Go in search of the secrets of far-flung Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, an open-air archaeological museum of a fascinating but vanished Polynesian culture. Called Te Pito O Te Henua—The Navel of the World—by early settlers, this isolated isle of mystery is more than 2,000 miles from the nearest population center. Celebrated for its huge, enigmatic stone moai, Rapa Nui has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. Your explorations include dramatic Tongariki, the largest ceremonial site in Polynesia, Rano Raraku, the volcanic area where most of the moai were quarried, plus the petroglyphs of Orongo, center of the Birdman Cult.
Note: There are flights from Santiago to Easter Island five days a week, so the duration of your stay will be dictated by your flight schedule.
Sample 4-day Itinerary
Santiago / Easter Island
Arrive at Mataveri International Airport on Easter Island, where you are met at the airport for a transfer to the hotel. Overnight at a hotel...meals on your own
Akahanga / Tongariki / Rano Raraku / Anakena Beach
Your full-day tour begins with a visit to the cave dwellings and moai platforms of Akahanga, a large ahu (shrine) with four fallen statues. Continue to Tongariki, formerly the biggest platform on the island, with its rich remains of cairns and tombs. In 1960, a tidal wave sent the 15 colossal Tongariki moai—some of which weigh 30 tons—hundreds of feet inland. The ahu, the largest on Easter Island, was effectively destroyed, and was restored by a team of archaeologists in the 1990s. Later, visit Rano Raraku quarry, a classic symbol of the island and original factory of the moais. The gigantic statues lie scattered over the hillsides and can be seen in the different stages of production. Afterwards, drive along the north coast past La Perouse Bay to the beautiful beach at Anakena, where King Hotu Matua made land, accompanied by the first Polynesian settlers. Return to the hotel for overnight. Dinner on your own...BL
Orongo / Rano Kau / Ahu Akivi / Puna Pau
A half-day morning tour begins with a visit to Orongo, the ceremonial site for the Birdman Cult, whose 53 stone houses are set right by the circular crater of Rano Kau, the island’s southernmost volcano. The Birdman Cult emerged after the collapse of the Moai Culture, and was focused on fertility rites and the Birdman competition. The site is full of petroglyphs representing Tangata Manu (Bird Man) and the god Make-Make. From the volcano, views stretch across most of Easter Island as well as to its reed-covered lake. On the western slopes are impressive views of the islets Moto Nui, Motu Iti and Motu Kao-Kao. During the ceremony of the Birdman Cult held at Orongo, one young man per clan swam out to the motus to climb and steal the first swallow’s egg of the year. The winning clan was allowed to nominate Rapa Nui’s king for the following year. Return to the hotel for lunch on your own. In the afternoon, explore Ahu Tahai (“where the sun hides”), located north of Hanga Roa on the coast. The three restored moais overlook the island with their backs to the sea. One of them is Ko Te Riku, the only moai with eyes made of white coral and black obsidian. Afterwards, visit Ahu Akivi, one of the few ahus not located by the sea. Its seven resurrected moais are set according to the equinox, which indicates the advanced knowledge of astronomy once known on Rapa Nui. Your final stop is the Puna Pau quarry, where the red stone headdresses set on many moai were produced. Return to the hotel for overnight. Dinner on your own...B
Depart / Santiago
Transfer to Mataveri International Airport for your flight to Santiago and homeward...B