Centred upon three volcanoes –Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu –Tongariro National Park is home to some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes.
Tongariro became New Zealand’s first national park in 1887. Just over one hundred years later, the park was awarded dual UNESCO World Heritage status for both its cultural significance to the Māori people, as well as its outstanding natural features.
The 80,000-hectare park is a spectacular showcase of volcanic wonders including emerald lakes, old lava flows, steaming craters, colourful silica terraces and peculiar alpine gardens. It is an environment of staggering beauty and diversity.
Three volcanoes – Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro – mark the southern limits of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, the horseshoe-shaped series of volcanic phenomena that make up the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring of Fire’.
Volcanic activity started here around two million years ago and continues to this day. Ruapehu and Tongariro, which date back before the last ice age, are two of the most active composite volcanoes in the world, with Ruapehu last erupting in 1996. Ngauruhoe – geologically considered a ‘vent’ – last erupted in 1975.
Tongariro National Park has sights and activities to suit every interest, age and ability.
The deservedly popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing features phenomenal volcanic scenery and fine views of Lake Taupō and Mt Taranaki.
A series of short nature trails around Tongariro’s lower slopes take in the various habitats home to fascinating and diverse native flora and fauna and are a great way to get to know the park’s special places and stories. Home to the national park visitor centre, Whakapapa Village is a good place to start exploring.
Dramatic waterfalls are a Tongariro National Park speciality. See them on a number of spectacular short walks including Taranaki Falls, Waitonga Falls, Silica Rapids and Tawhai Falls.
Get up close to Mt Ruapehu when it is blanketed in glorious snow. Enjoy excellent skiing and boarding at Mt Ruapehu's ski areas – Whakapapa, Tūroa and Tukino. For non-skiers, there is tobogganing and tubing or just drive up to see the spectacular view.
A scenic ride on the gondola at Whakapapa reaches New Zealand’s highest café, Knoll Ridge, where you can enjoy super-scenic dining in summer as well as winter.
Tongariro National Park’s awe-inspiring scenery earned it starring roles in Peter Jackon’s Lord of The Rings trilogy, with Mt Ngauruhoe taking centre stage.
The walk known as the Tongariro Northern Circuit is served by four Department of Conservation ‘Great Walk’ huts. DOC also has a number of 'Serviced' and 'Basic' huts in other parts of the park.
Whatever kind of accommodation you choose, it will pay to book in advance during peak season (December to March).