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Bubbling mud pools, sky-rocketing geysers, and more than a peek at Maori culture at its finest, Rotorua is a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds (and not to mention smells), unlike anywhere else in the world. Also known as 'Rottenrua' for the unique sulphuric smell the district has, Rotorua, on New Zealand's North Island, is well known for its many geothermic attractions and adventure activities.
The district, set amongst a backdrop of volcanos, lakes and lush forest, holds a distinct part of New Zealand that tourists from all over the globe seek out.
Whether you are looking for a relaxing long weekend lounging in the effervescing mineral springs, a cultural awakening or simply to watch the theatrical dance of the many geysers and mud pools, Rotorua is the one-stop place for anything and everything.
If you have a few days, and a decent pair of walking shoes, Rotorua has plenty to offer.
The Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest
Famous for its lofty Californian Coastal Redwoods, the forest is a mere five minutes’ drive from the city centre. Inside, it holds several walking and mountain biking trails as well as panoramic views of the city, Rotorua Lake and surrounds. There are six marked walking tracks starting from the Redwoods Visitor Centre which are suitable for people of all fitness levels. There is also plenty to see inside the forest, from the enormous trees to sparkling, clear water. All of the routes are well sign posted and graded.
Of course you can't take a trip to Rotorua without checking out the multitude of geothermal spots on offer. Created from the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera, the Waimangu Volcanic Valley is a maze of both easy and advanced hikes through volcanic craters, native bush and lakes. The walk can take anywhere between 45 minutes to four hours, depending on how much time you have.
For more natural wonders, there is Wai-o-tapu. The vibrant natural volcanic area features the Lady Knox Geyser, Champagne Pool - a large bubbling how spring, sinter terrace formations, complete with blistered, steaming ground and bubbling mud. The area also contains sprawling vistas and volcanic craters.
Lake Rotorua is the largest of a dozen lakes in the Rotorua District, which were formed by ancient volcanic activity. The lake is a focal point for cruises, kayaking, sailing and trout fishing. A trip on foot around the lake offers stunning views at dawn or dusk.
History and Maori culture
One of the most well-known attractions in Rotorua is the Buried Village of Te Wairoa. The Buried Village includes a recreated pioneer cottage, Maori whare and excavated sites, incorporated in a nature trail, which leads to the Wairere Waterfall. The excavated village proffers a history lesson in the night Mount Tarawera erupted. The village and the nearby Pink and White Terraces were destroyed by the eruption in 1886.
Rotorua also has a plethora of Maori cultural shows and exhibits. The earliest villages in the area were established in close proximity to geothermal sites like Ohinemutu and Whakarewarewa. Today there are tours, shows and other artefacts on offer for tourists interested in discovering more about Maori history and culture.