Chile & Easter Island
Santiago de Chile
Most flights to Easter Island go through the Chilean capital of Santiago. Santiago itself is a vibrant and interesting city, and this presents a great opportunity to stop and explore it for 2 or 3 nights while en route. You can take in the fish section of the Mercado Central, or ride the funicular to the Cerro San Cristobal and the Virgen de La Inmaculada Concepcion, which offer the best panoramic views of the city.
Barrio Bella Vista is the most attractive sector of Santiago for dinner and an enjoyable evening out. Or perhaps a light lunch where you can sample of some of the many delicious empanadas along with a Pisco Sour, Chile’s most popular aperitif.
Vina del Mar and Valparaiso
Should you stay more than 2 or 3 nights, various day excursions can take you out of Santiago for wine tasting or mountain excursions into the Andes. But one of the most attractive options is a day to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. Vina is a beach resort popular for both week-end relaxation and summer vacations. It is an extension of the major port city of Valparaiso, which with it’s maze of cobblestone alleys and colorfully painted buildings has become home to many of the country’s most prolific artists. A funicular will transport you from the sea coast to spectacular views of the city from the top of the surrounding hills. Valparaiso was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003.
It is difficult to go to Chile without encountering stories and legends about its favorite poet, Pablo Neruda. He was also an accomplished diplomat, who, because of his strong communist views, eventually spent many years in exile before being awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1971. He had 3 wifes and 3 houses that you can visit: La Chascona in Santiago, La Sebastiana in Valparaiso, and the romantic Isla Negra, a charming seaside villa he had built facing the Pacific which contains an interesting collection of his personal artifacts.
Easter Island is an approximately 5 hour flight from Santiago, which makes it one of the most isolated communities in the Pacific. While the island is Chilean, its culture is clearly polynesian, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the local lifestyle of Rapa Nui, as the island is generally called by its inhabitants. Your hotel is located not far from the center of Hanga Roa, which is the only town on the Island. From there you can enjoy the culture of the local people and witness the strange Moais, which are scattered everywhere. There are close to one thousand of them!
For 4 days you can explore the volcanic Island just as Captain Cook did in 1774 or the French navigator La Perouse did in 1786. You can relax on the white sand beach of Anakena, take a swim in the waters of the Pacific, hike to the crater lake of Rano Kau Volcano, or examine closely the petroglyphs of Orongo representing the Birdman. You can visit in detail the various areas of the island where the famous statues stand in their natural habitat.
You will hear many stories about the statues and may come to your own conclusions about the origins and intent of the them. But you may prefer to side with the scientific studies offered by the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, or perhaps the myths and favorite legends to the local natives, like the one interpreted in the movie produced in 1994 by Kevin Costner: Birdman. Easter island having the largest concentration of fish in the Pacific Ocean, a protected Marine Park, as large as Chile itself, has been recently created off shore in order to protect 142 endemic species. New expeditions are making studies to repertoriate new species.