Kon-Tiki left Callao, Peru, on the afternoon of April 28, 1947,, then sailed roughly west carried along on the Humboldt Current.
The crew's first sight of land was the atoll of Puka-Puka on July 30. On August 4, the 97th day after departure, Kon-Tiki reached the Angatau atoll. The crew made brief contact with the inhabitants of Angatau Island, but were unable to land safely. Calculations made by Heyerdahl before the trip had indicated that 97 days was the minimum amount of time required to reach the Tuamotu islands, so that the encounter with Angatau showed that they had made good time.
On August 7, the voyage came to an end when the raft struck a reef and was eventually beached on an uninhabited islet off Raroia atoll in the Tuamotu group. The team had travelled a distance of around 3,770 nautical miles (c. 6,980 km (4,340 mi)) in 101 days, at an average speed of 1.5 knots.
After spending a number of days alone on the tiny islet, the crew were greeted by men from a village on a nearby island who arrived in canoes, having seen washed-up flotsam from the raft. The crew were taken back to the native village, where they were feted with traditional dances and other festivities. Finally the crew were taken off Raroia to Tahiti by the French schooner Tamara, with the salvaged Kon-Tiki in tow.
Kon-Tiki had a six-man crew. Of interest, the crew included two veterans of the Norwegian resistance. Knut Haugland (1917–2009) was a radio expert, decorated by the British in World War II for actions in the Norwegian heay water sabotage that stalled what were believed to be Germany's plans to develop an atomic bomb. Torstein Raaby (1918–1964) was secreted behind German lines during WWII, spying on the German battleship Tirpitz. His secret radio transmissions eventually helped guide in Allied bombers to sink the ship.
The expedition also carried a pet parrot named Lorita.
Heyerdahl believed that the original inhabitants of Easter Island were the migrants from Peru. Most historians consider that Polynesians from the west . In 2011 Professor Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo presented DNA evidence to the Royal Society which whilst agreeing with the Polynesian origin also identified a distinctive but smaller genetic contribution from South America.