What is Easter Island’s “Tapati Festival?”

Lying at the southeastern point of the Polynesian Triangle in the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island is one of the most remote locations on the planet.

Some 2,300 miles west of Chile’s capital city, Santiago, this speck of land is surrounded by endless oceans as blue as the sky.


Easter Island is only sixty square miles in size and consists of rocky grasslands, steep ocean cliffs, and extinct volcanic cones.

And yet, this tiny island, called Rapa Nui by the Polynesian People who live here, is a truly unique open-air archaeological museum.

And the star exhibits are the immense stone statues, called moai, of which there are approximately one thousand. They stand with brooding eyes, gazing over the gently rolling hills.

But Easter Island is also home to hundreds of perplexing petroglyphs on rock surfaces and colorful cave paintings depicting brightly painted birds in flight.

With so much fascinating history and culture packed onto such a small island, it’s no surprise that our Easter Island Tour Including the Tapati Festival holds huge popularity with adventure-seekers from all over the world.

For more information about this once-in-a-lifetime excursion, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


What is the Tapati Festival?

Every year, during the first two weeks of February, the entire island comes together for a unique, colorful celebration of the Rapanui culture.

“Tapati” was first held in 1969 and was called Semana de Rapa Nui. At that time, it was a summer festival featuring singing, dancing, and a small parade.

Over the years, however, it has evolved into the spectacular festival that it is today.

It celebrates the Rapanui people’s ancestral traditions while providing the opportunity to preserve, relive, and share a rare cultural identity.

This is why the Tapati Festival is the most important cultural event on Easter Island, and among the most important in all of Polynesia.

Ultimately, the overriding reason for the festival is to elect the Queen of the Tapati.

Each festival sees two candidates presented to compete for this prestigious title. Supported by local families, friends, and even visitors, the two would-be queens face off over a series of tests and competitions.

The events of the Tapati Festival evoke clashes of old rival clans that once ruled the island. Whichever group wins the most points earns their queen the right to reign over the island for the remainder of the year.

Events include:

  • Spirited performances featuring Rapanui songs and sensual Polynesian dancing.
  • An art festival with works of art on display and for sale in the town auditorium.
  • Kai-kai (string figure) performances — perfect chants and figures receive standing ovations.

And these examples only scratch the surface!

The entire village participates in this two-week-long gala which includes horse and boat races, a statue-carving contest, body painting, an amazing parade, a triathlon event, and haka pei, which sees Rapanui daredevils slide down the side of a mountain on banana trunks at hair-raising speeds.

Many of the celebrations are held outdoors, at night, by torchlight. The merrymaking ends with the annual crowning of the winning clan’s queen by moonlight in front of the evocative statues at the ancient shrine of Tahai.

Visitors lucky enough to be on Easter Island at the time of the Tapati Festival are enveloped in a truly unique and exotic Polynesian happening.

We hope that this short introduction helps to explain why we schedule our Easter Island tours to coincide with this unforgettable festival.

Don’t forget, Far Horizons has a full calendar of incredible historical, cultural, and archaeological tours around the world! If you’re unable to attend our next Easter Island adventure, we have plenty more scholar-led excursions for you.

What to Expect from Our Easter Island Tapati Festival Tour

Our trip to Easter Island is part of a 12-day, multi-destination journey. In addition to the wonderful Tapati Festival, your itinerary includes three days in Santiago, Chile, and the stunning coastal city of Viña del Mar.

Because we spend six nights on Easter Island, you can explore everything this remote wonderland has to offer.

Highlights include:

  • Staying in a family-run inn in the village of Hanga Roa
  • The Sebastian Englert Archaeological Museum
  • Visit the island’s largest white-sand beach, Anakena
  • The ancient village of Orongo
  • Rano Raraku, a volcano where the massive moai were carved
  • Tours of Ahu Huri A Urenga, Ahu Akivi, and Puna Pau
  • A performance by local music school students
  • Tour of Vaihu and its many large Moai

With opportunities for self-guided exploration too — be it on foot, by horse, or in our vehicle — you can discover every corner of the island before you leave.

The remarkable tour scholar for this one-of-a-kind trip is Dr. Sidsel Millerström. Dr. Millerström received a PhD in Polynesian archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley.


She is a specialist in archaeological art and architecture and has worked on excavations all over Polynesia, including Easter Island, Fiji, the Marquesas, and Tahiti.

Visit the Easter Island Tour Including the Tapati Festival page for a full breakdown of this exciting adventure from start to finish.

If you would like to talk with us about any aspect of our Easter Island and Tapati Festival tour, please feel free to get in touch.

Far Horizons Archaeological and Cultural Trips: Upscale journeys led by renowned scholars, offering adventure, education, camaraderie, archaeology, and world cultural understanding — past and present!

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