Rotorua is a town in the middle of the North Island that is surrounded by so much volcanic activity that it stinks of sulfur 24/7. You get used to it pretty quickly, but try to avoid getting a hangover! Bad smells aside, this is the place to come if you want hot springs and mud pools, if you want to raft the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, or if you want a traditional Maori experience.
Ride a gondola up to the top of this hill for fantastic views over the city and Lake Rotorua. Have lunch in the restaurant, beat your friends on the luge track, and get an adrenaline fix on the Sky Swing.
Traditional Maori Experience
This is a must-do, it teaches you important history about the Maoris in New Zealand and you learn about customs and traditions that are still upheld today. We went to the Tamaki Maori Village. You are greeted by the chief who might challenge and intimidate a few men from your group.
You explore the village and watch them perform the very impressive Haka and other traditional songs and dances. The highlight of the night for me, as a broke backpacker, was the all-you-can-eat hangi, food that is cooked in underground ovens, and the dessert was delicious.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
If you can stomach the smell of sulfur and want to see a real-life geyser in action then take a trip to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It’s a surreal, almost alien landscape of multi-coloured mud pools, smoking and steaming (and smelling) like vents from hell. The highlight is the Lady Knox Geyser, which is set off manually every morning using soap while a guide tells you about the history and the mechanics of it.
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