Rapa Nui Culture and Folklore

Polynesian explorers believed to have settled on Easter Island between 300 and 1200 CE, the people of Rapa Nui have a long and fascinating cultural and spiritual heritage that spans much more than the enigmatic moai that keep watch over the island. Today the island is sparsely inhabited—just a few thousand people remain in the town of Hanga Roa—but visitors can still experience the unique Rapa Nui culture, joining the islanders for a traditional Polynesian feast, taking part in a Rapa Nui carving workshop or dance lesson, or learning about the island’s ancient Birdman Ceremony, which saw islanders compete to steal a coveted Manutara egg from the isle of Motu Nui.

The best time to experience Rapa Nui culture and folklore is during one of the island’s festivals, which celebrate age-old traditions like Polynesian music and dance, body painting and tattooing, statue carving and canoe races. There are a number of events held throughout the year, but the biggest is the 10-day Tapatai Rapa Nui, held in late January or February, when huge curanto feasts (a traditional barbecue cooked in an underground umu) are held, ancient legends are re-enacted and the entire island erupts in music and dance. 
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