There is only one bank and one ATM on the island. The ATM operates 24/7 but only accepts Mastercard, so if you will need to bring traveller's cheques (US dollars only) or cash (Chilean pesos or US dollars) if you don't have Mastercard. The bank is only open in the mornings from 8am to midday.
There are several internet cafes on the island - access can be frustratingly slow and is quite expensive, but it is there if you can't bear to be deprived of your regular contacts withthe outside world.
Petrol is cheap as it is subsidised - there is only one petrol station on the island, in Hanga Roa, near the airport. There is only one paved road outside the town, this crosses the middle of the island out to Anakena. All the other roads are unpaved, some little more than very rough tracks. If you're heading for somewhere off the main tracks ask about conditions before you set out as heavy rain can cause considerable damage to the lesser tracks.
Outside Hanga Roa, the only public loos are at the museum, Orongo Village, Rano Raraku and Anakena.
There are three small supermarkets and one bakery where you can pick up food for a picnic if you're heading off for the whole day away from Hanga Roa. Remember that virtually everything - and certainly anything manufactured - is imported from the mainland when you look at the high prices of food here. Fresh fruit and vegetables are available from the Feria Municipal in the centre of town. The only place to get food or drinks outside the town is out at the beach at Anakeva.
The image of a totally bare island is somewhat belied by the photos here. Certainly by the time the first Europeans came to Rapa Nui, the rapacious demands of the moai cult had seen the island all but completely denuded of trees. The great stands of palm trees similar to Chilean wine palms were completely gone, and the few specimens of the hauhau, from the fibre of which they made their ropes, and the toromiro - a good firewood tree - were poor stunted things. When Thor Heyerdahl arrived even these sad specimens were reduced to a single, sickly toromiro that struggled on until 1964, and then was gone. The native trees of Rapa Nui were extinct.
The arrival of European settlers - Chileans and a British livestock company that leased the island for many years as a sheep farm - saw the introduction of eucalypts as plantation trees, and guava. The guava are everywhere now and form an important part of the island diet, you are bound to be given guava juice for breakfast whilst you're on the island and it will probably be your welcome drink as well when you first arrive. As they have proved in so many other parts of the world, eucalypts bring their own problems - they are very efficient colonisers and do not allow other plants to invade their territory. Planting them is now actively discouraged but the eucalyptus groves dotted around the place do provide a welcome stretch of cool shade every now and then. Monterey cypress are being planted in their place as plantation timber .... which may bring its own problems in time. Coconut palms shade Anakena beach and Hanga Roa streets and gardens are planted with a wide variety of exotic species.
For the most part though, the island's landscape is one of treeless grassy slopes and a wild black rocky shore.
Fondest memory: Meanwhile, a dedicated group of botanists around the world are striving to bring one species back from extinction. Before that last toromiro died, seed and tissue samples were taken from it and stored. An international programme has been operating for several years now to raise enough trees from those samples to reintroduce the tree to Rapa Nui. The prognosos isn't wonderful, the gene pool is restricted to that one last tree, but progress is being made and a small plantation of 150 trees has been planted on the island, though it isn't doing very well. For the time being, the toromiro is a botanical oddity, teetering on the absolute edge, with the Easter Island plantation and a few specimens growing in far-flung botanical gardens.
Horses were introduced to Easter Island in the 19th century and quickly became an indispensable part of island life. Now, horses roam all over the island, and seen from a distance, as this small herd was by the crater lake at Rano Raraku, they add a picturesque touch to the landscape. If only that was all there was to it.
Whilst the numbers are officially said to be about 1000, the reality is that there are far more, and the island cannot sustain them. Nominally, 90% of the animals are "owned", in practice almost all are feral, left to roam at will. Living like this, any animal will become malnourished, dehydrated and diseased. So it was with Rapa Nui's horses, and then, some 20 years ago, a new hazard to their well being was inadvertently introduced.
The deforestation of the island combined with the reduction of good grazing caused by overstocking by horses and cattle has made the island extremely vulnerable to invasion by opportunistic plants such as guavas and eucalypts. One such invader is the chocho - Crotolaria grahamiana - a member of the lupin family. Introduced as a control for soil erosion, this plant is actually extremely toxic to horses and cattle. Eating it has a devastating effect on these animals causing blindness, staggering and irreversable liver damage, invariably leading to a long, slow and painful death . But simply blitzing the plant and removing it from the island - which is next to impossible, the plant now covers huge areas - is not the answer. That would lead to more deaths by malnutrition ... a real Catch 22.
Fondest memory: Help came via a young American veterinarian student who visited the island and was both distressed and professionally interested in the problem of the "caballos locos" - the "mad horses" (the symptoms they display when affected by chocho are just the same as BSE - the infamous mad cow disease). Determined to do something positive, he worked on identifying the problem and then returned to the island to initiate a volunteer programme to help the Rapa Nui improve all aspects of their husbandry of their horses.
There has been a knock-on effect in the management of stray dogs too. In January 2006, for the first time, a volunteer veterinary team came to the island to begin a neutering and spaying programme to begin to address the problem.
Ongoing programmes that address the problem by neutering animals with a real chance of survival, teach and encourage good animal husbandry, and practise judicious euthanizing, are the best hope for the future.
Want to know more? Watch this
Originally posted in 2007, this tip started out as a link to an excellent site that I wish I'd found before I arrived on Easter Island. It was jam-packed with excellent advice on how to get the best photos of all the island's sites, especially the best time of day to visit the various ahu so that you have the benefit of the optimum lighting of the moai.
2010 update VT 's not the only website to have been revamped lately - the Island Heritage site that featured this excellent photography advice has also been given a new look, and in the process the photography page has been removed. Maybe it will be restored - I certainly hope so.
Maybe some compensation for its demise will be this page of excellent advice on how to spend 5 days on the island. There's also a page on the impact of tourism on the island that should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking of visiting this most remote and fragile island.
All the archaeological sites on Easter Island lie with in the area designated as the Parque Nacional Rapa Nui and are supervised (to a greater or lesser extent) by the parks' rangers. There is a single charge for the park, payable at the Orongo Ceremonial Village site, that covers you for your entire stay and allows access to all sites. Whilst most sites are unattended by rangers, they maintain information and assistance stations at Orongo, Rano Raraku (the quarry) and Anakena (the beach) and visit the other sites periodically.
The map on the Park website shows the extent of the park's jurisdiction.
Of course we did read a lot about Easter Island and found excellent information on the internet (also VT), but we HIGHLY recommend to take at least one guided tour on the island. Otherwise it is almost impossible to understand the mysteries of the moai and the very special culture of Rapa Nui.
We still regret we didn't take other (half) day tours !!
We did a whole day tour with AO Tour, with Patricio Ballerino. This guy is really one of the best guides we ever had during our travels. Patricio has always small groups, because he has to transport his 'guests' in his mini bus. He speaks English very well.
He was more a host than a tour guide. Always willing to explain things, never in a hurry. Besides he is a great guy.
Easter Island is a great destination for photographers. What about the moai and ahu, the scenery with the wild coastline, the volcano's and the people of Rapa Nui.
Some tips to think about:
- Off course you want to have a picture together with a moai; best place to make these
kind of pictures is the 'moai factory' of Ranu Raraku. Here you can come as close as you
want to the moai.
Please don't do it on other ahu, because these are sacred places for the people of Rapa Nui
and you shouldn't walk on these altars.
- Everywhere on the island you will see horses; wild and also people riding on them.
When you want to make a picture of Rapa Nui people riding their horses please ask
permission to make a pic (some of them will ask you some money !!).
- The best place to make a picture from a fantastic sunset is Tahai, just north of Hanga Roa.
Our visit to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) was part of an around the world trip. A more or less affordable way to visit this most remote inhabited island in the world. We were attracted by an article in a travel magazine and a TV documentary. Off course we saw pictures of some standing moai and thought that might be all.
We were so curious to ‘discover’ Rapa Nui and to see the giant stone statues with our own eyes. The reality was so different from the pictures, it was almost unbelievable. We saw 38 re-erected moai standing on 8 altars (ahu) all over the island. But we never realised there were much more moai. Most impressive is the ‘moai factory’ on the slopes of the Rano Raraku, where almost 400 moai in all stages of carving can be found.
Some facts about the moai, which we heard, read or saw with our own eyes.
If you have more or supplementary information about the moai of Rapa Nui please let me know.
- total number of moai on Easter Island: 887
- number of moai successfully transported to an ahu: 288
- number of moai in the Rano Raraku quarry: 397
- carving and erecting moai started around the year 700, but the most were made between 1000 and 1650
- due to fighting’s between rival tribes the moai were destroyed; the last one was thrown down in 1864
- from 1950 on moai were restored and re-erected
- the smallest moai is just 1,13 m; the largest moai once erect is 9,80 m
For those who are interested to read more about the moai and the mysteries of Rapa Nui I can recommend a couple of websites:
- http://www.world-mysteries.com/easter_island.htm (with a lot of links)
Hope you will enjoy your trip to Rapa Nui.
It is said that the original settlers who came with King Hotu Matua eventually split into two warring clans, the Long Ears and the Short Ears. There are many different theories about the arrival of the Long Ears and the Short Ears, but it is generally believed that they went to war. After the victory by the short ears, the different clans started to fight and it was during this time when many, if not all, of the Moai were toppled. Those Moai standing today actually had to be re-erected.
If a moai looks a bit unstable, I wold not stand under it, as I am sure you would not want one of these huge statues to fall on you!
Favorite thing: The ahus are the platforms on which the moai stand. As many of the ahus are also ancient burial grounds, you should not walk on the ahus themselves. In some areas there are rangers working, and if you step where you shouldn't you'll start to hear the whistle, and then you know you're in trouble.
Off course you want to prepare your visit to Easter Island before you are leaving from home. The more you know the more you will understand of the mysteries of the island. And you will be able to have the right questions on a guided tour.
Reading a guidebook (and off course the tips on Virtual Tourist) is the best way. But I can highly recommend 'The complete Guide to EASTER ISLAND'. This book, edited by the Easter Island Foundation, has much more depth than the usual travel books (like Lonely Planet and others).
This guide is a mixture between latest scientific and tourist information. There are sections on history, legends, conservation, antiquities. Besides the chapter on the Rapanui language, there are a lot of interesting maps, also if you will decide to explore Rapa Nui on your own.
On the website you will find more books about Easter Island.
You can order this book for USD 25 (excluding costst of shipping) from:
The Easter Island Foundation
If you just want to look for more information on the internet, surf on these websites:
Rapa Nui has just one bank 'Banco del Estado de Chile', which is located on Tu'u Maheke Street (close to the Information Centre) and is open from 8.00 am - 1.00 pm on weekdays.
It is possible to change cash and travellers checks, but rates are poor and the commission on checks is high. We could get our (Chilean) money from the ATM at the bank, using our 'Cirrus' debit bank card. It accepts also 'MasterCard', but NOT 'Plus'.
The ATM operates 24 hours per day.
I'm usually not the person to advertise companies and services, but I was really delighted by the one day tour around the island by AO Tour. It was organized by Martin, the owner of my accomodation ("Martin & Anita"), just the evening when I arrived. The tour came to pick us up (we were 4 people from my place taking part), stopped to get food and water for the day and headed out East right away. We visited most of the famous sights around the island: Vinapu, Akahanga, Rano Raraku, Ahu Tongariki, Te Pito Te Henua and Anakena, so went all around. You could take this tour by yourself as well, but it gives a very nice plus to get a first impression of these places on an organized tour. I did it on my first day at Rapa Nui.
Fondest memory: Our guide, Patricio knew the island, the history and the local customs very well, he left enough time for us to explore each site and showed us some of the not so-well known items around the above mentioned places. He was easy-going and spoke very good English, and took the extra effort to explain everything once again in "private" to the only one non-English speaking, Spanish lady on our tour.
I especially enjoyed his van, which gave us a more "real Islander feeling" than an air conditioned brand new one would have (like those which are taking the tourists from the Hotel). It was more personal as well, due to not having 20-25 people in the group but only 7 of us.
Just walking among the huge figures is a humbling and fascinating experience.
Fondest memory: Easter Island...Paaseiland...Isla de Pascula...Rapa Nui - All names for this island 2.030 nautical miles away from the continent. All names that condure up dreams and meant that we HAD to see it for ourselves! We went wondering what it would be like, and came away stunned by its unearthly beauty and strangeness and mystery. Something we will never forget.
Hi, well lucky you to be there for 7 days! I was there in November for 3 nights, 2 days and an afternoon and evening.
I loved being there and would love to have been able to stay longer - particularly re the kiwi and Maori language connection.
There are officially 2 ATMs but when I was there one was not working and some locals who went past said it had been out for the past week but there was a Santander bank with ATM just around the corner - I ended up using it twice during my stay - both quite close to each other and just down the hill from the main shopping street - ask locals for directions but also you can get a map from the tourist office.
Take a back up stash of USD or £ in case you have problems but I didnt have any problems. I took about 120,000 pesos with me from Chile to pay for the 3 nights accommodation (75,000 pesos) that I estimated would make up the bulk of my costs and then if needed more than that I aimed to rely on ATMs and credit cards. They also take US dollars on Rapanui. In both Chile and Peru you can withdraw either local currency or USD with a withdrawal fee so I had about 200USD with me as a back up. I used my credit card for the rental card I had for a day. ,The lady who owned the cabana I stayed at phoned the tour company for me about tours as it had rained and when it rains the tours often dont run as some of the roads are dirt roads. and they come and pick you up from wherever you are staying. It cost 20,000 pesos for an afternoon tour to Vinapu, Puna Pau and Ahu Akivu. Luckily my cabana lady took me with her to Orongo with a couple of view points along the way and then waited with a souvenir stall she had while I went to look at the excellent Orongo crater and village and info centre.
then the tour the next and picked up a 4x4 jeep that evening ready to leave home for sunrise the next morning at Tongariki.
I had read around, listened to my cousin who had travelled around Sth Am and Easter island independently and then decided to do an afternoon tour and then rent a car for one full day to jam pack one of my days driving myself around. This worked really well and pleased I chose to do that instead of the entire trip being tours as my travel agent had suggested...saying Id get lost as there were so many roads and bad roads... which would have made the trip to EI cost twice what i did pay looking after myself.
So for the time you have I recommend that you do at least one good tour of the island to get your bearings and get some good verbal info as an intro. I also got invited by my cabana owner to come to her evening church service my first night in Rapanui - a sunday night - which my guidebook had recommended to take the opportunity of...that was brilliant and the guy in charge of the church music got a CD to pass on to Cecelia to pass on to me before my flight back.
The 2nd night I went to the traditional music and dance night of Vai Te Mihi on the recommendation of my cabana lady as she said it was more traditional and real rather than commercial Kari Kari - Vai Te Mihi was also just 2 minutes from her cabana. It was really really excellent - the music was excellent and wanted to buy some of the back up groups music but they only had a dvd for $25 which in a way I wish I had taken the opportunity but thought it was a bit expensive.
then i had an excellent day driving around with 4x4 jeep. loved being out on my own. it is still a pretty big island but a horse ride would probably be very nice. I saw a of horses around the island on my travels and a number of locals out in various places on their horses. The tourist office or your accommodaton should be able to provide or suggest a range of choices. There is quite a lot to do so I would plan carefully strategies to see things but also read up on what there is to see and do.
There is no problem with bringing food into Chile that is processed and packaged - if it is organic matter such as fruit and veges and cheese or meat they are more careful because of the risk of contagions that can affect agriculture etc on the island. they ask you to declare any items and on each occasion that I went through customs they were very pleasant - as I still had my Foxs glacier mints from the Uk with me!
Have a good guide book with you - i used the footprints guide which was good but didnt have a map of Rapanui in it. but got a few on my travels anyway. Also bought a map in London before i flew over.
Have a great time!