Māori cultural highlights to explore in New Zealand

Māori culture is a real treasure that separates New Zealand from the rest of the world. But what makes it so unique?

Beginning with the indigenous Polynesian settlers, Māori culture has been shaped over hundreds of years, developing rich traditions and a unique way of life. This is one of the main things that makes New Zealand so special.

One of the best ways to see Māori culture in action today is Whakarewarewa – The Living Māori Village, based in Rotorua. Here, local residents embrace Māori tradition and customs in their daily lives, combining past with present, and heritage with the contemporary. Visitors to Whakarewarewa are invited to take part in these unique traditions first hand. Here are just a few you’ll be able to see for yourself.


The Hangi is a traditional Māori meal that is cooked underground. The meat and vegetables are steamed in earthen pits for several hours over hot rocks, producing a unique flavour. Whakarewarewa delivers a special twist on the traditional Hangi by harnessing the Whakarewarewa Valley’s geothermal power. The Whakarewarewa Hangi uses traditional ingredients cooked in geothermal steam boxes and the result is amazing.


If you’ve ever seen an All Blacks rugby match, chances are you’ve also seen the world famous haka. The haka is essentially a Māori war dance, which was historically used to intimidate and challenge the opposition, displaying a tribe’s unity and strength. It was also typically performed to show respect when groups came together in peace.

Today the haka is still often used at celebrations and ceremonies to honour guests, friends or family members. A haka carries huge importance and is one of the utmost signs of respect one can receive.  Whakarewarewa provides the opportunity to experience the haka in person through twice-daily cultural performances.


There are few places more sacred to Māori people than a marae. It is essentially a collection of various carved buildings, which serves as the hub of a tribe’s social and cultural activities. Each marae is also totally unique, with the buildings themselves describing the history and ancestors of a particular tribe. This means that visiting a marae should be treated with reverence, and to be invited onto one is a huge privilege. Whakarewarewa gives visiting groups the opportunity to experience an overnight stay in their marae; a great way to become fully immersed in the culture.

Ta Moko

Ta Moko is the traditional name for the iconic Māori tattoo design which tells the personal story and ancestry of the wearer. Each marking within the tattoo represents an aspect of a person’s life, family, or history, meaning no two ta moko are alike. Whakarewarewa have their own tattoo artist, who can create personalised designs for guests to take home or even have tattooed onto the skin on site.

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