It was once a spiritual centre where religious leaders performed sacred Polynesian rituals for the gods who were believed to reside there. Today, it’s an ancient site adored by descendants and the tourists it attracts every year.

It’s Tahiti’s Taputapuatea marae, which this week became the first Tahitian site and the first French Polynesian historical treasure to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Taputapuatea marae on the island of Raiatea received the recognition after a committed campaign from the island nation’s tourism leaders, who said it has both cultural and physical significance to Tahitians.


Established before 1000AD, the marae was used by Polynesia ancestors as a meeting place for religious leaders from all over the Pacific to meet and make sacrifices to the gods.

The site was also seen as a place of learning as assembled leaders would often share knowledge on the universe and deep-ocean navigation.

©Gregory Boissy. Raiatea le 12 septembre 2007 En septembre dernier, Joinville Pomare, descendant de la famille royale, a entrepris de faire rena?tre ces c?r?monies qui unifiaient le Pacifique ? l'?poque de ses anc?tres. Il a convie une grande famille de

Image: ©Gregory Boissy

Additionally, stones in the area are believed to hold ‘Mana’ – power and spiritual strength.

“The island is expected to benefit from the World Heritage listing through attracting additional visitors looking for travel opportunities that offer authentic historical and cultural experiences.”

Tahiti Tourisme

Taputapuatea marae joins some 1,073 other cultural, natural and historical artifacts, settings and structures around the world on the World Heritage list.

Currently, Italy has the most World Heritage Listed sites in the world with 51 followed by China (48), Spain (44) and France (41).

Have you seen the sacred site in person?