Santiago & Easter Island
‘My husband was adamant about not having a 50th birthday party, so we instead decided to take a family trip. We wanted a “once in a lifetime” destination that would remain in our memory as “where we went for the big 5-0!” Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, as the locals call it, is the most remote, unpopulated spot on the planet. Yet, surprisingly, is in the same time zone as New York City, which helped with jet lag.
‘Easter Island is a 5½ hour flight west of Santiago, Chile, so we decided to spend one day in this colorful, cobblestoned city. We stayed in a wonderful small hotel, The Aubrey (Constitución 299-317, 56 2 940 28 00, theaubrey.com), which is located in the Bellavista part of town. A small hotel situated in two former villas, The Aubrey has only 15 rooms, a lovely pool area, an outdoor patio for dining, and a very welcoming staff. Next door to the hotel is a funicular that takes you to the top of Cerro San Cristòbal, which has the best views over Santiago. The hotel is in the same neighborhood where Pablo Neruda, with his mistress, built a secret hideaway La Chascona (Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, 56 2 777 87 41, fundacionneruda.org).
‘As we had only one day in Santiago, and I knew a day of museum-visits after an all-night flight wouldn’t be popular, we had a “foodie day” with an American ex-pat, Liz Caskey, who has a passion for food and wine. Liz loves to share her extensive knowledge of her adopted country. She picked us up from our hotel at 11am and we spent the entire day roaming the various food markets of Santiago, seeing stalls piled high with everything from meat, fish and vegetables to cheese and gourmet ice cream. Of course we made stops along the way for snacks and freshly squeezed fruit juices. The tour ended in Liz’s beautiful home where she served us Chilean wine and cooked a delicious late lunch using our day’s purchases. It was the perfect way to get a flavor of a new city in a single day.
‘The next morning, we took a morning flight to Rapa Nui and stayed at the Explora Rapa Nui. Melissa’s interview with Explora founder, Pedro Ibànez, perfectly describes the philosophy of this amazing property. We were fortunate to have the same guide for our entire five-day stay. A Rapa Nui native, he has traveled the world but returned home to share with guests his deep knowledge of his homeland’s culture, history and archeology. In addition to hiking the volcanoes and the quarry where the massive Moai heads were carved, our guide took us snorkeling, mountain biking, and fishing. We went fishing the traditional Rapa Nui way: placed a piece of chicken on a hook, tied the hook to a lure and then wrapped the whole contraption around a rock. My son caught ten fish! One evening, we went into town to watch a performance of the traditional ballet, Kari Kari. We got a chance to meet the lead dancer and choreographer, Moko Mae, who is also the island’s top-rated tattoo artist. (The Rapa Nui love their tattoos). Thankfully after Moko showed us around his studio, my 16 year old decided inking her skin wasn’t such a great idea.
‘What makes Explora so special is that after a day of exciting exploration, you return to the lodge where every consideration has been thought of, and you are surrounded by luxury. The food, wine, beds and stunning views are abundant but you are never distracted by unnecessary fussiness. The grand finale of our trip was a surprise birthday lunch for my husband in a cave, steps away from the ocean, which had been organized by the Explora staff. This trip was definitely the “once-in-a-lifetime” memory we were looking for.
‘Suggested Reading: The Statues that Walked, by Terry Hunt. Using scientific and anthropological information, (all explained in layman’s terms), this book debunks many of the long-held ideas relating to the island’s Moai statues.’
Read Indagare’s report on Easter Island.
Read Indagare’s review on the Explora properties.
Read Indagare’s report on what not to miss in Santiago.
Read another member’s postcard from Chile