Right now, on the mysterious Easter Island, people will be getting ready for the annual Tapati festival celebrating the Rapa Nui culture. Five hours by air from the Chilean capital, Santiago, the iconic volcanic rock that is Easter Island holds incredible cultural significance for the whole of South America.
The festival first emerged in the 1970s as a way to celebrate and promote the Rapa Nui, the people of Easter Island. Since then it has flourished, and recently the festival has made its way onto the agenda of travel writers and visitors to the Island. Its position in the year, generally around January or February, has helped to push that time into the annual High Season on the island.
The festival is a combination of traditional activities, shows and competitions. As well as the gastronomic fayre and musical celebrations that you can expect to see at a festival there are also some very unique Easter Island spectacles to behold. Below are a few of our favourites if you are lucky enough to be on this Island for the Tapati Festival.
Typically, the pictures you will see of the Tapati festival will be of the lavish costumes for the dancing competitions which take place across the evenings on a huge stage in the main island town of Hanga Roa.
Performed in traditional costumes these spectacles are not to be missed. The dancers are indigenous Easter Islanders, often performing in large troupes and to the beat of live musicians. Each evening the competition winner is decided by a panel of judges.
Picturing tobogganing but with no ice. Haka Pei is a huge favourite of the festival for the brave participants and spectators alike. Just be sure to watch where you stand because these racers can hit speeds of up to 80km an hour.
The Rapa Nui Triathlon is as spectacular as the dancing competitions. Taking place in a volcano and a giving a variation on the traditional triathlon activities, this race sees its participants take two water legs; one in a boat made of reeds and one swim and the final race on foot is performed carrying two large bunches of bananas.
Like the dancing, this too is performed in traditional Easter Island clothing.
And finally, the Takona, the painting of the body with natural pigments with symbols that point back to the mythologies of their tribes and Easter Island. This is another iconic image of the festival.
Of course, Tapati is not the only reason to travel to the Easter Islands and as dazzling and vibrant as the festivities are there are hundreds of reasons to visit.
The squat bodies and brooding faces of the moai stone figures or the curious Birdman ceremonies for instance. Traditions on this Easter Island have been astonishingly well preserved, and nothing compares to seeing it all in person on your own Easter Island trip. Come face to face with the statues and make up your own conclusion as to how they got there and who put them there.
The main town of Hanga Roa is well placed for exploring the rest of the island, which also has three volcanoes and a beach, though isn’t brilliant for swimming.
This year’s Tapati Festival runs from 1st February to the 17th of February and you can include a visit to Easter Island as part of a trip to Chile.