Chile to Tahiti: Journey through the South Pacific

Aboard the Silver Explorer

Note: Cruise rate includes roundtrip economy class air.


Claiming a UNESCO World Heritage Site, HMS Bounty mutineers’ history, plus bucketloads of island authenticity, this cruise is for the curious! Departing from the romantic shores of Valparaiso, sail off on an extended expedition through the vast expanse of the South Pacific. You'll visit such fascinating places as Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, and the alluring Marquesas Islands, but more remote destinations are on this itinerary as well including Robinson Crusoe and Alexander Selkirk islands, Mangareva in the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia, and Tikihau, part of the Tuamotu Archipelago. 

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.


Day 1
Valparaiso, Chile / Embark

Since time immemorial, Valparaiso has inspired writers, poets, musicians, and artists alike. If the city is still a little rough around the edges, this only adds to its bohemian ambience; the architecture, style, street art, nightlife, and live music scenes of Valparaiso are some of the best in the world. Add colorful clifftop homes to the mix and you'll soon see why Valpariaso is many people's favorite Chilean city. The city was founded in 1536 by Spanish conquistador Juan de Saavedra, who named the city after his birthplace. Many of the colonial buildings still stand today, despite the rain, wind, fire, and several earthquakes (one of which almost leveled the city in 1906). Quirky architecture also abounds; poetry lovers and amateur architects will no doubt want to make the 28-mile trip south to Chilean poet laureate (and Nobel Prize winner) Pablo Neruda’s ship-shaped house and museum for a taste of the extraordinary. The city and region are also extremely well known for their love of good food and wine. The vineyards of the nearby Casablanca Valley, first planted in the early 1980s, have earned worldwide recognition in a relatively short space of time. However, Chile’s viticulture history does date back much farther than that. De Saavedra brought grapevines on his voyage to South America to make his own wine and this led to a new grape brandy being created, Pisco. Today give any Chilean a Pisco and wherever they are in the world, they will be home. Embark on the Silver Explorer and depart in the early evening.

Days 2-3
At Sea / Robinson Crusoe Island

After a day at sea, the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind, arrive at Robinson Crusoe Island, located 375 miles off the coast of Chile. A rugged volcanic speck where 70 percent of its plant species are endemic, this island is the largest of the Juan Fernandez Islands, a small archipelago that since 1935 has been a Chilean National Park that in 1977 was declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. This island has witnessed and played an important role in Chilean and world history. In 1704 the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned on the island and stayed for more than 4 years, eventually inspiring Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe—hence the name of the island. The village of San Juan Bautista was founded at Cumberland Bay in 1750 and by 1779 there were already 7 small fortresses bristling with guns. The island’s isolation offered Spain a splendid place for setting up a penal colony, to which high-ranking Chilean patriots were deported in the early 19th century. In 1915, during the First World War, three British ships and a German one, the Dresden, engaged in a sea battle that ended with the scuttling of the German cruiser. Today there are currently around one thousand people living in the archipelago, most of them in the village of San Juan Bautista engaged in fishing for spiny lobster, a delicacy exported to the mainland.

Your excursions on the island include an easy walk around the town, followed by drinks and music at a local restaurant; or easy to moderate hiking options.

Day 4
Alexander Selkirk Island

The inspiration for the novel Robinson Crusoe was a salty Scottish seadog who went by the name of Alexander Selkirk. Selkirk was marooned in Chile’s Juan Fernandez archipelago for four years and four months, rescued by a British private warship. Despite his slightly checkered past, he was greeted as a celebrity upon his return to England. His adventures were given a gloss and immortalized in the much loved 18th century classic. The island is located 100 miles west of the other islands in the archipelago, and was renamed from its Spanish name, Isla Más Afuera, in 1966 by the Chilean government in homage to the sailor. The topography is very different from the Caribbean dream that Defoe writes about: think dense woodland, rugged coast and peaks, shrouded (more often than not) in cloud. Sandy beaches can be found to the north of the island. Throughout much of its history, the island has been uninhabited, although there is a former penal settlement on the middle of the east coast, which operated from 1909 to 1930. During the summer months, Selkirk welcomes a small community of lobster fishermen and their families who come from Robinson Crusoe. As part of the Chilean National Park, it also holds the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve title.

Enjoy a Zodiac cruise along the coast of Alexander Selkirk island, where you will witness dramatic cliffs and impressive birdlife such as Juan Fernandez petrel, black-browed albatross, southern and northern giant petrels and Stejnerger's petrel.

Days 5-9
At Sea / Islas Salas y Gomez

After four days at sea, arrive at Salas y Gomez, the tip of an underwater mountain range some 240 miles east-northeast of Easter Island. Although the 37-acre island was never inhabited, it was known to Easter Islanders as the site of Hau Maka, their Creator God. The modern name refers to the two Spanish explorers who either discovered (Salas) or first visited it (Gomez) in the late 18th and early 19th century. The inhospitable rocky shore makes landings extremely difficult. The highest elevation is 98 feet above sea level, yet the Chilean Navy has built a small lighthouse to warn seafarers of its existence. Several bird species have made Sala y Gomez their home and among the Christmas shearwater, masked boobies, and brown noddies, the sooty terns and great frigatebirds are of special interest—they are the two bird species relating to the birdman ceremonies on Easter Island. In 2010 the Chilean government created the Salas y Gomez Marine Park, which in 2018 was joined with the Marine and Coastal Protected Area of Easter Island to form one of the largest no-take marine reserves in the Pacific.

Days 10-13
Easter Island / At Sea

Easter Island, the easternmost settled island of Polynesia, received its European name in 1722 when the island was sighted by a Dutch expedition under Roggeveen on Easter Sunday. The triangular-shaped island is famous for the hundreds of statues known locally as moai. Rolling hills covered in grassland, eucalyptus forest, and a rocky shore surround Hangaroa, the island’s only village on the southwestern coast. This is where Captain Cook landed in 1774, where missionaries built the first church, and where ships find the best protection from winds and swells. Small beaches and transparent waters invite swimmers and snorkelers, but it is the cultural aspect that attracts visitors. Since 1935 the island has been a National Historic Monument and today 43.5% of the island is a national park administered by the Chilean National Forest Corporation and Mau Henua, a local community group. The island’s national park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Found more than 2,000 miles west of Chile, the island was annexed in 1888. Used as a sheep ranch for many decades, the island was opened in 1965 and an airstrip was built. The US Air Force set up a base to record the behavior of the earth's outer atmosphere and by 1987 NASA had the runway extended as an emergency runway for the space shuttle. This never happened, but tourism benefitted from this improvement and today the island receives more than 100,000 visitors a year. Several touring excursions are available during the two days on Easter Island, including hiking options to some of the island's most famous sights. Days 12-13 are at sea.

Day 14
Ducie Island, Pitcairn

Discovered in 1606 by Pedro Fernandez de Quiros on his way to the Solomon Islands, Ducie is a small isolated atoll and is the easternmost of the Pitcairn Islands. The island’s most prominent bit of history is the 1881 wreckage of the ship Acadia, which ran aground on the island when the lookout mistook the island for a cloud due to its white beaches. Ducie is a mere speck in the surrounding expanse of ocean, uninhabited except for the estimated 500,000 nesting seabirds that reside among the two plant species (beach heliotrope and at least one specimen of pemphis) that grow over seventy percent of the island. Bird species that you may be able to see include Murphy's petrels, white terns, great frigatebirds, and masked boobies. Under good conditions the wreck of the Acadia or the atoll’s lagoon waters offer interesting snorkel opportunities.

Excursions include a Zodiac cruise or easy hike along the coast to admire the abundant birdlife; or a snorkeling expedition in the lagoon's clear waters.

Day 15
Henderson Island, Pitcairn

Henderson Island is a raised coral atoll comprising 86% of the land area of the British Overseas Territory of the Pitcairn Islands. In 1820, a sperm whale rammed and sank the whale ship Essex, shipwrecking the crew on Henderson—it was the inspiration for Moby Dick. Locals from Pitcairn Island use Henderson as a source of valuable miro wood, and tantalizing archaeological discoveries have been made indicating habitation by Polynesian settlers in the past. The area was under the sway of the Polynesian society based around the Gambier Islands. When these islands saw environmental and economic decline, it seems Henderson Island was abandoned. It was formally annexed to the British Empire in 1902 by Captain G. F. Jones, along with his crew of Pitcairn Islanders. Henderson is one of the two raised coral atolls in the world that have been relatively untouched by humans, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Due to its splendid isolation, many species here are found nowhere else in the world, including ten flowering plants, all four of its land birds (such as the Henderson lorikeet), and many of its invertebrates, along with many species found across the Pacific such as the giant coconut crab.

Excursions on Henderson include a Zodiac cruise or nature walk to search for birds; or a snorkeling expedition to enjoy the underwater world of the reed surrounding the atoll and its abundant marine life.

Day 16
Adamstown, Pitcairn Island

Home to the original mutineers of the Bounty, Adamstown is today the capital of all four Pitcairn Islands. The islands—the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific —include the namesake Pitcairn Island itself, plus the uninhabited Oeno, Henderson, and Ducie. Pitcairn is the archipelago’s only inhabited island, with the population of just 50 centered in Adamstown. It is no surprise that the nine mutineers along with six Tahitian men, 12 Tahitian women, and one child stopped on Pitcairn in 1790; with its sloped and varied landscape, lush tropical promise, and equidistant location between Peru and New Zealand, Pitcairn would have seemed an ideal hiding spot for the mutineers to settle. The ship was burned to avoid detection (the ballast stone remains of the wreck in Bounty Bay). However, the ideal bucolic life that mutineer leader Fletcher Christian had envisaged was not to be. Poor treatment of the Tahitian men led to alcoholism, chaos, and carnage, and by 1800 only John Adams—who had recently discovered Christianity—remained. Adams taught the women and children to read and write from the bible. The capital is named after him. Not only had the island been misplaced on early maps of the region, but it can also be very difficult to come ashore as large breakers tend to build up just in front of the small harbor of Bounty Bay. The local museum houses the HMS Bounty Bible, the same bible that Adams taught the women and children to read and write from in the early 19th century.

Shore excursions on Pitcairn include exploring Adamstown and visits with the local islanders; a variety of hikes, including one to the top of the island; or a Zodiac cruise along the coastline.

Days 17-18
At Sea / Mangareva, Gambier Islands

A day at sea brings you to the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia, of which Mangareva is the largest island with a population of over 1,200 people. Most live in Rikitea, the largest village on the island. A high central ridge runs the length of Mangareva peaking with Mt. Duff, which rises nearly 1,500 feet from the sea on the island's south coast. The island has a large lagoon sprinkled with coral reefs whose tropical fish and the black-lip oysters have helped islanders survive much more successfully than on other nearby islands. Small ships are able to enter the lagoon of Mangareva, and visitors can walk through the town, see the remains of the massive stone and coral buildings dating back to the 19th century, or climb up Mt. Duff. The highlights in town include the cathedral with its mother-of-pearl shell altar and objects designed and built in the 1830s and 1840s and partially restored by the students of Rikitea’s school just a few years ago. On your shore excursion you'll enjoy a traditional greeting with flower lei and a performance of traditional dance, followed by a visit to mid-19th century St. Michael's Cathedral. You can also explore the island, and possibly swim or snorkel in the lagoon (conditions depending) before returning to the ship.

Days 19-21
At Sea / Omoa and Hanavave, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands

A two-day cruise north takes you to the first of the Marquesas Islands. Ridges and cliffs form beautiful, rocky Fatu Hiva, the southernmost of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. Half-moon-shaped Omoa Bay encircles the village of Omoa, where about 250 people reside near the island’s main church. They make tapa cloth in a traditional way with beaten bark decorated in inked traditional Polynesian designs. The island is covered in lush jungle vegetation that is divided in some places by narrow ravines marked by sharply dropping cliffs. The ruggedly beautiful Bay of the Virgins appears as if its palm tree-lined, jutting rocky ridges were carved by some great hand into stone sculptures. Morning shore excursions include a visit to the village of Omoa or a guided hike to the nearby petroglyphs. In the afternoon, enjoy a traditional greeting at Hanavave or a hike to a freshwater pool.

Days 22-23
Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands / At Sea

The largest of the southern islands, Hiva Oa, the master pillar or finial post of the “Great House,” which represents the Marquesan archipelago in the local mythology, has always been the rival of Nuku Hiva. The island is shaped like a seahorse and has a mountain range running southwest to northeast whose main peaks, Mt. Temetiu and Mt. Feani, form a real wall around Atuona, a peaceful little port at the head of Taaoa Bay (also known as Traitors Bay). This is the last resting place of Paul Gauguin and of the singer Jacques Brel. The tombs of these famous personalities are on the side of the Calvary cemetery looking out across the bay and are places of great pilgrimage. In the village, the Gauguin Museum displays items related to the painter's stay there at the beginning of the 20th century and has copies of his works. Enjoy a day of snorkeling from a platform offshore this beautiful island, and keep your eyes open for mantas while swimming in the clear waters of this paradise. Day 23 is at sea.

Days 24-25
Manihi & Tikehau, Tuamotu Archipelago

Arrive at Manihi, a coral atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago known for its pearl farms. The next day, explore Tikehau, a 17-mile coral atoll made up of two palm tree-lined islands and a number of smaller islets connected by a clear, bright turquoise lagoon. Translated from Tuamotuan as “peaceful landing,” Tikehau lives up to its name as one of the most breathtaking places in the French Polynesian Islands. Expect secluded white and pink sand beaches, views of nesting sea birds, and ideal snorkeling conditions as the lagoon is teeming with underwater life. According to the famous marine explorer Jacque Cousteau, Tikehau has the highest concentration of fish than any other lagoon in French Polynesia.

Day 26
Papeete, Tahiti / Disembark

Arrive in Papeete in the morning and disembark.



Visit remote Robinson Crusoe and Alexander Selkirk islands, both part of a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve
Explore the mysterious standing moais and other stone monuments of Easter Island
Take in the fascinating history of the Pitcairn Islands, including Adamstown, where descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty reside
Enjoy the lush vegetation and dramatic landscapes of the Marquesas Islands—everyone's dream of the South Pacific


Length: 26 days
Cost From: $23,600  
Arrive: Valparaiso, Chile
Depart: Papeete, Tahiti
Lodging: 25 nights aboard a 132-passenger vessel, 1 night hotel
Meals: All meals aboard ship, including wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking, Wildlife and Natural History, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

25-day cruise, cultural explorations, swimming, snorkeling, and walking tours