Up until late 2011 the British Airways Executive Club imposed very few routing and stopover rules. You were able to book as many stopovers as you wished and a route that needed to be somewhat logical between your point of origin and return.
The best way to take advantage of this was to book an award throughout South America and route through Easter Island. Easter Island is served by LAN from Santiago de Chile and (of and on) from Lima, Peru. LAN uses their internationally configured 767 with a lie flat business class for the 5 hour flight.
That's what I did before any of the changes took effect and had my trip from SFO to Buenos Aires (via LAX/MIA) and the return through Santiago and Easter Island in February 2012.
Going to Easter Island was a childhood dream of mine and I would not be disappointed.
Easter Island is very remote – the nearest other land is the mainland which is 2,500 miles away. The island feels a bit like Kauai – similar climate with high winds and strong UV (remember no pollution anywhere). It's just much smaller! I rented a mountain bike and biked around the island with ample time for stops and sightseeing in just 10 hours!
The airport has a huge landing strip which transects the whole Southern part of the island. It was built up as a backup landing strip for the space shuttle. The departing/ arriving facilities are just one small building though. The only town in the island is walking distance from the airport. ON you way you will likely see wild horse galloping through the meadows!
Now the remoteness makes the island expensive. Food and accommodation are two to three times as expensive as in Chile. Most accommodation is simple – my guest house (Unaki Uhi) described warm water as an amenity. Electricity comes and goes and ACs are not something to expect (fortunately it does not get as hot). Accessing the Internet or making calls on your cell phone is nothing to count on but to cheer from when it works. The town is home to only 5,000 people.
The islands fascinating early history is showcased in the Northern part – as the islanders built hundreds of Moai and erected them along the coastline and villages to be protected from the forces of the sea. The Southern part plays host to a later phase of development with the contest to select a tribal leader by swimming to the nearby island.
This movie Rapa Nui highlights both phases very well.
When I visited last February the yearly cultural festival was going on with a major stage playing local music and showcasing artists every night. I was quite impressed for such a small place there is a lot going on and tons of artists were around.
This is the site were the moai statues were being carved from volcanic rock. It's an awe-inspiring sight and you need to be there to feel it. There are dozens of half-finished and finished statues all over the place. The rangers are pretty strict in their no-touch policy but you can close enough for close-up shots.
It get's pretty busy with tour buses during lunch so if you can make it in the early morning or late afternoon you can have the whole hill and the views to yourself.
Most of the moai statues have been destroyed during the discovery by the west and during internal struggles.
However Ahu Tongariki has been forgotten and shows them in full beauty. Although this is just a grassy, windy field with fierce midday sun I had a hard time getting myself to leave. It's just spectacular how the statues stand against the sea in complete silence.
Easter Island just has one beach and that's the one. But it has everything you need – clear, blue water. Bright sand. A bunch of Maoi watching over you. Palm trees giving you shade. Picknick stalls with delicious local meals and a cruise ship as a backdrop if you are lucky.
It's the whole deal and could come straight out of a travel magazine -its that good.
I spent only 48hrs on the island which was enough time to see all the major sights. However you can easily spend 7 days to soak everything in. There are no chain hotels on Easter Island and restaurants charge well above average. Be prepared for that!
Avios charges just 12,500 points from Santiago de Chile to Easter Island one-way in Economy. LAN also has a flight from PPT to IPC for the same price. So if you find yourself on vacation in PPT and need some cultural exploration don't miss the opportunity to go to Easter Island, it's very worthwhile. I'm already looking forward to go back!
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