What to do in Easter Island: 6 Activities to do when visiting the mysterious Rapa Nui

Due to its natural beauties and traditions, Easter Island or Rapa Nui constitutes one of the most attractive places in the world. It is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, forming part of the continent of Oceania (Polynesian Triangle), but at the same time being part of the insular territory of Chile.

On this island, considered the most remote inhabited place in the world, the locals still preserve and practice the customs of their ancestors, highlighting the Moais, gigantic stone sculptures set up hundreds of years ago, which still remain standing. Myth and reality are confused in this territory that gave origin to a unique and extraordinary culture, which makes Rapa Nui a valuable archaeological treasure. It is for all this that Unesco declared the island a World Heritage Site in 1995.

Once on the island, one cannot stop doing certain activities. Normally, most people do not usually stay more than 3 or 4 nights for a matter of time and / or economics, since they tend to continue traveling to see other places and services on the island, being so far from everything, are usually expensive.

Our selection to have a really complete experience is:

1- Sunbathing at Anakena Beach

The first king of the island, Ariki Hotu Matuá, along with his men, landed on this beach and established the first town of the Rapa Nui culture. It is said that this king established his residence in this place and stone walls and houses have been found that could reinforce this theory.

This beautiful beach is characterized by its coconut palms that were imported from Tahiti in 1960.

2- The Ranu Kau volcano and the Orongo Ceremonial Village

Rano Kau is the largest volcano on the island with a maximum height of 324 meters above sea level. The word “rano” in Rapanui means “volcano” and “kau” means “abundance of water”. It has this name since inside the crater a lagoon of 1.5 km in diameter was formed covered by numerous floating islands of cat-tail that constitutes a large natural greenhouse that generates a microclimate propitious to the development and cultivation of many plant species .

Its two slopes are really impressive! One of the slopes ends near the Matarevi airport and the other has a series of cliffs that start at 300 meters high. From there there is an incredible view of the island, although it can be a bit dizzy. Bordering the crater of this volcano the incredible Ceremonial Village of Orongo, made up of 50 houses, petroglyphs and cave paintings, all representing the Bird Man, a divine entity and very important for the natives.

Tips:

  • There are no toilets in Ranu Kau, the closest ones are in the Orongo Ceremonial Village.
  • There is also no sale of food or beverage services, so consider taking them with you.
  • The visit to Orongo and the Rano Raraku volcano quarry can only be done once.
  • It is necessary to buy the entrance to the Rapa Nui National Park in advance to be able to enter the enclosure that closes at 6:00 p.m.
  • It is advisable to bring a coat, since due to the height of the volcano and its location in front of the ocean, it is usually quite windy and sometimes it can be cold.
  • It is advisable to climb the crater in the morning or until a little after the noon, that way the sun will fully illuminate the entire panorama.

3- Rano Raraku, the quarry and factory of Moais

This is one of the most impressive archaeological sites on the planet! A magical place shrouded in mystery where the Moais (colossal statues that characterize the island) were created.

Rano Raraku is located 20 km northeast of Hanga Roa, near the Poike peninsula and 1000 meters from Hanga Nui Bay.

As we already know, the word “Rano” means volcano and the word “Raraku” means striped (or ribbed), this refers to the large furrows that the south face of the mountain presents, although there are also other traditional versions that could be more interesting Jto us

This volcanic cone, now extinct, was formed more than 300 thousand years ago, has a maximum height of 160 meters and its crater, whose largest diameter is about 700 meters, houses a freshwater lagoon of about 3 to 4 meters deep originated due to the frequent rainfall that the island suffers.

Unlike the other volcanoes on the island, Rano Raraku is made up of a unique type of rock known as the toba lapilli. Its main characteristic is the low hardness under the surface, which encouraged the ancient sculptors to use it as a raw material to carve the huge statues. Here almost all of the 1,000 statues that have been found on Easter Island were sculpted, the moai, which were then taken to the ahu or ceremonial platforms, distributed along the entire coast, to honor the memory of the ancestors.At first it is difficult to distinguish them, but if you look closely, you can see a large number of these statues in different positions everywhere and in inaccessible places! The largest number of statues is concentrated in this area, almost 40% of the total.

Tips:

  • As in Orongo, this site can only be visited once.
  • There are public restrooms, cafeteria and craft shops.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and sports shoes as the roads can be steep and slippery if it was raining.
  • It is forbidden to go off the trails and touch the statues.
  • In the afternoon the sun illuminates the faces of the statues which, in my opinion, makes it the best time of the day to visit this place.

4- Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki

Ahu Tongariki is the largest ceremonial structure built on Easter Island and the most important megalithic monument in all of Polynesia.

The central platform is about 100 meters long and supports 15 moais, which face the ocean in order to protect the ancient people that inhabited this place, which makes it the platform with the most figures on the island. All the moai were carved in the quarries at Ranu Raraku, which is located just 1 km from there.

Near the entrance to Tongariki you can see a solitary moai that seems to be turning its back on the others; this moai is the famous “traveling moai” and it is so called because in 1982 it was shipped to the city of Osaka, Japan, to be part of an exhibition. This was made possible by the excellent relationship between the two islands, as Japan was essential in restoring all archaeological sites on Easter Island after a devastating tsunami in 1960, mainly, destroyed this area of the island.

The best time to visit Ahu Tongariki is definitely at sunrise. Since, between December 21, “summer solstice”, and March 21, “autumn equinox”, the sun rises through the back of the Ahu between its gigantic stone sculptures, giving unforgettable images. After these dates it is possible to enjoy a wonderful sunset, behind the moai.

Tips:

  • There are no restrooms or cafeterias in this area, therefore it is advisable to bring your own food and drinks.
  • The closest baths are located 1.7 km away in Ranu Raraku.
  • This place can be visited as many times as you want Jand your visit can be combined with other places of interest.

5- Ahu Akivi, the moais that look at the sea

Ahu Akivi is the most important and elaborate platform of the few built in the interior of the island.

The platform has 7 moais that have the peculiarity of being all more or less the same size, which gives a feeling of greater harmony and balance. These images were placed, like the others, to watch over and protect the inhabitants of the village that was on the esplanade towards which they look, through the influence of their mana or mystical power.

Ahu Akivi is also considered a precise astronomic observatory since it was oriented from north to south, making the faces of the moai look exactly towards the point where the sun sets during the southern spring equinox (September 21) and their backs. They face the sunrise sun during the autumn equinox (March 21) and in this way they controlled the change of the seasons and the most suitable times for agricultural tasks.

Tips:

  • There are no restrooms or cafeterias in this area, therefore it is advisable to bring your own food and drinks.
  • The closest baths are located 1.7 km away in Ranu Raraku.
    This place can be visited as many times as you want Jand your visit can be combined with other places of interest.

6- Swimming with sea turtles among caverns and moais

Easter Island is an ideal place for snorkeling and / or diving, since its waters are incredibly crystal clear and you can reach a visibility of 60 meters, this is due to the absence of plankton and lack of contamination

Compared to other islands in the Pacific, the fauna and flora are not so rich, but the few coral species have a spectacular development and it is possible to find them in the bay of Hanga Roa at a depth of 18 meters. Another characteristic is that the fauna is made up of 160 species of which 26% are endemic, that is, it cannot be seen anywhere else. When diving one can appreciate the amazing underwater volcanic landscape. The bottoms full of caverns, arches, cliffs and lava platforms. You can even see a submerged moai, although it was put there on purpose for tourist purposes.

Another of the great attractions offered by this activity is being able to swim with the sea turtles (Honu), which are usually near the Bay of Hanga Roa. In addition, this area is where there is the greatest abundance of tropical fish.

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What to do in Easter Island: 6 Activities to do when visiting the mysterious Rapa Nui
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