Rotorua. A city on the Southern shores of Lake Rotorua in the North Island of New Zealand. Filled with and famously known for its geothermal activity such as Wai-O-Tapu, it sure is a sight to be greeted with geysers and bubbling mud pools created by the New Zealand volcanoes. A little drive south of Rotorua (or north of Wai-O-Tapu) lies Waimangu Volcanic Valley, the world’s youngest and arguably the most spectacular geothermal system in the world.
Here’s why Waimangu is truly a hidden gem of Rotorua and you probably want to add both Waimangu and Wai-O-Tapu to your itinerary.
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Waimangu Volcanic Valley is the world’s youngest geothermal system.
Created from an intense volcanic eruption back in 1886 (actually the largest eruption in New Zealand in the last 700 years), the valley has gradually grown a broad variety of plants, birdlife and hot water-loving algae, forming a vibrant but rare ecosystem.
That being said, the ecosystem that you will get to witness there only exists in the 1890s onwards, where no vegetation in the park originated no earlier than that. There are a few subsequent local disturbances after the eruption which destroyed flora around the area, one of such eruptions is the 1917 Echo Crater eruption, which killed two people.
That’s all in the past now. Winning tons of tourism and environmental awards, Waimangu Volcanic Valley continues to boast itself as a top attraction in Rotorua, connecting locals and tourists alike to the beating heart of the youngest geothermal valley.
The Waimangu Experience – Unique Landscapes
There are 3 options for you to choose, depending on how you want to experience the valley, your budget and your time available – Full Waimangu Experience (NZD85), the self-guided walk (NZD42) and the Lake Rotomahana Boat Cruise (NZD45).
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The full Waimangu experience requires at least half a day so you got to plan your itinerary accordingly! This full experience is essentially the self-guided walk plus the boat cruise. This experience is highly raved about and at the end of the trail, you’ll get to enjoy relaxing 45-minute cruise around the tranquil waters of Lake Rotomahana.
Our schedule for that day was jam-packed (due to the sheer amount of things you can do in Rotorua!) and hence, we decided to only go for the self-guided trail.
Despite not taking the cruise, we can assure you that the time there was well spent. For the self-guided walk, there is a range of options for all abilities and ambitions varying in length (and difficulty) from a short 1.5km highlights walk to a 4.5km hike. The 4.5km hike also includes an exhilarating climb over Mount Haszard for extraordinary panoramic views.
From the entrance, you will take your walk and end at a bus stop, where a shuttle bus will return you back so you can absolutely take a good rest after all that walking. Check out the different walks and shuttle bus timings here.
For those who can’t take long walks: you could also take a bus straight to the lake to skip the long walks
We took the full walk to the Lake and it’s suitable for all ages and most levels of fitness. During the first half of the walk, you are frequently looking at vegetation with thermal pools then you would be looking at volcanic activity towards the middle portion of the world.
Tip: Since you’re here in Rotorua for the geothermal valleys, we recommend visiting such areas earlier in the morning/cooler weather instead. Especially if your visit is in the summer. That extra mist will definitely give you a better experience, and photos…
A Peaceful Encounter with Beautiful Nature – No Crowds!
Having been to two geothermal parks, Waimangu is absolutely not overcrowded and you can feel more at peace with nature here.
We really felt like we were right in the centre of a natural, volcanic environment, as opposed to other more-touristy parks.
So if you feel uncomfortable with squeezing with coach-loads of visitors, Waimangu is the perfect option for you.
Note: The smell was quite intense when we first arrived, just like in Rotorua. It smells like a mixture of ammonia and sulphur but then again, this is how nature works. You will get used to it very quickly though.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley App – Full Digital Immersive Experience
Rediscover the history behind Waimangu Volcanic Valley through augmented reality. Yes, this park also incorporates state-of-the-art software and technology for you to take a peek back into the past.
Step into the past before the Pink and White Terrace was buried in the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera. You can also see the world’s largest geyser, the Waimangu Geyser, come back to life!
This app provides information and hidden content to connect you with the best of this valley. It also allows you to learn more about the historical and geographical information with augmented reality.
Sharing your experience on social media has never been easier with this app around! The “My Journey” feature allows you to take photos, makes notes and share your posts immediately.
Do download this app and all in-app content before your visit there to make the best out of your Waimangu Volcanic Valley trip!
Wai-O-Tapu or Waimangu? We choose BOTH!
Yes, Waimangu may be less colourful and pricer than Wai-O-Tapu but it is NOT less interesting. We can’t say that visiting Wai-O-Tapu or Waimangu is enough as it’s a fact that both parks offer completely unique and distinct landscapes. New Zealand Volcanoes are truly remarkable!
So if you’re here in New Zealand for the trip of your lifetime and if you can, why not visit them both to see for yourselves? All you need is a good pair of walking shoes and you will never get to see anything like that elsewhere!