Santiago, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Easter Island

Easter island is a fascinating place that I was lucky enough to visit. Along with this post that gives information and itinerary ideas for a trip to mainland Chile and Easter Island, I also have another post focusing only on Easter Island.

I considered keeping them separate but most likely if you are going to travel all the way to Easter Island you will end up in Santiago for at least a few days.

And because there is so much to say about Easter Island, if I included all the information here, this blog post would be massive.

I always wanted to visit Easter Island but never really knew much about it. What country it was affiliated with or how to get there. I believe there are flights from other cities, but Santiago, Chile has the most weekly flights.

I figured if I was going all the way to Easter Island, I should try and see some of the Chilean mainlands. I’m certainly glad I did. Chile is a beautiful country with a lot to see and do. It really is a place where one could easily spend months traveling around and feel confident they have seen it all. From deserts with alleged UFO sightings to the most southern regions with penguins and flamingos, and all the cities and towns in between, there is certainly something for everyone.

As I was only in Chile for 14 days, I managed to spend time in Santiago and did day trips to Vina Del Mar and Valparaiso before heading off to my bucket list destination of Easter Island. I found the people of Chile to be wonderful, kind, and well-mannered. I can’t remember one bad interaction but instead many instances of help, interesting conversations, or a good laugh. As well, I have never seen so many nice sweaters! I guess merino wool is popular in Chile and I was amazed by the style of many men and women.

Chile also has a sad but fascinating history that I knew only a little about. I highly recommend taking a walking tour with a local guide and visiting the human rights museum. I met people who still had vivid memories of the dictatorship, curfews, and to this day have relatives or family friends whose disappearances remain a mystery.

One thing you will notice is the dogs, so if you don’t like dogs, Chile may not be your favorite destination. There is a huge population of stray dogs that roam everywhere in Chile. From sleeping under a bus bench to crossing at the crosswalk lights, these dogs roam the cities in search of food, shelter, and companionship.

The government and some volunteers look out for them and supply water, food, and jackets for those that need them. One dog was quite fond of my walking tour guide and joined us for half of the tour. Wearing his little red jacket, he knew the guide’s route and would wait for us at different stops when he couldn’t enter certain areas.

I definitely want to take my family to Chile and Easter Island one day, hopefully for longer so that we can go north and south on the mainland. But, for those travelers who crave a city and island experience, this trip is a great adventure.

Day 1 – Arrive in Santiago, and go to accommodation. Depending on what time you arrive and where you are staying, take a walk around nearby, and check out the shops and restaurants.

Day 2 – Walking tour. Take a walking tour from the central plaza area. you don’t need to book unless you are in a big group. Usually, you just go and find guides wearing hats or holding umbrellas from various companies. The tours are free, but you are expected to tip. My guide was incredible. He was very well informed about Chilean history, economy, politics, agriculture, and daily life. He was also more than happy to answer any questions or make recommendations. Everyone tipped him very well.

Lunch or Dinner.

Day – 3 Vina Del Mar and Valparaiso day trip. This was a great trip to two seaside small cities just a few hours from Santiago. We stopped at a winery with a vast selection of avocado oil products and other delectables.

Day – 4 City Tour. I wasn’t sure what to expect in Santiago, so I also booked a city bus tour. This was great as it allowed me to see parts of the city that the walking tour didn’t cover. Similar to a hop-on hop-off bus but with a tour guide instead of a recording, this tour covered different parks, neighborhoods, shopping areas, monuments, and historical sites.

Day -5 Free day. Inspired by a place you saw or heard about on the other tours? This is a great day to go to museums, and areas of interest, return to some favorite spots, or go shopping. As well, as a great day to try and eat or a couple of tasty places.

Day – 5 Santiago – Easter Island. Back to the airport for a 5-hour flight to Easter Island. Depending on when you get there, check into your accommodation, and take a walk around town. The main commercial area is very small. only a few streets and it’s walking distance from the airport. So, most hotels and hostels offer a shuttle service to pick up you and your suitcases, but if not, you can probably walk or at least take a cheap taxi…sometimes just a person with a car offers you a ride for a few bucks. It’s very casual here.

Day -6 Let’s see some Moai. The island comprises a commercial area, main residential area, park, and forbidden area. The Moai are spread out all over the island with tourist access to those in the park. You will walk past the airport to the park entrance and office. once you have purchased your park pass you are free to explore the park for the duration of your pass which I believe is five days.

There are also maps of the island everywhere, so you can see exactly where each point of interest is and plan how you want to reach them. How? so many ways. You can walk, bike, taxi, rent a car or take a tour. The park is very well maintained with good roads so getting around is easy. As well, even though you can find yourself traveling alone at times, there are park rangers constantly monitoring the park by bike or car. So, you are never very far from help if you need it.

I took a guided tour one day, walked with a fellow traveler and a stray dog another day, and also alone. On the day I walked to Tongariki alone, I actually got a drive back from one of the park rangers- for free! Which was very kind. I have to say unless you have mobility issues, mix it up; the journey is as good as the final destination.

Tongariki is probably one of the most iconic Moai sites and my long walk, enjoying the landscapes and taking in the feeling of truly being in the middle of the ocean, nowhere and everywhere at the same time, was a fantastic lead-up to my destination. Maybe a mixture of fatigue, and personal introspection; finally laying my eyes on Tongariki was surreal and magical.

This place I had been dreaming of since I was young was finally in front of me. I like other travelers were taking pictures, taking selfies, and then just sitting down in the grass and taking in the magnitude of the Moai and our journies. Most people don’t accidentally book a ticket to Easter Island. For most people arriving at this place is a life dream realized. It is powerful. It energizes us to believe we can accomplish things and to create more life dreams, or to be open to the unknown. Easter Island, in particular, is a place shrouded in mystery, and magic where the old world meets the new world, and nothing and everything has changed.

Much like the beautiful cities with world-class architecture like Barcelona, I’m always curious how the citizens of monumental places feel about their locations. Does the Sagrada Familia ever seem overrated if you stare at it every day? Do the mysteries of the Moai’s ever seem less captivating if you have to mow the lawn or manage the ropes around them?

FOOD: Although there are many amazing places to eat in Santiago, Easter Island does not have the same demand for Vegan or Vegetarian food. However, when I visited I did eat at a place on the main commercial road called, Club Sandwich almost every day. I have suggested some other places below that are listed on Happy Cow. As well, there are grocery stores on the island, but I have to admit they were not cheap. I believe it was actually cheaper to eat at a restaurant. So, I would recommend taking a visit to one of the great health, vegan shops in Santiago and stocking up on any specialty items, like vegan cheese or nut butter along with nuts, dried fruit(apricots, raisins) cereals, empanadas? Whatever you can safely pack in your suitcase to make your trip more enjoyable.

Vaccines? As much as I read, researched, and studied photos from google maps about Easter Island, I still felt like I had no idea what to expect. Because of its remote location and like the mainland, a vast dog population, I was nervous about my health and safety and wondered if I should get some kind of travel shot. I visited a travel vaccination clinic and after much consideration went for a typhoid shot and declined the pricey and somewhat confusing rabies vaccination.

Confusing as after you receive the initial shots, if you are bitten, you still need another shot within a short period of time…and I had no idea if these shots were available on the island. I’m glad I didn’t get the rabies vaccinations as although the dogs are scruffy, with some scars, and bites marks on their ears or tails, they are healthy and looked after by the local vet and volunteers.

However, The typhoid shot is probably a good idea for anyone traveling to islands, rural areas, or less wealthy countries where it is relatively easy for water or food to be contaminated. As I was traveling alone and barely spoke Spanish, I really didn’t want to get sick or end up in a hospital. The shot was easy, fast, and affordable and I didn’t suffer any side effects. It can also last up to 10 years, so there is a chance it could have saved quite a few of my subsequent excursions.

Money 20 USD is 15,600 Chilean Pesos. Or for Canadians, 20 CAD is 11,000 Chilean Pesos. Fairly simple, yet for some reason, I kept thinking of a 10,000 Chilean bank note as 10 CAD dollars. A pizza was 5,000 Chilean Pesos, wow that’s cheap! Actually no, it was expensive. I think I once paid $8 for an order of fries. That’s a lot! because of course, it was 4,000 pesos, which seemed reasonable. So, whether it’s the color of the bills, which are similar to Canadian money, or something else, be careful. You really have to be aware of the conversions because it’s easy to overspend on items that should be cheaper.

SCAMS? I don’t think Chile is known for scams or tourist safety issues, but I did get scammed during my first hour in the country. Be very careful about shuttles or taxis. I prepaid for a shuttle service from the airport to the city. When I arrived, a guy claiming to be from the shuttle company who I met at the company desk, though not behind it, whisked me away upstairs to a taxi. I showed him my voucher and mentioned it was for a shuttle. He assured me that the voucher could be used for the cab and that there was an additional charge. Which makes no sense and in hindsight, I can’t believe I fell for it.

However, the voucher I had purchased was only 14 dollars which did seem low but wasn’t. As I used it on the way back to the airport and it worked just fine. Anyway, I guess the taxi driver felt bad and gave me a tour. He also made it seem like my accommodation was further away than it was, and almost seemed lost at times, driving around the city center area. Anyway, that’s about the only issue I had.

The people are Some of the nicest people I have ever met. I really can’t think of anyone rude, shady(aside from my initial cab experience), or unhelpful. Everyone seemed nice, friendly, and grateful for tourists. Walking down the streets, I never felt unsafe, unwelcome, or targeted.

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