Easter Island Tour Including the Tapati Festival
Tour Easter Island, a Unique Open-air Museum with nearly a Thousand Immense Stone Statues and Hundreds of Stunning Petroglyphs
with Dr. Sidsel Millerström
January 29 – February 9, 2023
Why Take This Easter Island Tour?
- Easter Island tour study leader worked on the island and throughout Polynesia for more than thirty years.
- Includes the Tapati Festival, a celebration of Rapa Nui culture
- Private performance by Toki Music School students
- Special viewing of Rapanui artifacts in the Fonck Museum
- Wine tasting in one of Chile’s outstanding wineries
- Optional pre-trip extension to the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile
- Maximum 14 participants
(click to enlarge)
Daily Easter Island Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Depart USA.
Day 2: Arrive Santiago and overnight.
Day 3: Fly to Calama. Yerbas Buenas Petroglyphs. Valley of the Dead. Valley of the Moon.
Day 4: Aldea de Tulor, Pukara de Quitor. Atacama salt flat. Peine.
Day 5: Cemetery of Forgotten Miners. Pintado Geoglyphs.
Day 6: Iquique City Tour.
Day 7: Cerro Unita. Giant of Atacama, Tiliviche Ravine, Chiza Geoglyphs. Ariquilda petroglyphs.
Day 8: Arica city tour.
Day 9: Fly back to Santiago. Join main tour.
Day 1: Depart USA.
Day 2: Arrive Santiago with city tour.
Day 3: Valparaiso. Private tour of the Fonck Museum.
Day 4: Fly to Easter Island. Ahu Te Riku.
Day 5: Archaeological Museum and William Mulloy Library. Ahu Nau Nau and Ahu Ature Huki.
Day 6: Orongo, Rano Kau, Ana Kai Tangata, Ahu Vinapu, the Conaf gardens, and Rano Raraku.
Day 7: Ahu Huri A Urenga, Manavai caves, Ahu Akivi, and Puna Pau.
Day 8: Vaihu, Akahanga, Ovahe Beach, Pu O Hiro, Ahu Heki’i, Ahu Ra’ai, Te Pito Te Kura, Tongariki, and Papa Vaka.
Day 9: Free time.
Day 10: Fly back to Santiago.
Day 11: Tour Santiago. Fly back to the USA.
Day 12: Arrive in the USA.
What is the Tapati Festival?
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 in the town auditorium.
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 haka pei, where Rapanui daredevils slide down the side of a mountain on banana trunks at hair-raising speeds.
Many of the celebrations are held outdoors, at night, by torchlight, 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.
Far Horizons Unforgettable Easter Island Tour
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 the deep history and culture of this enigmatic island. 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.
‘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
Sidsel Millerström received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in Polynesian archaeology. She is a specialist in archaeological art and architecture and has worked on excavations all over Polynesia, including Easter Island, Fiji, the Marquesas, and Tahiti.
Since 1984, Dr. Millerström 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, now published in her book, Te Henua Enana. Up to this time, no systematic survey had been conducted in the Marquesas, an archipelago which, in prehistory was connected culturally with Easter Island.
Dr. Millerström excavated cave sites on Easter Island and worked with Dr. Georgia Lee, documenting the petroglyphs and sculptures on the island. Dr. Millerström’s knowledge about Easter Island, her love of the Rapanui people, along with her passion for all things Polynesian is infectious. There is no one else Far Horizons would prefer to lead our quintessential Easter Island tour.
‘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 friends 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 with the islanders add much to the trip.’ – George Alers
Easter Island Tour Itinerary
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 2: Arrive in Santiago
Arrive in Santiago and transfer to Hotel Magnolia, our home for the next two nights. After check-in and lunch on our own, depart for Cousiño Macul Vineyard for a private tour and tasting. Return to Santiago with a stop at Los Dominicos artisan market. 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)
Day 4: Fly to Easter Island
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)
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 Rapanui culture, including the first coral moai eye to be found. Also part of the museum is the William Mulloy Research Library which presents an eclectic collection.
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 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.
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 the slope. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Tours of Ahu Huri A Urenga, Ahu Akivi, and Puna Pau:
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. Next, 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)
Day 8: Local Musical Performance and a Tour of Vaihu
Mahani Teave is a Rapanui concert pianist and one of the founders of NGO Toki Rapanui, a music school on the island. We will 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)
Day 9: Self-guided Exploration of Easter Island
Today will be free to explore the island at your own pace – on foot, by horse, or in our vehicle. Accessible only by foot, 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, one of which is called a “ski jump” or ahu. If the sea is calm, you may motor by fishing boat to see Rapa Nui from the water. (B/L/D)
Day 10: Flights to Santiago
Fly back to Santiago and transfer to the Hotel Magnolia. Dinner is on our 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 to the USA. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 12: Arrive in the USA
Arrive in the USA.
Pre-Trip Extension: Atacama Desert
January 22 – 30, 2023
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.
Day 1: Depart the USA
Day 2: Arrive Santiago
Arrive 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. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
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.
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)
Day 7: Explore the Tamarugal National Forest and Tiliviche
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)
Day 8: Tour the Lluta Valley, Chinchorro, and the Cathedral of San Marcos
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.
Upon return to Arica, stop by the Cathedral of San Marcos, designed by Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame. This edifice is made of iron and was carried in pieces to this city by boat to be rebuilt there. Arica is northern Chile’s port city, known for its surfing beaches. Tonight’s special dinner party will be in an elegant restaurant with magnificent views over the Pacific Ocean. (B/L/D)
Day 9: Flights Back to Santiago to Start the Main Easter Island Tour
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)
$8,895.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes the services of local English-speaking guides; all hotels; meals as noted; entry fees; ground transportation; gratuities to guides and drivers.
Single Supplement: $995.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
Atacama Extension: $6,295.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes domestic flights within Chile; local English-speaking guide; all hotels; entry fees; ground transportation; meals as noted; and gratuities.
Atacama Extension 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 round trip airfare to Santiago, Chile; round trip airfare from Santiago to Easter Island; a separate $150.00 (per person) donation check to the Easter Island Foundation; passport or visa fees; airport and/or departure taxes; food, alcoholic beverages and other drinks not on set menus; excess baggage charges; necessary vaccines and tests; laundry, telephone, fax or email charges; and other items of a personal nature.
Fuel 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 $750.00 per person 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 120 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.
Cancellation and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450.00 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. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations and transportation schedules may occur. A flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
Airfare to Santiago, Chile and on to Easter Island and back is not included in the cost of the tour and you are responsible for all flight arrangements 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.
Easter Island Flights
The only airline that flies between Chile and Easter Island is LATAM Airlines and the seats fill very quickly due to the Tapati Festival. Early registration is strongly advised. Please contact Far Horizons regarding the group schedule for the Easter Island flights. You may be able to book your international flights and Easter Island flights on one ticket.
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.
Travel in this Part of the World
We will often travel through unpredictable territory with a will of its own. If its itinerary changes… so does ours! Hotels and transportation in remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available. At times we will be walking over uneven terrain for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. All participants are expected to be physically active and able to walk independently throughout our very full touring days. Keeping up with the group is each participant’s responsibility; please do not expect assistance from the other group members or staff. Several days will include long drives in the bus. A flexible attitude, team spirit and a good sense of humor is helpful! 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 Archaeological Tour is Limited to 14 Participants