Rapa Nui (Easter Island) had always been a place I found myself reading about on the internet from time to time. You’d put Easter Island into Google Maps and see how it is only 3 inches away from the Chilean coastline – easy to forget that it’s actually 3,686km.
Fast forward to May 2016 and here I am in a fortunate position being able to express and describe my experience on the island. On the net and travel books, most people recommend staying for 4-5 days. My thinking process was that I’m only visiting this island once in all likelihood – so I decided on staying for 7 days. Prior to my arrival on Easter Island I was researching how expensive it would turn out to be. After reading other travel blogs, including several who were saying they spent a “bargain” price of $1500 USD, I decided to record my expenses. So for my friends or other travellers who may end up reading this post, this will likely be of interest to you – unless you want to shell out $1500…
First things first, you actually have to travel those 3 inches on Google Maps, 3686km across the Pacific Ocean from Chile. There are actually two routes that fly you to Easter Island; from Santiago and Tahiti in French Polynesia. Safe to say that most fly from Santiago as the islands are Chilean territory. I purchased my return flights 2 weeks in advance from Santiago which cost me CH$268,000 which is roughly £268 (CH$1,000 is basically £1) depending on the FX rates. Good news folks, the flights are likely to be your largest outlay. In my case, the price for flights didn’t vary greatly providing you booked within 2-3 weeks prior to your desired departure date. Any sooner than 2 weeks, the price increased quite dramatically. Regarding your flight baggage, you’re allowed to check 2 bags which is especially useful and it leads nicely on to the next considerations: food and accommodation.
Due to the Island’s remoteness, food on Easter Island is more expensive than mainland Chile whether it be in the small supermarkets or eating out for lunch or dinner. Hardly surprising right? Restaurants on Easter Island typically range from CH$15,000 to $25,000. If you ask me, that’s pretty much London prices. So with this in mind, I decided to purchase ALL of my food in Santiago to take with me. This is where the extra allowance of checked luggage is a big bonus. So if you’re one of those travellers who tends to bring too much and you would normally find yourself short of space in a situation like this, you’re in luck.
Here was my food to last me the week:
• 2 packets of Salami/Chorizo
• 2 packets of tortilla wraps
• 3 Tomato and mushroom packet soups
• 3 bags of pasta
• 3 sachets of tomato pasta sauce
• Olive oil
• 1 Onion
• 8-12 Bananas
• 12 Apples
• Cheddar cheese
• 1 bag of carrots
• Nescafe instant coffee
• 1 bar of Milka Chocolate
It goes without saying that when bringing your own food, you need to ensure that you’ll be staying somewhere that has the facilities to store and prepare your food. Most hotels start at $80 a night which was way out of my budget. If you are on a budget, look no further than Camping Minihoa. This place was fantastic. A real gem. CH$8,000 per night for camping or CH$10,000 for a dorm bed. Both options include hot showers, free airport shuttles, decent kitchen and communal areas, limited Wi-Fi, plus it is only a 10 minute walk from Hanga Roa, the Island’s solitary town/city. An additional bonus is you are located a stone’s throw away from the ocean. Perfect. For me, it was a little piece of home. Nothing quite like feeling and smelling the sea breeze when you first rise in the morning. I ended up “treating” myself and paying CH$70,000 for 7 nights in the dorm.
Exploring the island was a truly wonderful experience. For those who are not aware, the island is known as Easter Island as the Dutch Admiral, Roddeveen discovered the island on Easter Sunday in 1722. Upon arrival you pay CH$30,000 which is your national park ticket which allows you to visit all the sights of the island. When visiting the sights of the island you have 2 choices. You can explore by yourself, or you can go on a tour. Everyone is different, but personally, I really dislike tours. I find them to be massively over priced and you lose your freedom to a certain extent. By this I mean that you have limited time in particular places. Everything is run on the tour’s watch. No tours equals less expense. Yes in some examples it’s great to hear certain information from a guide – there’s no denying that, but personally, I’m happy to do my reading about something I’m interested in before, after and even during. Your choice.
I began by exploring the coastline north of Hanga Roa. The coastline was striking with its dark volcanic rock and jagged cliffs that stood tall amongst the barrages of wave after wave. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but the terrain of the island was different to what I had imagined. It was essentially moorland that resembled areas of England.
The highlight and main draw of the island are the Moai. The Moai statues are surrounded in mystery but are believed to have been created around 1400-1650 AD by the island natives. When seeing the statues up close, you realise the enormity and intrigue of the Moai. Questions start creeping into your mind. “Why were these built?”, “How long did it take to build one?”, “How were they transported on the island?”. The truth is, no-one knows for sure. This is all part of the magic of the island. Somethings are best left unsaid or unknown. After many debates and discussions that are still on-going, most scholars, historians and scientists hold the notion that the Moai were created to honour ancestors, chiefs, or other important persons. However, there is insufficient oral or written sources to know for certain.
With regard to the Rapa Nui population, It is generally thought that their demise resulted from an environmental catastrophe of their own making. Over farming the land is one theory, another is that rodents may have eaten and destroyed seeds and vegetation. Once more, no-one knows for sure.
The majority of the Island’s highlights are on the other side of the island. These include Rano Raraku, Ahu Tongariki and Arakena Beach. Whilst the island is relatively small, the most efficient way to move around to the far side is via pushbike or renting a car. During my time on the island I rented a bike once for 24hours which cost CH$10,000 and on another day I hooked up with some great fellow travellers to rent a car with. To hire a car for 24 hours it was CH$45,000, with petrol being another CH$10,000, so between us all it turned out to be CH$11,000 each. Not bad at all eh?
Rano Raraku is arguably the most popular spot on the island as it is where the majority of the Moai were quarried from an extinct volcano. Experts believe 95% of the Moai originated from here. It’s known as “the quarry” and it still plays the role of home to some 400 Moai.
Nearby to Rano Raraku are the largest Moai on the island; Ahu Tongariki, where 15 of the intriguing stone statues are lined up next to one another facing inland. The largest Moai on this site is estimated to be a rather light 86 tonnes. Many agree that Ahu Tongariki is the best place to enjoy sunrise as the sun rises directly behind the 15 Moai.
Nearer to Hanga Roa, there is the Orongo site which acted as a ceremonial village which contains petroglyphs and historic housing aswell as stunning views of Rano Kau – an extinct volcano. There are many other sites and activities on the island. If planning a trip, I urge you to do your research as the island is also home to some excellent diving, surfing, and enticing beaches.
So the time has come to tally my expenses:
Flights – CH$268,000
Accommodation – CH$70,000
Food – CH$34,500
National Park entry – CH$30,000
Pushbike – CH$10,000
Car – CH$11,000
Extras for beers/wine and other miscellaneous things – CH$20,000
Total = CH$443,500 which converted into Pounds is around £436.
All in all, £436 for a week on one of the most interesting and remote places on Earth seems like a bargain to me. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Easter Island, just do it. It will not disappoint.