This self-described “thermal wonderland” is a must-see in Rotorua.

It’s also a must-smell!

Situated in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua sits atop a bubbling brew of geothermal activity. This geo-jackpot makes for a long list of local attractions. It also makes for a very strong “rotten eggs” odor that you can’t escape. I even smell it indoors!

But the beauty of the city and surrounding area more than make up for it. And topping that list of beauties is Wai-O-Tapu, which means “sacred waters” in Māori.

Here’s a description, which is copied from the brochure:

The Wai-O-Tapu thermal area is part of a scenic reserve administered by the Department of Conservation and has the largest area of surface activity of any hydrothermal system in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Covering some 18 square kilometers, the area is literally covered with collapsed craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles. The general public sees only a very small portion. The area is associated with volcanic activity dating back about 160,000 years and is located right on the edge of the largest volcanic caldera (depression) within the active Taupo Volcanic Zone.


(Whispers: I had to look up the definition for fumarole 🙂 )


Anyway … I got to Wai-O-Tapu by taking a local shuttle (there are plenty of transport options for the car-less), stopping first at the Lady Knox Geyser. With a little help from her handler, she blows her top each day at 10:15 a.m. for tourists.

Like so …

In the main section of the Wai-O-Tapu reserve, there are a number of trails that pass by all kinds of goodies. As usual, I got a little carried away taking photos. But, come on, look at this!!!

Otherworldly is a word I hear again and again when people describe Wai-O-Tapu, and it’s tempting to agree. Except that every bit of this geothermal main dish has been cooked up by Mother Earth.

But don’t get too close. In this photo, you can see a sign next to the bubbling pool. The water temps are 100 degrees celsius — boiling hot!


Here’s a short video of the steam coming off Wai-O-Tapu’s most popular attraction — the Champagne Pool. Beautiful!

Here are the rest of my photos from Wai-O-Tapu. You can learn more about the reserve on their website.

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  1. […] like at Wai-O-Tapu, there are plenty of walking trails weaving their way through Te Puia — as well as plenty of […]

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