Waitomo Caves: A trip to The Lost World

Forget glaciers and geysers. When it comes to New Zealand's most impressive natural wonders, head underground, says journalist Georgie Lane-Godfrey

Why go?

Whilst epic mountain views and stunning scenery appear across New Zealand, there’s only one place where you can be wowed underground: Waitomo.

A series of 300 world-famous limestone caves, Waitomo’s grottos are thought to have been present for over 30 million years. Today they are one of New Zealand’s must-see attractions, with several concerts happening in the atmospheric ‘Cathedral Chamber’ throughout the year.

What to do?

Visits to the caves are broken down into tours ranging from sedate strolls to action-packed abseiling adventures. For the ultimate caving experience, try the Lost World tour, an epic 7-hour long journey down into the depths of these shadowy caverns.

The day starts with a 100m abseil off a suspended platform, dropping down past the woodland canopy through a narrow crack in the earth. You land in an underground gorge, filled with atmospheric mists and prehistoric ferns – a land time forgot.

Climbing up through the gorge, you begin the scramble through the caves, across underground rivers and up waterfalls into the very heart of this subterranean maze. Here you’ll find the rock awash with hundreds of glowworms, twinkling their pretty phosphorus light like green stars in the sky. Dank, dark and completely magical, it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

Where to stay?

Whilst there are loads of options for backpackers in Waitomo, high end accommodation is trickier to find. For fun and friendly accommodation, stay at Juno Hall, a clean modern hostel boasting 40 beds. Not only is it within walking distance of the Waitomo Cave Tours meeting point, but it also has a swimming pool, tennis courts and glorious views across the valley. Campers are also welcome.

While you're there...

Make a 15 minute detour to see New Zealand's national mascot, the Kiwi bird in neighbouring Otorohanga's Kiwi House.

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