Formerly known as Easter Island, this territory in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, between Polynesia and the coast of Chile, is one of the most isolated – and beautiful – places in the world
South America’s last frontier, some 2,300 miles [3,700 km] from the coast of Chile, Rapa Nui used to be called Easter Island because it was “discovered” on an Easter Sunday in 1722. But it was inhabited way before that. In the year 1000, the city of Hanga Roa, where present day tourists are welcomed by natives with flower garlands, received a group of Polynesian explorers who arrived and settled in the area they considered to be the middle of the planet, or “the navel of the world.” The echoes of this civilization can be felt to this day, even though its culture has long disappeared. Its main legacy are the moai, which are giant sculptures that represent important figures, andno one knows exactly how they were transported. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995, this is one of the most isolated places on the planet. There, the closest dry land that you can see is the Moon.
Biking, hiking and scuba diving
On a mountain bike, you can go up the Teravaka Volcano, one of three on the island, which has several small craters. Consider going in the afternoon: as it’s located 1,640 feet [500 m] above sea level, and the sunset there is incredible. If you’d prefer to walk, set aside a day for the trail that leads to the Rano Kau Volcano, which features exotic scenery combining huge rock walls and a placid freshwater lake below. Scuba diving lovers will find crystal-clear waters with great visibility to contemplate marine life as well as a 16.5-foot [5 m] tall submerged moai and anchors lost by ships in the 20th century. If you still have some energy left, take a horseback ride and visit the dozens of caves there.
By plane: The only airline that serves the island is LATAM, which offers daily flights departing from Santiago.
When to go
The average temperature there is 71.6 °F [22 °C] all year round. During the first two weeks of February, several celebrations take place on the island.
Explora Rapa Nui is the only hotel outside the city of Hanga Roa. It has award-winning architecture and cuisine, offering several tour options. In Hanga Roa, Chez Erika Hostal is located some 50 yards [47 m] from downtown and offers simple, but comfortable rooms along with free wi-fi.
LATAM has direct flights to Rapa Nui from Santiago and Papeete.