The mysterious Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, has long held a unique allure for curious travellers. Located approximately 3,600 km from the South American continent, and 2000 km from the nearest inhabited land (Pitcairn Island with a population of 67) it is one of the world’s most remote locations.
Besides the island’s rugged beauty and adventure credentials, a stay here offers a rare opportunity to experience at first hand one of the greatest enigmas of human civilization.
Rapa Nui is best known for its nearly 1000 stone statues, or moai. Many of the moai are still standing, amaranthine sentinels guarding the island’s shoreline; others are toppled, like the “shattered visage” from Shelley’s Ozymandias; while more still are left unfinished in the island’s dramatic Rano Raraku volcanic quarry, as if the workers had only just set down their tools.
Even though these giant-headed statues are some of the most recognisable ancient monoliths on the planet, next to nothing is known about the complex culture that created them and which had already disappeared, almost without a trace, by the time the first European sailors arrived here in the 18th century. There is even an entire writing system, rongorongo, that to this day has never been deciphered and could represent one of the few spontaneous inventions of writing in human history.
This itinerary has been planned to include a full four-night stint on Easter Island, which gives you plenty of time to see the famous sights with a mix of cultural and adventure activities whilst also relaxing and enjoying the unique Rapa Nui culture and spiritual feel that seems to permeate the landscape.
To make the most of your trip we have bookended Easter Island with the chance to explore a little of the Chilean mainland. The itinerary starts with three nights in Santiago, one of South America’s most underrated capitals with a thriving gastronomy and arts scene, and finally, when you return, you end with three nights in a luxury lodge set amidst the rolling hills of the Millahue valley, in the heart of the Chilean wine country. This is the perfect location to relax and indulge in a little pampering while you reminisce on your journey of a lifetime.
What’s the route?
Routing your international flights in and out of Santiago, the trip begins with three nights in the Chilean capital. You then take the five-hour flight to the spectacularly remote Rapa Nui (Easter Island), located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as close to French Polynesia as it is
to South America. After four nights on the island you return to the mainland to finish the trip in the Millahue valley, two hours’ drive south of Santiago.
Our driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals area of Santiago airport, ready to whisk you by luxury car to your boutique hotel in the fashionable Lastarria neighbourhood. Santiago is a thriving metropolis with more than a third of Chile's entire population and one of South America's most sophisticated cities. Its location, at the foot of some of the highest peaks in the Andes makes for a spectacular backdrop on clear days, the mountains standing majestically on the city limits. We suggest you spend the day settling into your hotel and taking a gentle stroll around the neighbourhood and our concierge will be on hand to recommend the best restaurants and book you a table for a memorable slap-up dinner to celebrate your first evening in Chile.
Today your guide will meet you at reception for a private tailormade tour focusing on the history and culture of Santiago. As a suggested itinerary you could start by visiting the old areas of Santiago including the Estación Central (one of the three Eiffel buildings in Chile). After that, the La Moneda government palace will be the starting point for a walking tour. A stroll around the palace will give you the chance to see the changing of the guard ceremony (depending on the weekday), before taking in some more of the highlights of the historical centre. Finally, we suggest ending the day with the highest point in Santiago (San Cristóbal hill), to enjoy the most amazing views of the valley.
There is so much to see and do in Santiago, so we have scheduled a free day here for you to explore further. As well as checking out the different neighbourhoods of the city itself you might also want to head out of town, perhaps for some wine tasting at one of the nearby world-famous wineries, like Concha y Toro. Or else during winter months (July to September) you could even drive up to the mountains and hit the slopes for a day’s skiing. A final option would be to explore the quirky seaside town of Valparaiso on the Pacific coast, a short drive from Santiago.
You will take the early flight to Easter Island, arriving mid-morning (Easter Island is two hours behind the mainland). Your guide and driver will meet you in arrivals ready to take you the short distance to your luxury lodge set overlooking the ocean.
Once you have settled in you will meet with the expedition leaders at the lodge to plan a personalised program of activities for the next three days. If you are feeling energetic, there will be time that afternoon for a first short excursion, perhaps a hike from the hotel down to the sea shore at Akahanga, the burial site of the first king of Rapa Nui and where the second largest moai platform is located on the island.
Your hotel offers a range of over 30 different explorations, on foot, bike or by boat, including visits to some places that are even unknown to many locals. Your program of activities will be tailor made to your own interests, ensuring a mix of cultural and outdoors experiences to see the highlights of the island. Today perhaps you might like to set off on a full day hike. This hike would start at the foot of Pui Mountain, where men used to compete sliding on banana tree barks. You then continue over ancient moai transportation routes until you reach the Rano Raraku quarry. With plenty of time to visit the quarry you would then walk through Ara O Te Moai, another moai trail, until you reach another group of abandoned moai.
Another day of activities on Easter Island. Perhaps you could plan to start early and set off by bike to see sunrise at Ahu Tongariki, the best of the rebuilt platforms with 15 intact moai. You would then continue along the coastline from here visiting several other archaeological sites before arriving at Anakena, the most picturesque beach on the island with crystal-clear waters and white sands. Be sure to bring your swimsuit! After lunch back at the hotel perhaps you might want to head out on a snorkelling excursion that afternoon, either from Ovahe beach or around the Bird islets from Hanga Roa cove.
There are plenty of options for your final day on Easter Island. Perhaps you might like to try some scuba diving today (there are dives available for both beginners and experienced divers), or else another day of hiking would also be a great plan. You could start with your guide at the fascinating site of Ahu Vinapu, where some of the brick work is reminiscent of Inca walls, leading some archaeologists to suggest that early settlers might have arrived from South America as well as Polynesia. You would then continue to the rim of the Rano Kau volcanic crater, the largest on the island, before visiting the ancient ceremonial village of Orongo.
That evening why not enjoy your last sunset at the Ahu Tahai moai site before sampling some of the island culture in the town of Hanga Roa.
Depending on the flight times there is usually time for another short excursion this morning before heading to the airport for your flight back to the mainland. When you arrive in Santiago your driver will be waiting to take you for the two-hour drive south to Vik Chile in the Millahue valley, arriving in time for dinner.
Today we suggest you take a day to relax and enjoy your beautiful rural surroundings. Spend some time by the pool, indulge in some treatments at the holistic wine spa, or perhaps take a gentle walk or horse ride through the vineyards.
Enjoy a private tour and wine tasting at the innovative Vik winery, and then for lunch the staff will set up a gourmet picnic in the hills surrounding the vineyards. For the more active perhaps you might like to head out on a mountain biking excursion or depending on the season we could even arrange for a helicopter flight to the high Andes for a day’s heli-skiing!
On your way back to Santiago today we will arrange for a private tour with a wine expert via two vineyards in the world famous Colchagua valley, including of course a delicious lunch and wine pairings. Your driver will leave you at the airport in Santiago in time for your evening flight home.