When I tell people I am going to Easter Island, they smile and nod. But, I can tell by the look on their faces that they really don’t know where I am going. I can see the gears turning in their heads and know they are thinking something along the lines of an island along the coast of one of the Carolinas.
Then I tell them that it’s the island with the big stone heads. About half say, “Wow” and I know they understand. The other half still have blank stares so I whip out my phone and show them pictures of the Moai and then most of them, eventually, get it.
The next questions are usually posed hesitantly. “So, um, where exactly is Easter Island?” “How do you get there?” “How long will it take?”
Here’s my little geography lesson. Easter Island, also known as Isla de Pascua and Rapa Nui is kind of due south of the state of Utah, on the other side of the equator, in the South Pacific, approximately 2,200 miles west of the coast of Chile. Tahiti is another 2,600 miles to Easter Island’s west. Its closest neighbor, Pitcairn Island, is 1,300 miles away with a population of less than 50.
So it really is in the middle of nowhere, living up to its nickname of the most remote, inhabited island on the planet.
What does it take to get there? Short answer: a day. Long answer: start with a two-hour flight from Charlotte to Miami. Because we are not flying to Miami on American Airlines, which at the moment runs the place, we are forced to recheck-in at the ticket counter and go back through security instead of simply walking from our arrival gate to our departure gate. I plan a four-hour layover to make sure we don’t miss any flights.
As of this writing, Easter Island is serviced by LAN Airlines from three cities, Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; and less frequent flights from Papeete on Tahiti in French Polynesia. Our trip is through Lima so we are airborne for five hours and fifteen minutes. Lima is one hour behind Miami.
We have a four-hour layover in Lima and then another 5 ½ hour flight to Easter Island. From the time it takes us to leave our house 15 minutes from the airport in Charlotte, to the time we touch down on Easter Island, 25 hours have passed.
The return trip is a bit better. With shorter layovers everywhere; the planet spinning in the right direction making eastbound flights shorter than westbound; and only needing to be at the Easter Island airport 2 hours before our international flight instead of 3 in the U.S., we shave the travel time down to 20 hours door to door.
The trip back from Easter Island to Lima drops to just 4 hours and 50 minutes. The Lima – Miami leg is a tad longer coming back and clocks in at 5 hours 50 minutes.
Obviously, connecting through Santiago from North America adds time because Santiago is another 3 ½ – 4 hours south of Lima.
The other advantage of going through Lima for Americans is to avoid the $140 Chilean “reciprocity fee” that can only be collected in Santiago. The money buys a tourist card that’s good for the life of the passport. I have one from a previous trip to Chile. Mike has a new passport so he would need to pay if we were booked through Santiago. We are not going to the mainland on this trip so we are spared the extra cost.
I’m not sure if they collect that fee when Americans arrive on a domestic flight from Easter Island but it might be worth a try to book itineraries that include a trip to the mainland to start on Easter Island and then head to Santiago on a domestic flight. If someone uses this theory, please let me know if it works or not.
So the short answer is that it is in the middle of nowhere but well worth the effort to get there.