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.
Far Horizons designed this Easter Island tour so that guests could fully immerse themselves in this enigmatic island’s deep history and culture. If you’re still trying to decide where to go on your next adventure, you might like to browse our entire collection of North and South America Archaeology Tours, including our much-loved Belize Archaeological Tour.
Called Rapa Nui by the Polynesian people who live here, Easter 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.
We have timed this tour 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 and only 13 others on this 12-day Easter Island tour that includes three days in Chile’s capital, Santiago, where we will visit the Natural History Museum and Pre-Columbian Art Museum as well as the stunning coastal city of Viña del Mar.
A colorful festival is held every February on Easter Island. The Tapati Festival offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a memorable island ‘party’ — a celebration of the Rapanui culture. Events range from a statue carving contest to an art festival with works of island art on display and for sale.
Every evening there are spirited performances featuring Rapanui songs and sensual Polynesian dancing, including the lively Rapanui tango! Kai-kai (string figure) performances are closely watched by island audiences, and those who perform the chants and figures perfectly are given standing ovations. The entire village participates in the gala which includes horse and boat races, body painting, an amazing parade, a triathlon event, and much singing, dancing, and musical performances.
Many of the celebrations are held outdoors at night and the merrymaking ends with the annual crowning of the winning clan’s queen by moonlight in front of the evocative statues at the ancient shrine of Tahai. Our flexible itinerary will change daily as we take in the many Rapanui festivities. If you have any more questions about the Tapati Festival, please feel free to get in touch.
‘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
‘Thanks for the opportunity to go to this magical place. I think the spirit of Makemake still has a great hold on me’ – Bob Thorston
In northern Chile, soaring volcanoes, stark lava fields, and rolling, trackless sand dunes give startling contrast to a seemingly endless desert. The early artists who lived here perhaps thousands of years ago left behind spectacular pictographs and geoglyphs – huge ground drawings akin to the “Nazca Lines” in southern Peru.
These enormous representations of hunters, camels, eagles, condors, and herds of llamas with their shepherds cover the surface of hills, and, unlike those in Peru, are easily visible from the ground. But there’s more! Experience charming villages on desert oases, colonial adobe churches, unusual vegetation, the largest salt lake in Chile, home to spectacular flamingos, and in Arica, see displays of the world’s oldest mummies.
Depart on a flight bound for Santiago, Chile.
Arrive in Santiago and transfer to the Hotel Magnolia for a day of rest.
Fly to Calama where we meet our guide, and drive to San Pedro de Atacama, on the UNESCO Tentative list. Along the way, we will stop to visit the Yerbas Buenas Petroglyphs. This was a stop for traders and herders for millennia.
Continue on to the Valle de la Luna and the Valle de la Muerte, where red rock formations and sand cliffs pierce the crystalline sky. Here the wind has sculpted the stone peaks into bizarre shapes that truly give the area a lunar landscape. Many centuries ago, the verdant oasis of San Pedro de Atacama was the center of a Paleolithic civilization that built impressive rock fortresses upon the steep mountains that encircle the valley.
Today, the charming village of adobe houses could have sprung from the American southwest. Overnight for the next two nights at the Altiplanico Hotel in the oasis village of San Pedro de Atacama. (B/L/D)
This morning, we will go through Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat in Chile. Under the rugged salt crust is a lake containing the world’s largest reserve of lithium locked in an underground reservoir. Lagoons within the crust are home to many birds including colorful flamingos, red-gartered coots, and guallatas.
Move on through groves of acacia and pepper trees to the oasis of Toconao, located 8,153 ft above sea level. Here, walk through the archaeological site of Tulor where excavations show the 2000-year-old remains of a community of mud houses protected by encircling walls. A short drive north leads to a 700-year-old fortress, Pukará de Quitor, overlooking the fertile Río San Pedro valley from atop a strategic bluff and the residence of the last indigenous ruler of the area.
Time permitting, we will enter the Toconao Church, with its unique 18th-century tower. Our last stop is in the community of Peine to observe pictographs that were created by the Atacameno people and may be 10,000 years old. (B/L/D)
Today will be a long drive to Iquique. Along the way we will stop at Cerros Pintados. This extraordinary site boasts more than 350 geoglyphs. Created on the region’s barren hills between ca. A.D. 500 and 1450, they served as guideposts for caravans crossing the Atacama Desert from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean.
The entire side of the hill is covered with one of the world’s largest outdoor murals. More than 15 acres of slopes are decorated with shapes depicting humans, animals, birds and abstract designs. Overnight for the next two nights in Hotel Terrado Cavancha. (B/L/D)
The port city of Iquique was the center of the mining industry in the 19th century. The Georgian-style architecture in the historic quarter affirms the wealth accumulated during that era. Our hotel is near the Plaza de Armas Arturo Prat. The neo-classical Municipal Theater, inaugurated as an opera house on January 1, 1890, is on one side and the 19th-century clock tower dominates the center. Also on the plaza is the Spanish Cultural Center, built in 1904 during the period of Spanish colonization. Constructed in the Moorish style with an ornamented façade and balconies, it now houses a club and restaurant.
We will drive down Calle Baquedano, declared a Zona Típica in 1977 and on the UNESCO Tentative List. Stately palm trees overshadow the avenue fringed with magnificent Georgian mansions. These were built between 1880 and 1920 with pine brought in from Oregon. In 1892 a nitrate industrialist constructed a family residence that now houses the Regional Museum. Inside, it displays important collections of items of indigenous peoples, objects from the Andean Plateau and mummies from the Chinchorro culture.
The Astoreca Palace contains an exhibition of furniture used in the 19th century. The Museo Corbeta Esmeralda houses a replica of a courageous little Chilean vessel that, in 1879, challenged ironclad Peruvian warships in the War of the Pacific. It was captained by the national hero, Arturo Prat. We will see the staff quarters, engine and a video explaining the battle. The afternoon and dinner are on your own to do with as you please. (B/L)
Journey through the Tamarugal National Forest to see the wild tamarugos, the tree indigenous to this area, to eerie Humberstone. This ghost town has been deserted since the nitrate industry collapsed in the 1950s. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this company town was home to thousands of people who lived and worked here from the first half of the 19th century, processing the largest deposit of saltpeter in the world.
As we move north, spend the rest of the day exploring intriguing rock art in the colorful, wild landscape. Unlike the Nazca lines that can only be seen clearly from an airplane, these artistic designs were formed on the sides of hills and are easily viewed from the ground. The famed Giant of Atacama is on the western slope of Cerro Unita and is the world’s largest representation of a human figure, measuring one hundred twenty meters tall.
At Tiliviche, we will gaze across a quebrada (an immense gorge) to a huge scene on the opposite hillside. The artist created a panel filled with movement as a herd of llama is driven down the valley by running shepherds. We will also travel to the Chiza petroglyph site. Overnight for the next two nights in the Apacheta Hotel in Arica. (B/L/D)
Giant ground drawings appear on a mountain ridge as we arrive in the Lluta Valley. Created by dark stones placed on the pale sand, stunning images of alpaca, giant humans, and enormous condors cover the hillside. From here, travel to the Azapa Valley where prehistoric artists created fascinating panels on the sandy slopes of Cerro Sombrero and Alto Ramirez.
We will stop to enter the Church of San Geronimo of Poconchile, built of adobe in the 17th century, and the Archaeological Museum of Azapa where the entire story of cultural development in this region is displayed, including the mummies from the Chinchorro culture, a UNESCO World Heritage Culture.
Tonight’s special dinner party will be in an elegant restaurant with magnificent views over the Pacific Ocean. (B/L/D)
A morning flight takes us back to Santiago. This afternoon, meet up with those who are not on the pre-trip extension to begin the main tour. (B)
Depart on a flight bound for Santiago, Chile.
Arrive in Santiago and transfer to Hotel Magnolia, 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 Art Museum which catalogs 4,500 years of South American civilization before the arrival of the Spanish and Museo La Merced which houses an interesting collection of Rapanui artifacts. Gather this evening for our Welcome dinner at an elegant restaurant overlooking the city. (D)
Our all-day-tour takes us to Valparaiso, located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. We will stop at one of Chile’s premier wineries for a tasting and tour before lunch. 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 sculptures and artifacts from Easter Island. Return to Santiago and our hotel in the late afternoon. (B/L/D)
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. Enjoy a traditional umu (earth oven) dinner to celebrate our arrival. (B/L/D)
Today’s tour begins at Ahu Ko Te Riku (also known as Tahai), a large solitary statue, or moai, supports a massive maroon topknot.
Move on to Anakena, the island’s largest white-sand beach and the landing place of the legendary Hotu Matua, the founding hero of the island. Not far we explore Ahu Nau Nau, with its row of statues with topknots, and Ature Huki, where statues stand on the side of the hill overlooking the beach. (B/L/D)
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 rock paintings Easter Island tour 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 nestled 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 Vinapu, containing the ruins of two famous shrines, one of which has massive stonework reminiscent of the Inka civilization in Peru.
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 trail alongside the mountain slope to see the statues in various stages of completion, including the one known kneeling moai. (B/L/D)
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. After a picnic lunch, 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. Finally, visit Puna Pau, where the red scoria topknots for the stone figures were quarried. (B/L/D)
Mahani Teave is a Rapanui concert pianist and one of the founders of NGO Toki Rapanui, a music school on the island. If available, we will join Mahani and take a tour of the music school and learn about the innovative, green, and sustainable aspects of the building and enjoy a performance by her students.
Next, 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 at Ovahe Beach, 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. (B/L/D)
Today will be free to explore the island at your own pace. Enjoy the activities of Tapati, arrange a boat to take you out on the water, sit by the pool, explore the shops in the village, and enjoy your last full day in this Polynesian paradise. (B/L/D)
Fly back to Santiago and transfer to the hotel. Dinner is on your own. (B/L)
Begin today at Cousiño Palace, an ancient residence of the richest family of the 19th century, decorated with art pieces brought from Europe. Also, tour the historical city, including a visit to the Pre-Columbian Art Museum which catalogs 4,500 years of South American civilization before the arrival of the Spanish and Museo La Merced which houses an interesting collection of Rapanui artifacts.
After an elegant lunch at El Meson Nerudiano, it’s on to the Pablo Neruda’s House-Museum. Built in 1953, it was 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 overnight flights back home. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 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. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. 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. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
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 on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for a mile or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging 3-4 miles of walking. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least half an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 30 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking for a mile or two every day. We feel that this preparation will increase your enjoyment of the trip. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.