North Island, New Zealand

Emerald Lakes seen from near the summit of Mt. Tongariro. New Zealand. Follash

Emerald Lakes seen from near the summit of Mt. Tongariro. New Zealand. Photo by Follash

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park, in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, is a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site encompassing three active volcanoes, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, all sacred to the Maori.

In the summertime the Tongariro area sees a lot of hiking and climbing as well as mountain biking, horse riding, fishing and rafting, while the winter is when the snow birds fly downhill on skis and boards.

Oturere - Emerald Lakes hut, Tongariro Northern Circuit, New Zealand. Photo Michal Klajban

Oturere – Emerald Lakes hut on New Zealand’s Tongariro Northern Circuit. Photo by Michal Klajban. The hut is equipped with 26 bunks, wood stove for warmth, gas stove for cooking, water tanks in the roof. And Norski toilet.

Ohinepango Springs, Tongariro Northern Circuit, New Zealand. Michal Klajban

Ohinepango Springs, still a walk in the park, Tongariro Northern Circuit. Michal Klajban

Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu seen from the summit of Tongariro. New Zealand. Guillaume Piolle

Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu seen from the summit of Tongariro by Guillaume Piolle.

Tongariro NP is equidistant between New Zealand’s two biggest cities, Auckland (330 kms/206 mls to the north) and Wellington the capital (320 kms/200 mls to the south). The only accommodation inside the park is at Whakapapa or Iwikau tourist villages, though the latter is almost exclusively for the skiing season.

The most famous hike in the area is the 3/4 day, 50km Tongariro Northern Circuit, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, incorporating the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which takes about a day. Best December – March.

Rotorua

Rotorua, Champagne Pool, New Zealand Pictures

Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, 20 minutes south of Rotorua.

Rotorua – also known as Sulphur City – is one of New Zealand’s primary attractions, with its geothermal activity, hissing randomly venting steam, chromatic yellow/orange streaks of mineral crystals in deep, bubbling pools, wisps of stinky sulphur smoke drifting among the trees and boiling grey mud creating art nouveau visions. But that’s not all. . .

The Rotorua region, with its lakes, rivers and forests in addition to volcanic activity, has developed into a major tourist hub offering a vast range of sporting opportunities that only the ever-active Kiwis could imagine, from the normal – hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting – to the less usual – bungee jumping, sky diving, jet boating – to the positively mad adrenalin activities – zorbing (bouncing down a hillside encased in a transparent plastic ball), luge (kind of toboggan) racing down a mountainside and scree-sliding into a volcano, among others things. . .

And Rotorua’s not just about seeing bubbling mud, tourists can also take mud baths and soak in therapeutic spa waters.

Recreation of a Maori village, Rotorua, New Zealand

A Maori Culture Village experience, Rotorua.

Touristy and artificial but nevertheless interesting is the Maori experience around Rotorua where tourists can visit different mock-traditional villages and see housing, singing, dancing, listen to legends and taste the indigenous cuisine.

Rotorua museum New Zealand

Rotorua Bath House, 1908, in the City of Rotorua and now a museum. Photo by Margojh.

Getting there: Rotorua is in the centre of new Zealand’s North Island, 230 kms (140 miles) south-east of Auckland, and 80 kms (50 miles) north of Taupo.