Christmas on Easter Island, Easter on Christmas Island
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
We spent the Christmas of 2017 on the far-away Easter Island of Chile, where our crazy idea of spending Easter at the opposite end of the world – on Australia’s Christmas Island – was born! Both islands were named after the holidays on which they were discovered by seafarers. These unique islands are 14399 km (8947 miles) apart.
Easter Island, Chile
The mysterious Rapa Nui (indigenous name of Easter Island) bears witness to a unique cultural phenomenon. A society of Polynesian origin that settled there c. A.D. 300 established a powerful, imaginative and original tradition of monumental sculpture and architecture, free from any external influence. From the 10th to the 16th century this society built shrines and erected enormous stone figures known as Moai, which created an unrivalled cultural landscape that continues to fascinate people throughout the world.
We spent four nights on this small island in and rented a cabaña, with our own private Moai in the garden. We found out, this is probably one of the oldest Moais on the island, called Moai a Matamea (Moai of Mars). In Rapa Nui, Mars is known as “Matamea”, which literally means “red or evil eye” and was sometimes seen as a bad omen for the ancient Rapa Nui, although little is known about this now. Moai a Matamea is made of red scoria/hanihani.
At our arrival, we bought the ticket to the Rapa Nui National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ticket is valid for 10 days to visit the different archaeological sites, which can be visited several times, with the exception of Orongo and the Rano Raraku volcano quarry that can only be done once. Drones are not allowed in Chile, at least not without a permit. Same goes for shooting after dark in Rapa Nui National Park. There is a possibility to obtain a permit, but it is not easy and costly. There are stargazing tours, you can join, but you have very limited time for photography and since the main sites with the Moais have strict opening and closing times (sacred place) - a guard must be present at all times, when you enter outside of opening hours.
Ahu Tongariki is the "Sunrise Spot"- don't worry, the guard will open the gate at dawn. If you are lucky with the weather and timing, you will see the sun rising behind the 15 standing statues! 3 mornings out of 4 were cloudy! This part of the island is perfect if you would like to capture the Milky Way, too, as it is far from Hanga Roa.
The best time to visit the Ahu Nau Nau at Anakena beach and take pictures is in the early morning when the sun illuminates the faces of the statues, and there are usually fewer tourists.
There is also a "Sunset Spot" - the ceremonial complex of Tahai. People start to gather together an hour before the sunset, just chilling and again, if you are lucky with the weather, you will get a beautiful silhouette! In Tahai there is no ticket office where the ticket must be presented, it can be requested at any time by the park rangers, so it is convenient to have it on hand. Although it is an open area, we were asked to leave approximately 30 minutes after the sunset.
Ahu Ko Te Riku is a single moai of 5.1 meters high, that was restored with all the elements that adorned the old finished statues, including the eyes. On his head, it carries a pukao, a cylindrical piece carved in red scoria from the Puna Pau volcano. This form, which according to different opinions, represents a hat or a hair bun, was placed in the last phase of construction of the ahu.
Orongo, the ceremonial village and Rano Raraku, the Moai quarry can only be visited once. We visited Orongo in the morning and Rano Raraku in the afternoon, these sites deserve a few hours - each!
We managed to visit most of the places during our five day stay (Ahu Akivi, Vinapu, the “inca” ahu of Rapa Nui, Papa Vaka, the sea petroglyphs, Pu o Hiro, the trumpet of Hiro Te Pito Kura, the navel of light), but if I ever had a chance to return to Rapa Nui, I would not hesitate to stay even longer!
So what is it like to spend Christmas on Easter Island? Most of the places are closed just as in many other places in the world! You need to make sure, you book a table in advance at the restaurant for the Christmas dinner. Other than that, the whole island is relaxed and in some places you may see people walking around with funny Santa hats and reindeer antlers! :)
PS: Don't forget to stamp your passport at the post office!:)
Christmas Island, Australia
Christmas Island is located 2600km north-west of Perth, Western Australia. Even though it is an Australian Territory, its closest neighbour is Java, 360km away. Christmas Island is often referred to as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean - its geographic isolation and history of minimal human disturbance has led to a high level of endemism among its flora and fauna. The majority of the island is included in the Christmas Island National Park. It is one of the world's most significant seabird breeding sites, and home to a number of endemic crabs.
The red crab migration each year is a world-famous event that inspires awe and wonder in all who witness it.
To get to Christmas Island, you'll need to fly in from Perth or Jakarta. We found a cheap flight ticket from Prague to Jakarta via Dubai.
Only 80 minutes to paradise!
There is a flight with Garuda charter once a week on Saturdays from Jakarta to Christmas Island and back.
We knew, there is no crab migration this time of the year and we are not divers, either. Our first thoughts were - what will we do there for an entire week? :) We arranged our flight tickets, accommodation and the car rental with Extra Divers and took off. Travelling the world for six years now, visiting almost 60 countries, I have to say, this was one of my best trips ever! This remarkable small island is a natural wonder. Our first stop was the visitor centre - the wonderful staff provided us with all the helpful information, maps and brochures, secret locations and useful tips.