So Where Exactly IS Easter Island?

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.

This tiny triangular island is anchored by three extinct volcanoes at each apex and another 70 to 100+ vents or cones (depending on who’s doing the talking.)

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.

About Journeys By Jill

I have spent most of my adult life working in and around TV, film & radio production. As an avid traveler, I have a goal to visit at least 100 countries using the Century Traveler's Club Country List. At the moment, I have 54 to go. My favorite form of travel is to get off the beaten path and discover weird & wonderful attractions. Basically, I wing it. I'd love for you to come along for the ride.
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6 Responses to So Where Exactly IS Easter Island?

  1. Kevin says:

    I can’t say I don’t learn anything when I read your blogs! I’m guessing you had a great time on that island with the big heads.

    • Then can you say you DO learn from my blogs? 😉
      A great time is an understatement! There is so much to tell. I am working on a series of blogs on Easter Island. One would just not do it justice. I’m worried that this trip has ruined me for all others!

  2. Veronyka says:

    Hi Jill,

    I’m going to Easter Island this October 25th and have learned so much from your blog entries! I’m a little nervous about my flight. Since I hate flying, I thought it was the best option to pick the shortest trip possible to Easter Island. I’m coming from New York City and booked a Lan flight straight to Santiago (11 hours). Once at Santiago, there is a short 1 hour and 20 minute layover before heading to Easter Island. Total is about 18 hours travel time.

    I’m hoping I don’t miss my flight due to long lines at customs or anything else that may come up. I wish I knew what that airport was like so I can get an idea of how smoothly things run. .

    • Hi Veronyka,

      My husband and I each raised an eyebrow at your 1 hour 20 minute layover for an international connection. I guess it’s doable but I would feel better with a bit more of a cushion. That said, while we have never had a layover in Santiago, we have flown in and out and it was flawless.

      I had to go back and read my blog post about that trip to refresh my memory and it was as smooth as I remember. You can read that here – https://journeysbyjill.com/2011/01/12/turn-my-world-upside-down-part-1-chile/

      When you land, you will need to pay the $140 reciprocity fee. They’ll staple a receipt to your passport and it’s good until your passport expires. We arrived at 5:25a and I remember waiting for what seemed like forever for the Budget Rent-A-Car desk to open at 7:00a so you might be okay. We flew out the next day at 2:00p.

      One thing you should do is check in often with LAN and make sure your flight times haven’t changed. Evidently they are notorious for changing flight times without notifying you even though they have all of your contact info.

      The LAN flights we’ve been on have been wonderful. They’ve always been on clean new planes. The food was decent and good Chilean wine is served. Each seat has its own entertainment system which helps pass the time.

      And enduring the flights has a HUGE payoff. Today I was looking at video I shot on Easter Island and to hear the roosters crowing and the wind blowing immediately puts a smile on my face. It’s a trip of a lifetime. I’m excited for you and happy to answer any questions I can.

      Happy, happy travels!

      Jill

    • Hi Veronyka,

      I just came across this article from Budget Travel with some tricks to help with flight anxiety. Maybe there’s something in it that will help calm you. http://www.budgettravel.com/feature/travel-advice-overcoming-flight-anxiety,12630/?wpisrc=newsletter

      Best,

      Jill

  3. Gozua says:

    you say that the return flight will be softer because of the earth spinning to your favour. would this not mean that it would be impossible for airplanes to get from los angeles to new york, since the planet spins from west to east at about 1000mph and the cruise speed of a yetliner typically is about 600mph, meaning that the earth would be spinning away from you/the-plane with about 400mph?

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