5 Insane Geothermal Parks in New Zealand You Won’t Believe Exist
Must-visit geothermal parks in New Zealand.
New Zealand is literally a hotbed for geothermal activity. Although hot springs can be found all over New Zealand, the region between Rotorua and Taupo has the highest concentration of hot springs, geysers, silica terraces, sulfuric pools and bubbling mud in the world. Perhaps only rivaled by the Yellowstone National Park in the United States, the geothermal parks in the North Island area truly unique experience which will make it hard to believe this landscape exists on planet Earth.
Along the aptly named Thermal Explorer Highway, between Taupo and Rotorua, you can practically hop from geothermal park to geothermal park. Orange-lined hot pools, neon green lakes, erupting geysers, trees wearing a coat of orange crystals… You can see some weird and wacky natural wonders.
So hold your nose (for the eggy sulfuric smell), grab your camera, and visit these geothermal wonderlands in New Zealand!
1. Waimangu Volcanic Valley
On the 10-June-1886, the Tarawera volcano erupted destroying all life in the area. With that, the volcano grew 20 times larger and formed the Waimangu Valley. This devastating event destroyed the once famous Pink and White Terraces, which were known to be a truly unique sight. Since then, Lake Rotomahana has slowly filled up many small crater pools that now stew in the bottom of the valley. Visiting the valley is your chance to witness one of the youngest geothermal systems on the planet.
Location: 25 minutes south of Rotorua. Take State Highway 5 to Waimangu and turn onto Waimangu Road.
2. Orakei Korako
Known as “The Hidden Valley”, Orakei Korako features caves and thermal wonders. The highlight of the valley is variety of silica terraces. The Folden Fleeces Terrace, which are bronze and golden(ish) steaming terraces, are the biggest and most impressive of them all. We can’t help but be mesmerised by the bubbling mud pools too.
Location: 23 minutes north of Taupo. Orakei Korako is signposted off State Highway 1 on Tutukau Road.
3. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
“Out of this world” is the best way to describe Wai-O-Tapu. The iconic Champagne Pool, the Devil’s Bath and the huge bubbling mud pools are a window to the inner workings of planet Earth! Touring the park takes only about an hour at the most. Nevertheless, there are 25+ different geothermal features to see. Quick tip: time your trip with the “eruption” of the Lady Knox Geyser everyday at 10:15am. Extra quick tip: take your swimwear to bathe in the natural hot spring just outside the park. Take a look at 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua for more information.
Location: 27 minutes south of Rotorua. Take State Highway 5 and turn onto the Wai-O-Tapu loop road.
4. Whakarewarewa (Te Puia)
Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley was once home to a Maori pa (fortified village) called Te Puia. It is now a great cultural attraction mixing Maori culture and geothermal features. The jewel of the park is Parekohuru, a large hot spring pool which bubbles intensely every 45 minutes or so. Other features of the park include geysers and mud pools. For more Maori experiences, check out 10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand.
Location: On Fenton Street in Rotorua.
5. Craters of the Moon
The Craters of the Moon have a very different history than the previous parks mentioned. The area only opened to the public recently when a geothermal power station was established nearby. The natural gas in the area is now captured by the station which toned down the activity in the area, making it possible to visit today. Walking the whole park through fumaroles, craters and mud pools takes under an hour.
Location: 8 minutes north of Taupo. Take the Thermal Explorer Highway and turn off onto Karapiti Road.
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