Easter Island (Rapa Nui) may be best known for its stone head monoliths (moai), but for two weeks every February, the island stages its most important cultural event—The Tapati Festival.
Tapati began in 1969, as a simple summer festival that celebrated Polynesian pride. It has grown into the Polynesian community's most important cultural event. The town of Hanga Roa is divided into two teams, each led by a Tapati Queen candidate. The candidates prepare all year, organizing their teams, creating costumes and practicing their dancing. The men engage in activities based on ancient customs and sports. Wearing only a skimpy loincloth, men build and race reed rafts across a lake, run around the lake balancing large branches of bananas, and take part in the haka pei, a toboggan run down the slopes of Maunga Pui volcano in a hollowed out banana tree trunk.
The celebrations come to a close with an evening of dance competitions, both team and individual queen candidates. The scores from the various competitions and sporting events are tallied and a winner is crowned.
While visitors are invited to watch, Tapati is first and foremost a local celebration for the local community. Visitors can participate in the opening parade and dancing, however you must have an "in" with one of the teams, and you must be on hand a month prior for the practice sessions.
Make it happen
Rapa Nui is served daily by flights from Santiago, Chile however flights during Tapati are sold out months in advance and accommodations are scarce during this time. If you wish to observe the Tapati festivities, it is best to plan and book as much as a year in advance to avoid disappointment. Rapa Nui makes an ideal extension to any of our Patagonia itineraries and arrangements for Tapati can be made on a custom basis, subject to availability. View custom Patagonia options in Chile »