Day 1 Hanga Roa
Arrive at Mataveri Airport on Easter Island where you are met and transferred to your hotel. Rapa Nui, located at the easternmost vertex of the Polynesian triangle in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, lies 3700km from the Chilean coast and 4000km from French Polynesia. The island has an area of 16600 hectares and enjoys a subtropical climate with minimum temperatures of 16 °C and a maximum of 28 °C. The island was created as a result of underwater volcanic eruptions some 3 million years ago. Easter Island was discovered by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Day (hence the name) 1722, and was annexed by Chile in 1888. Rapa Nui started to welcome tourists in the late 1960s, and it soon became one of the world’s leading cultural travel destinations, with an average of some 20,000 visitors per year. Tapa ti Rapa Nui, a festive occasion where ancient rituals and events (sports, fishing, arts, dancing, traditional dress) are re-enacted, is held in late January and early February. Easter Island is a destination that seems to inhabit our subconscious. The image of great stone moai with their backs to the vast Pacific strikes some chord within us, recalls some ancient, creative urge. This is the world's most isolated bit of land, a tiny pinprick in the great pacific, a mound of consolidated lava and ash from three submarine volcanoes. The natives call their island Rapa Nui or Te Pito o Te Henua, 'the navel of the earth. Linguistic and cultural comparisons indicate that the first humans on Easter Island arrived from the west, most likely from the Marquesas Islands or Mangareva, as part of a greater migratory process that spread Polynesian culture throughout the south Pacific. However, the twelve centuries which elapsed between the arrival of the first intrepid 'settlers' near 500 AD and the 'discovery' of the island in 1722 are among the world's great mysteries. European sailors visiting the island found that the natives could not explain the construction and transport of the great moai megaliths, the largest of which exceeds 60 feet in height. Nor could they decipher the rongo rongo tablets whose hieroglyphic script appears to be a forgotten form of written language. It is the mystery of these disappeared artisans, and the awesome presence of their works, which continues to draw scientists and seekers from across the globe. Today, Rapa Nui National Park protects most of the island's archaeological sites, and the native todomiro forests that once graced the island are being replanted. Opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding abound on the island, while a rich marine ecosystem of corals and colourful tropical fish makes Easter Island a prime destination for scuba diving and snorkelling.
Day 2 Hanga Roa (1B,1L)
Enjoy a full day tour along the Moai route. Start with a visit to Vaihu, a place that is surrounded by enormous statues that have fallen face down. Stop at the ruins of Akahanga, still in their original condition and where the first king of the island was buried. Further along see the Rano Raraku volcano, situated close to the southern shore of the island. At the base of Poike, the most spectacular crater in the zone, the former island-people carved giant statues from the volcano’s quarry—they are 20m long and just under 200 tons. Carry on towards the beautiful beach of Anakena, where we see Ahu Tongariki, the largest of the 15 Moais on the island; they weigh an average of 50 tons and were destroyed by a tidal wave in 1960. Enjoy a box lunch and free time to enjoy the warm sea waters which surrounded the island. In the afternoon return to your hotel. AHU AKAHANGA: This platform is also known as the altar of the highest chief. According to local legend, the tomb of the legendary founder of the island, Hotu Matu’a, is located nearby. The altar illustrates the numerous phases of the construction, and consists of four platforms on top of each other, twelve statues and the remains of eight pukao (red scortia topknots). There is also a second altar where the workers were interrupted while raising a moai onto the platform. There is also a canoe ramp nearby and directly in front of the altar it is possible to appreciate one of the best-preserved village settlements, containing boat-shaped houses and cooking ovens (umu pae), as well as a cave, which would have been used as a shelter. RANO RARAKU VOLCANO AND QUARRY: The majority of the moai here were carved from the volcanic rock found on the inner and outer slopes of this volcano. There are some 400 moai in all stages of carving, giving the visitor a chance to appreciate the various forms, including the kneeling statue known as Tukuturi. Another moai is noteworthy for having a 3-masted ship carved on its abdomen. Towards the west it is possible to observe moai that have been abandoned en route to their platforms. The road which they lie on is known as Ara o te Moai (the road of the moai). ANAKENA - The is the beautiful white sand beach where, according to local legend, King Hotu Matu’a first set foot on the island, and where soon after his wife gave birth to the first Rapanui. The name Anakena really refers to a nearby cave that overlooks the beach where small birds called kena used to nest. Less than 1 km away towards the side of the hill there is another beach, smaller and with pink sand, called Ovahe. AHU TONGARIKI: With its 15 statues, this is the largest ahu on the island. The entire site was destroyed and scattered over a large area after a tidal wave in 1960, and future archaeological work was made possible thanks to the donation of a crane by a Japanese company; reconstruction began in 1993 and must be seen to be believed. Beyond the plaza is an important petroglyph site called Papa Tataku Poki, with representations of tunas, turtles, etc.
Day 3 Hanga Roa (1B)
This morning you will depart Hanga Roa towards Rano Kao Volcano, inside its deep crater there is a lake of fresh water covered with totora. Located on the top of the crater is Orongo, the centre where each year the Tangata Manu or Bird Man ceremony was celebrated, those festivities currently take place during summer. There are more than 100 petroglyphs representing the god Make Make, the Tangata Manu, and the Manutara sea bird, among others. Continue on to the caves Ana Kai Tangata, which contains several cave paintings before heading to the ceremonial platform Ahu Vinapu, well known for its architectural perfection. Return to the hotel in Hanga Roa in the early afternoon for lunch. After lunch head north to visit the Ahu Akivi, platform composed by 7 Moais. These are the only Moais on the island that were positioned facing the sea. Move on to Ana Tepahu, also known as the Cave of the Bananas before visiting the Puna Pau, quarry where the Pukao where carved, Pukao are also known as the typical hairstyle or the hats of the moais. Here it is possible to learn more about the making, building, and transportation process of these colossal sculptures carved on volcanic rock. Return to the hotel in the evening. ORONGO: Orongo is a ceremonial centre, dating from 1410 to 1876, which was used over the last few centuries to perform the Birdman competition. On the rim of the giant crater there are 53 oval-shaped houses, built with stone slabs and all with a small entrance facing the sea. They are laid out in two rows, finishing at the sacred area called Mata Ngarahu, which is heavily decorated with petroglyphs and looks out to the neighbouring islets. AHU VINAPU: The earliest phase of this site has been dated at 1200 AD. There are 3 altars in the area, and the first, Ahu Tahira, is notable for its perfect stonework in the back wall, reminiscent of stonework produced by the Incas in Cusco and Machu Picchu. The six moai are face down and the space beneath them has been transformed into a secret chamber. The abdomen of one of these statues was painted with red earth for unknown reasons during the last century. Near the second altar you will find an interesting statue made of red scortia which once had two heads and that some say was female. Of the third altar, only a few rocks now remain. AHU TE PITO KURA: With a moai of over 10 meters and an approximate weight of 90 tons, this statue represents the largest moai to ever be transported and raised on to a platform. Near the ahu are the ruins of an enormous pukao, weighing 1.5 tons. According to collected ethnographic information, this moai was one of the last to be overthrown at the end of the 18th century. Next to the altar is a large round stone known as Te Pito o te Henua (the navel of the world) to which magical powers have been accredited. CAVES - The island contains hundreds of caves, and the largest concentration of these volcanic formations is to be found around Roiho, north of Hanga Roa. Caves, or ana, were used as temporary refuges during times of conflict (ana kio) as well as burial places, storage sites and lodgings. AHU AKIVI - This platform dates from 1500 and was the first altar to be scientifically restored in 1960 by William Mulloy and Gonzalo Figueroa. Its real name is Ahu Atiu, but due to a recent error is now known as Ahu Akivi, actually the name of a neighbouring altar. The platform holds seven moai and has an astronomical orientation marking the direction from which the Pleiades appear during their orbit between June and December, from solstice to solstice. In the island, as in the rest of Polynesia, the New Year began with its appearance on the night of the June solstice, three degrees from the point where the sun rises. According to recent folklore, the statues represent the seven explorers sent by Hotu Matu’a to find the island, helped by the directions of the priest Haumaka in the dream that he had in Hiva.
Day 4 Hanga Roa (1B)
Transfer to Mataveri Airport.