Best Bucket List Trips: Easter Island Reopens After A Two-Year Hiatus

Lying more than 2,300 miles from Chile and the nearest isles of Polynesia in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, Easter Island—or Rapa Nui, as the locals call it—is the most remote inhabited island in the world, taking the top spot on the United Nations’ “Isolation Index.”

On August 4, the island—a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its fascinating moai, the massive and mysterious stone monoliths that put it on the travel industry map—reopened to tourists following an 868-day shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With flights now resuming twice weekly from Santiago to Mataveri International Airport, intrepid adventure travelers can look forward to another imminent reopening: Explora Rapa Nui, a LEED-certified, 30-room luxury lodge and the island’s most desirable address, which will again welcome guests beginning September 24, 2022.

Guests can choose from over 30 explorations, including guided hikes, bike rides, snorkeling, and scuba diving excursions designed to immerse them in Rapa Nui’s singular culture. You can also select activities based on exploration zone—the Poike zone, for example, named after the island’s oldest volcano, offers some of its most unusual scenery, while a hike through the archaeological remains and rock gardens of Hotu Iti leads to Ahu Tongariki, Rapa Nui’s largest ceremonial platform. All half- and full-day excursions are designed for small groups, and range in levels of difficulty from easy to expert.

Rising 6,600 feet from the seabed and long shrouded in mystery, the island has hosted many visitors over the centuries, from the first settlers from Hawaii to the early Rapa Nui, who between 1100 and 1500 A.D. studded its volcanic slopes with the nearly 900 towering moai—ranging from two to twenty meters in height—that still stoically preside over the singular landscape. The Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen came ashore in 1722 while searching for the Great Southern Continent, and gave Easter Island its name—Paaseiland in Dutch—in honor of the day of his arrival. The famed British explorer, Captain James Cook, followed more than half a century later, disembarking at Rapa Nui in 1774.

Other intriguing facts about this enigmatic island abound. Its roughly 64 square miles are home to more horses than people: some 7,000, versus the 4,000 local inhabitants who proudly keep its language, music, and traditions alive. Meanwhile, its surrounding waters—brimming with coral and marine life spanning a dazzling spectrum of shapes and colors—are the most crystalline on the planet, offering excellent visibility up to a depth of nearly 200 feet. And speaking of planets, NASA set its sights on the island’s isolated position long ago: Following an agreement between the U.S. and Chile, in 1987 the space agency extended Mataveri Airport’s single runway to 10,885 feet, to serve as an emergency runway for the Space Shuttle.

Established in 1993, Explora has pioneered social distancing for nearly three decades, proposing travel based on the deep exploration of remote destinations and designing every hotel as a headquarters from which to explore its unique surroundings. Beyond Easter Island, Explora offers travel in six other South American destinations: Torres del Paine, Atacama, and Patagonia National Park in Chile; the Sacred Valley in Perú; El Chaltén in Argentina; and Uyuni in Bolivia.

If You Go:

In keeping with health regulations instituted by Chilean government authorities, all travelers to Easter Island are required to follow entry health measures to keep locals and visitors safe. Current requirements include a negative PCR test taken within 24 hours of departure. Click here for more information about tourist arrival protocols.

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