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Easter Island & the Tapati Festival

With Dr. Sidsel Millerström

January 29 - February 9, 2015

At the southeastern tip of the Polynesian triangle lies windswept Easter Island, one of the most remote spots on the planet. Surrounded by an endless ocean as blue as the sky and located 2,300 miles west of Santiago, Chile, this tiny dot of land is sixty square miles of rocky grasslands, extinct volcanic cones, and steep ocean cliffs. Called Rapa Nui by the Polynesian people who live here, this island is a unique open-air archaeological museum. Nearly a thousand immense stone statues, called moai, gaze with brooding eyes over the gently rolling hills, hundreds of perplexing petroglyphs stand out from rock surfaces, and colorful cave paintings depict brightly painted birds in flight.

Easter Island ToursWe have timed this trip to include the wonderful Tapati Festival, a celebration of the Rapa Nui culture. Each day will dawn with new and exciting contests of strength and skill, while evenings will bring the mesmerizing melodies of Polynesian music as grass skirted dancers perform beneath the stars. It is a time of revelry and feasts, and of honoring the past with performances of cat’s cradle, the hypnotic chant used to hand down the island’s history from generation to generation.

Join Far Horizons Archaeological and Cultural Trips on this 12-day journey that includes three days in Chile’s capital, Santiago, where we will visit the Natural History Museum and Pre-Columbian Museum as well as the stunning coastal city of Viña del Mar.


'I wanted to see the stunning moai, which I had first read about in AkuAku in 1960, and gain a grasp of how and when they were conceived. I had no idea I would love the land- and sky-scape as much as I did the moai.' - Jackie Humphrey

'It was a fabulous trip.  I had studied for it and thought I knew what to expect.  It was so much more.' - Carlene Nelson  

"This was perhaps the best (and certainly one of the best) of the ten-twelve trips that I have been on around the world. This is a big statement, but I really liked being able to stay in one place for most of the trip and repeatedly see things that related to the archaeological and cultural theme. Most of the trip participants were interested in the same themes, too, so the trip was a wonderful learning experience." - Don Swanson

“This trip was a dream I’ve had for many years. It fulfilled my dream completely.” - Ann Schroeder

"Easter Island actually exceeded my expectations. I didn’t begin to imagine how beautiful Rapa Nui is, nor the impact of seeing the moai. Your service was above and beyond. You can be sure that I will tell my traveling pals about my positive experience. Thank You!!" - Arden Down


Click here to request a Easter Island & the Tapati Festival brochure


Tour Itinerary

(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner

Vina del Mar

Day 1: Depart for Santiago, Chile.

Day 2: Arrive in Santiago and transfer to the 5-star Plaza San Francsico Hotel, our home for the next two nights. After check-in and lunch on our own, we will tour the historical city, including a visit to the Pre-Columbian Museum*, which catalogs 4,500 years of South American civilization before the arrival of the Spanish. Gather this evening for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant overlooking the city. (D)

Day 3: Our all-day tour takes us south of Santiago through wine country. We will stop at one of Chile’s premier wineries for a tasting and tour before continuing to Valparaiso, located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Lunch will be at a delightful seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean. Continue to Viña del Mar, one of Chile's most fashionable beach resorts. Here, we will visit the Fonck Museum and be given a private tour of its original Rapanui wooden sculpture and artifacts from Easter Island. (B/L/D)

Easter Island hotelEaster Island hotel poolDay 4: This morning fly to Easter Island and check into the O’tai Hotel, our home for the next six nights. Surrounded by lovely, fragrant gardens, this small family-run inn is only a block from the coast in the center of the village of Hanga Roa. Watch the sunset at Tahai, where three ceremonial centers are located on the edge of the ocean. On one of them, Ahu Ko Te Riku, a large solitary statue, or moai, supports a massive maroon topknot. (B/L/D)

Easter Island big headDay 5: Today’s tour begins in the Sebastian Englert Archaeological Museum, named for a German priest who lived on the island for nearly thirty-five years. The museum contains artifacts from the Rapa Nui culture, including the only coral moai eye that has been found. Next door to the museum we visit the William Mully Research Library, a state-of-the-art facility that provides scholarships to young Rapanui, funded by the Easter Island Foundation. Within the flanks of the volcanic mountain, Rano Raraku, lies the quarry where the massive moai were carved. Many unfinished giants still lie imprisoned in stone, abandoned when the work suddenly and mysteriously stopped. Others stand buried to their shoulders in quarry debris and eroding soil and rock. Hike to the rim of the volcano's crater for a breathtaking view over the island, and to see the huge, prehistoric engineering works used to slide the statues down theslope. Anakena is the island's largest white sand beach,and the landing place of the legendary Hotu Matua, the founding hero of the island. Fringed by lovely palm trees, this is our luncheon picnic destination. Ahu Nau Nau, with its row of statues with topknots, and Ature Huki stand on the side of the hill overlooking the beach. Return to the village via Vaitea, the historical sheep ranch. (B/L/D)

Day 6: The ancient village of Orongo sits on the seaward edge of the volcano Rano Kao. Until the 1860s, the Festival of the Bird Man was held here each spring. Members of leading tribal groups gathered at the edge of a thousand-foot cliff to watch competitors, or their trusted representatives, swim through turbulent waters to Motu Nui Islet, nearly a mile away. Once there, the competitors hid in caves, sometimes for days, waiting for the return of the migrating Sooty Terns that nested there. The first person to find an egg, swim back through the shark-infested waters to the mainland, carry it up the precipitous cliff and present it unbroken, won the race. He or the man he represented became Bird Man, an important status position, for the next year. The sacred site is famed for its hundreds of intricate petroglyphs carved on massive boulders perching on the edge of the cliff. Continue to Ana Kai Tangata, the Cave of the Cannibals, with painted portraits of Sooty Terns soaring in stylized flight across the ceiling, and Vinapu, containing the ruins of two famous shrines, one of which has massive stonework reminiscent of the Inka civilization in Peru. (B/L/D)

Easter Island tourDay 7: The remote west coast of the island is today’s destination. Begin with a visit to Ahu Huri A Urenga where a solitary statue still stands; it was once a solstice observatory. At Tepeu you will see a massive ahu, and the island's largest hare paenga (stone house built in the shape of a boat). Nearby, we will examine petroglyphs, caves, and two huge manavai (farm fields in collapsed lava tubes). After a barbecue in a shady grove, we move on to Ahu Akivi where seven standing giants are oriented towards the summer solstice. The moai face a plaza fronted with stones, the site of early religious rites and dances. Visit Puna Pau, where the red scoria topknots for the stone figures were quarried. (B/L/D)

Easter Island Tapati dancersEaster Island Tapati FestivalDay 8: With its many large moai, Vaihu is one of the most impressive sites on the south coast. Toppled in the wars, the statues now lie with their noses buried in the ground surrounded by scattered topknots. At Akahanga are numerous large figures and the remains of a village with the foundations of several boat-shaped houses lies on a hillside nearby. After a picnic lunch, continue to the north coast, stopping at the Poike “Ditch" and the Trumpet of Hiro. Visit Ahu Hekii, Ahu Ra’ai and its petroglyphs, and Te Pito Te Kura, the largest statue ever moved. Tongariki was the largest ahu (shrine) built on the island. Destroyed by a tsunami in 1960, the huge moai were recently re-erected. Notable here are the stunning petroglyphs of enormous tuna, turtles, and human and birdman figures. Tonight’s dinner will be a special event, where a typical umu (earth oven dinner) will be highlighted by dancers in costumes. (B/L/D)

Day 9: Today will be free to explore the island at your own pace - on foot, by horse, or in our van. Accessible only by hiking, the northern part of Easter Island is a particularly interesting area. Many of the caves and lava tubes that dot the volcanic hills contain petroglyphs and paintings. Some of these caves were used as refuges in time of war, others as secret storage or burial places. Here also are statue-filled ritual places and one of the ahu has been jokingly described as a "ski jump" because of its unusual form. If the sea is calm, you may motor by fishing boat to see Rapa Nui from the water. (B/L/D)

Day 10: Return to Santiago and transfer to the Plaza San Francisco Hotel. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)

Day 11: Begin today at Cousiño Palace*, an ancient residence of the richest family of the XIX century, decorated with art pieces brought from Europe. After an elegant lunch at El Meson Nerudiano, we enjoy a walking tour of the colorful and bohemian Barrio Bellavista, with time to shop for last minute souvenirs. Then it’s on to the Pablo Neruda’s House-Museum. The house, built in 1953, is called “La Chascona” in honor of Neruda’s secret love, Mrs. Matilde Urrutia, who later became his third wife. In the late afternoon we transfer to the airport for the overnight flights back to the US. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)

Day 12: Arrive in the USA.

*Please note that the Pre-Columbian Museum and Cousiño Palace in Santiago are currently closed for remodeling with no proposed date for reopening. If they are closed when our group is in Chile, alternative touring arrangements will be made for site-seeing. We thank you in advance for your understanding and flexibility.

Easter Island's Tapati Festival is a celebration of the Rapanui culture by its people. As a movable feast, the dates are flexible. Furthermore, the LAN flight schedules change often. If we must change our dates to accommodate the flights or fiesta, we should know by November 30, 2014.


Study Leader - Sidsel Millerström

Dr. Sidsel Millerström received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in Polynesian archaeology. She is a specialist on archaeological art and architecture and has worked on excavations all over Polynesia including Easter Island, Fiji, the Marquesas, and Tahiti. Since 1984, Dr. Millerstrom has worked on all six presently inhabited islands in the Marquesas during which she discovered and recorded numerous tikis, carvings of human figures, and more that 7,000 ancient petroglyphs. Up to this time no systematic survey had been conducted in the Marquesas, an archipelago which, in prehistory, was connected culturally with Easter Island. She excavated cave sites on Easter Island and worked with Dr. Georgia Lee documenting the rock art and sculptures on the island. Dr. Millerström's work has appeared in various scholarly and popular journals.


'The highlight, hands down, was having Sidsel as our guide and friend throughout.' - Jackie Humphrey

'Sidsel was outstanding, personable, and accommodating. I can't imagine a better study leader.' - Don Swanson

'Sidsel was great! She knew so many people on Easter Island from her experiences there, and that our guide, Enrique, knew as an islander that it felt like we were welcomed as returning frineds rather than visitors. I would travel with her as a study leader again in a heartbeat!' - Carlene C. Nelson

'Sidsel was wonderful! Her knowledge of the island and friendships witht the islanders add much to the trip.' - George Alers


Tour Dates

January 29 - February 9, 2015

Tour Cost

Easter Island$8,695.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes round-trip air tickets from Santiago to Easter Island; all hotels; guides and entry fees; ground transportation; and meals as noted in itinerary.

Single Supplement: $795.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.

Cost Does Not Include: International roundtrip airfare to Chile; the separate donation $150.00 check to the Easter Island Foundation; passport or visa fees; airport or departure taxes; beverages or food not included on regular menus; laundry; excess baggage charges; personal tips; gratuities to guides and drivers; alcoholic drinks; telephone and fax charges; or other items of a personal nature.

Orango Easter IslandFuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.

Donation Checks: The cost of the trip does not include the separate donation check for $150.00 (per person) to the Easter Island Foundation. The mission of the Easter Island Foundation, originally funded to encourage objective study and research about Easter Island, is an institute for Pacific studies about the island world of Polynesia with a special focus on Easter Island. This expanded structure provides a forum for a variety of programs and activities designed to further knowledge of and to stimulate international interest in this island world. As a tour company that benefits from the historical, cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to scholars, archaeological and cultural projects, and museums in each of our destinations. This has created a bond with the academic community that allows you to gain an 'insider's view' of work being done in each country.


A deposit of $500.00 along with a separate check for $150.00 made out to the Easter Island Foundation is required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 75 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent the initial trip documents. Click here to download our Registration Form.

Cancellations and Refunds

Cancellations received in writing at least 75 days before departure will receive a refund less a $250.00 administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 75 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation coverage.


Air Ticketing

International air is not included in the cost of the tour, participants are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation to join the group. If you arrive or depart on a date other that the scheduled arrival/departure days, you are responsible for the airport/hotel/airport transfers and any other services you request. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. If you issue your own international flight, please send the complete schedule as soon as you have it.

Note on Internal Flights

The only airline that flies between Chile and Easter Island is LAN Airlines and the seats on this schedule fill very quickly. If the economy seats are no longer available for the flights included in the trip cost and we are forced to book a business class seat for you, the additional cost will be passed onto the client.

While on Easter Island

The itinerary on Easter Island will be flexible to accommodate the events that occur during the Tapati Festival. Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.

Private Tours of Archaeological Sites

The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments, or that the date or time of our visit to their project must be changed.

Ovahe Beach Easter Island

Orango Easter Island