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The Northern Explorer train trip is famous for its journey through the volcanic heart of New Zealand’s North Island. But it’s not just the ever-changing scenery that makes this trip so spectacular; it’s the little jewels amid the landscape just begging to be explored that can make the journey such a memorable one. Perhaps one of the more renowned treasures is the Tongariro Crossing – a definite must-do for North Island sightseers.
“The Northern Explorer offers some wonderful opportunities to break your journey with multi-day or overnight stops, including National Park Village, the closest station to Tongariro National Park, where passengers can explore the volcanic plateau and its dramatic scenery,” says KiwiRail Scenic Manager Tom Evers-Swindell.
Gifted to the New Zealand Government in 1887 by Te Heuheu, Paramount Chief of the Ngati Tuiwharetoa tribe, Tongariro National Park is home to three magnificent volcanic mountains – Tongariro, Nguruahoe and Ruapehu.
Originally the park covered an area of 2,600 hectares from the three peaks, but the park was subsequently added to and now boasts an area of 78,651 hectares and in 1991 UNESCO accorded it World Heritage status.
Rated as the best one day trek in New Zealand and listed by many in the top 10 day treks in the world, the 19 kilometre Tongariro Crossing takes you through Mangatepopo valley, up a steep climb to the saddle which lies between Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro and past the amazing Emerald lakes – old craters that have filled with emerald coloured water due to minerals that have leached from the adjoining thermal area.
The variety of sights this single day’s trek offers has earned its popularity. There really is nothing else quite like Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. And on a clear day, the views from Mount Ngauruhoe are spectacular.
There are also a number of great mountain biking tracks surrounding Tongariro National Park, including the 42 traverse – one of the premium mountain bike rides in New Zealand – and the Mountains to Sea cycle trail. The scenery ranges from wide vistas of all three volcanoes to lush unspoiled bush and can be enjoyed with family on a more relaxed and peaceful outing or tearing down steep terrain with friends.
The Northern Explorer is perfectly suited for people looking to do the Tongariro Crossing and wanting to take in the sights through the North Island’s Main Trunk on their way. For those wanting to check out the bike trails, bicycles are welcome on the Northern Explorer.
The Northern Explorer runs from Wellington on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday and Auckland on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. It leaves just before 8.00am and arrives around 6.30pm.
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