Without a doubt, the best time for travelling to Easter Island is during the celebration of the Tapati Rapa Nui festival. In this festival, which is celebrated from the last weekend of January to the second weekend of February, the ancient traditions of Rapa Nui come back to life.
Read more about the Tapati Rapa Nui
During those two weeks you can live a unique and complete experience of the island admiring nature and the iconic moai statues, while enjoying the extensive program of activities. Here are some of the many reasons to travel to Easter Island during the Tapati.
1. Relive the original and demanding ancestral sports competitions
One of the great attractions of the Tapati is to be able to attend sports competitions inspired by the ancient rites that took place between the rival clans of the island.
The first sporting activity with which the festival begins and which is also a favorite of the public is the Tau’a Rapa Nui. It consists of three traditional disciplines that have come together to form a very peculiar type of triathlon. Until a few years ago, it took place in the surroundings of the lagoon inside the crater of the Rano Raraku volcano. But due to climate change and drought suffered recently on the island, its implementation has moved to the town of Hanga Roa.
The horse races that take place on the long track of Vaihu also arouse the interest of visitors. Riders who are very young, some children still, ride bareback on their mounts at full speed. They do not have the glamor of the great international racetracks but they overflow authenticity.
Other ancestral competitions are the Haka Honu, where the participants throw themselves offshore to return to the shore taking advantage of the impulse of the waves on their body and the Haka Ngaru in which they use a small raft built with reeds of cattails with the same objective.
But the most anticipated event for all is undoubtedly the Haka Pei. In this risky extreme sport, the competitors are launched on a kind of sled built with two banana logs moored, to slide down the hillside of the Pu’i hill at more than 80 km/h.
2. Watch the talent of the Rapanui artisans
During the Tapati you can witness the skill and talent of the Rapanui women who carefully make necklaces of small shells (“pipi”), flower crowns and make typical costumes based on feathers and mahute (a type of bush bark).
Meanwhile, men are dedicated to wood and stone carving of the most characteristic symbols of the Rapanui culture such as moai (ancestral statue), reimiro (pectoral pendant), mangai (traditional hook), paoa (kind of ritual rod of command) or the rongorongo tablets.
3. Admire spectacular shows for free at Hanga Vare Vare
At night, visitors head to the great central stage of Hanga Vare Vare to witness the different artistic performances of the two rival clans. Here you have the possibility to see dance ensembles composed of more than two hundred dancers that move in unison under a fast paced rhythm. The beauty and sensual movements of women, and the gestures and energetic poses of men raise more than a sigh among the public.
There are also individual and group singing competitions, Takona presentations or body painting with designs that tell a story, and even small theatrical performances that recreate episodes of the story or the myths and legends of Rapa Nui.
4. Bathe on Anakena beach and taste the community “curanto”
One of the most relaxed days is the one that takes place under the palm trees of Anakena beach. There, the entire Rapanui community invites visitors to share a huge curanto, which after being buried for several hours to cook meat and vegetables, is blessed by the local parish priest and distributed freely among the attendees.
A great festive atmosphere is breathed, enlivened by traditional music groups. After the banquet, some choose the shade of a palm tree to rest and take a nap, and others go to the shore of the beach to sunbathe and cool off under the waves.
5. Participate and lose shame in the great triumphal parade
Those who have enough time, can register more than one month in advance to participate in one of the two family clans of the Tapati. That way they can rehearse hard to intervene in the colorful dance and singing ensembles that are presented on the main stage. It is a unique way of living and sharing with the families the island way of life.
For most who do not have the necessary time, there is a special occasion that cannot be missed. This is the final parade that is celebrated on the penultimate day. Everyone is invited here. The tourist chooses the clan he wants to support and goes to the “headquarters” of that clan. Here you will undress and receive a mud bath. After drying in the sun for a while, you will be ready to receive a session of takona or body paint and conclude your costume with some ornament of feathers or shells.
Read more about the great Tapati Festival parade
The hundreds of participants who have “suffered” the same ornamental treatment will go through a checkpoint where they will be scored according to the attire and appearance. The less clothes, more traditional ornaments and more paint, you will receive more points, which will accumulate in the overall calculation of each clan.
Needless to say, this is an ideal occasion to defy, relax, laugh, take a few selfies and enjoy the moment. The afternoon continues shortly afterwards with the parade of the candidates on floats, and painted tourists who mix with the islanders to dance to the rhythm of Polynesian music. The entourage ends in Hanga Vare Vare but the party continues until dawn.
6. Get excited about the ancestral coronation at sunset in Tahai
After fifteen extraordinary days of sport, art and music, the Tapati festival comes to an end. The sun goes down until it hides behind the horizon of the immense Pacific. The silhouettes of the moai statues of Ahu Tahai are cut over the reddish sky and shortly after the torches are lit to illuminate the crowning rite of the winning couple.
The whole environment transports you to another era, the emotion comes to the surface and you experience the feeling of communion between the earth, man and his ancestors. Almost one forgets that he does not belong to this island and that he must return home thousands of kilometers away. But that image and the memory of the days lived in Rapa Nui will always accompany you.
Now you have these good reasons for travelling to Easter Island and enjoy next Tapati Festival!