper at a little restaurant on the main drag in town. We got the traditional Chilean big sandwiches! Here’s a peek at my husband Steve’s:
Day 2: Hiking Day: Off to Orongo!
1. Making Friends
After a hearty breakfast, we set out for a nice hike up to the Rano Kai Crater and Orongo “Birdman” Village. We unwittingly picked up a friend on the way. He stayed with us almost the whole hike, and people asked us over and over again if he was ours. Nope! But he seemed to think we were his!
2. The Hike
There are not that many roads on Easter Island, so it’s not too easy to get lost. The paper maps we were given were very clear and way better than any electronic map we tried to use, and signs all looked uniform, so they were easy to spot. There were also rows of white rocks clearly marking the path up the crater. Walking from the airport (near our hotel and near the town of Hanga Roa) and stopping at a few sites along the way (like a cave with petroglyphs), we hiked a total of about 10 miles round-trip!
3. At the Top
Once we made it to the top of the crater, we were greeted with a truly amazing and breath-taking view. It was worth the hike!
4. Orongo Village
Just around on the right side of the crater, we found the Orongo Village, used once per year, exclusively for the Birdman competition. What’s the Birdman competition? It was a competition for the Rapa Nui tribes (Rapa Nui is Easter Island) to decide which tribe had the power. Each tribe chose one person to represent their tribe and compete for their tribe’s chief. All the competitors had to run 325 meters down the side of the nearby cliff, paddle 1.5 kilometers through shark-infested waters on a small, reed canoe, and climb onto an island called Moto Nui (yes, just like in Moana–Disney did their homework!). Once on the island, they would hunt for an egg from the Manutara bird. They put the egg in a pocket on their headband, paddled back, ran up the side of the cliff again, and hand the egg over to their chief. Whoever did that first was the Birdman, and their chief had the power until the next competition!
Helpful info: The Ultimate List of Hiking Tips
5. Hiking Down for Lunch
And then it was time for lunch! The hike back down the crater trail was much easier and went much faster than the hike up! We made our way back to town and let ourselves indulge in a nice lunch, followed by coffee and dessert with a Moai!
Get more: What to Eat on Easter Island
We were pretty worn out after our hike and a hefty, late lunch, so we picked up a couple of empanadas for supper later and made our way back to our hotel. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, reading, and planning our next few days’ activities!
Day 3: Full Day Tour
I’ll start this one with a bit of an aside: If we had it to do over again, we would have chosen to spend a little extra money and do a private guided tour instead of a group tour, or we would have rented a car to see the sites ourselves. I think we may have been able to go to the major sites at better times of day for photographs, and we may have been able to see the sites more efficiently! Going on a tour with a Rapa Nui guide was definitely helpful because they were able to explain and point out things that we never would have seen or known otherwise! Make your choice for your own needs and travel style, but as a travel blogger who wants loads of information and phenomenal pictures, I should have opted for the private guide!
1. Pickup: 9:40am at Hotel
We ate another fabulous breakfast and were ready to go on time that morning. The owner of the hotel strongly suggested we bring our lunch instead of buying the lunch that you can add to your tour. So we did! Steve brought his empanada from last night that he didn’t eat, and we brought some snacks, too. FYI, we also stopped at a convenience store after being picked up in case others in our group wanted to buy something there, and there were places to purchase food at both Rano Raraku Quarry, where our lunch break was, and at Ahu Nau Nau, our last stop of the day.
2. Akahanga: Traditional Village
Our introduction to the full-day tour was a stop at a former Rapa Nui village, now an archaeological site.
3. Rano Raraku: The Quarry
This is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been in the world! We got to see and touch the stones they use to make the Moai, and we got to see some really huge Moai in all stages of formation! If you visit Easter Island, your National Park ticket only gets you in once, so spend your time wisely and make your visit count! I don’t know about the rest of the guided tours, but the tour we took visited around noon. The light around noon in winter isn’t quite right for the best pictures, so try to work it out to go in mid-afternoon, around 3:00pm is probably better. However, I did get some good shots!
More here: Touring the Moai of Easter Island
4. Ahu Tongariki: The Most Moai
When I think of Easter Island, I think of Ahu Tongariki–only I didn’t know that’s what it was called before I went! This ahu, or platform, has 15 Moai on it, which is the most of any ahu on the island. It’s also a prime spot to watch the sunrise, which we did on our last day. Be on the lookout for a post all about sunrise at Ahu Tongariki soon!
5. The Magnetic Rocks: Ceremonial and Healing
Our next stop on the tour was Te Pino Kura, which is the location of a former village and the place where the Magnetic Rocks are located. No one knows why the rocks are magnetic, but they are! They are said to have healing properties as well. Mostly I was impressed with how round they are! Whether natural or man-made, it’s hard to get those rocks so round and smooth!
6. Last Stop: Ahu Nau Nau
Our last stop of the day was a rainy one, but it was also memorable! Easter Island does not have tons of phenomenal beaches like some islands do, but they do have Anakena Beach on its north eastern side. Four out of these seven Moai even have intact topknots! It’s in a beautiful setting, but like I said, we were there on a rainy afternoon. I did my best to get good shots despite the clouds and rain!
After that we got dropped off back at the hotel and snacked on some food we had brought with us. Not an exciting evening, but we were kind of pooped!
Day 4: The Long Walk
This is the day we planned to rent bikes for the day, but when we realized none of the bike rental shops we went to opened until 10:00am (we were ready to be on our way before 9:00am), we decided to just walk to the things we wanted to see. Several hours and 17.2 miles later, we thought we perhaps should have rented a car or ATV for the day instead! We did see some pretty amazing things, though, like hideout caves, horse friends, and the only Moai who face out to sea instead of inland!
If we had it to do over again, we might have rented a car or ATV and spent the day at Anakena Beach, going back to some of the sites from yesterday to get pictures with no people in them and take our time enjoying the sites a bit more. We definitely still would have visited Ahu Akivi, but the other sites on our long hike could have been skipped! Live and learn! We did realize that even if we had rented bikes as planned, we wouldn’t have been able to bike most of the trails we were hiking, so we would have been walking it anyway!
I also have to put in a mention for the kind people who gave us a ride back to town! Ahu Akivi is about 4 miles from town, which is not too far for Steve and me. We like to take long romantic walks together! But because we took the scenic route, we ended up walking closer to 14 miles by the time we got to the ahu! We were prepared to walk back (thank goodness we brought snacks and water), but we wanted to make sure we were going the right way on the right road to get there. We asked a family from Santiago if they could confirm the right road to us, and they ended up offering to take us! We took them up on that offer and hopped in! They were so sweet! God must have sent them to us because they were a lifesaver!
By the end of the day, even with hitching a ride, this is what Steve’s FitBit told us:
Day 5: Sunrise and a Passport Stamp
This was an unforgettable, not to be missed event! We did it our last morning, but it was so beautiful, I think we would have done this the first day. It was truly inspiring!
The sun rises on Easter Island around 8:40am, but we had to be picked up at 7:00am! We asked Sandra at our hotel the night before if it was too late to book a trip there with a cab in the morning, and she said she’d check–we got it! I would probably book 24 hours in advance next time, just in case. For full details, be on the lookout for a blog post dedicated to sunrise at Ahu Tongariki coming soon! For now, here’s a sneak peek:
Even More Details: How to See Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki
2. Checking Out and Getting Stamped
We really enjoyed our time on Easter Island and the relaxing atmosphere, so I was a little sad to check out! We gathered all our stuff and made one more walk into town for some souvenirs and the exclusive Isla de Pascua passport stamp at the post office!
But the big surprise of the day came after we got the passport stamp. My sweet husband and I try to be very careful not to leave things behind at hotels, on planes, etc., but that morning, my husband forgot his phone charger in the room. Whoops! But never fear! We had asked the owner of the hotel where the post office was, so they knew where we would be. The other owner found the phone charger, which we didn’t even know we’d lost, and she came looking for us in town! She was so sweet to do that, and I don’t think that would happen at any hotel almost anywhere in the world. We’d just be out of luck!
After that, we got on the plane and started back to mainland Chile. Due to Hurricane Harvey and the shutting down of the Houston Airport, we got rerouted and had an interesting experience Flying in Business Class with Avianca Airlines! Check out the whole experience and what we ate.
If you decide to visit Easter Island for yourself, you will likely spend a day or two before and after your trip in Sandiago, Chile. Check out What to Know Before You visit Santiago, Chile, and What to Eat in Santiago, Chile!
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