Tongariro is New Zealand's oldest national park, established in 1887 after the Maori chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV gifted the sacred peaks to the nation. It was also only the fourth place on earth to be given recognition as a World Heritage area.
At the heart of the park are three volcanoes, Mount Tongariro, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe. Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu are considered the two most active composite volcanoes in the world with the latter erupting in 1995 and 1996 sending ash up to 30, 000 feet into the air. In 2012 Mt Tongariro also erupted, but these volcanoes are constantly monitored to ensure visitor safety.
Despite the barren and sometimes inhospitable environment, the region abounds with flora and fauna. Alpine herbs and flaxes thrive on the upper slopes while dense beech forests cover the lower regions. New Zealand's only native mammals, the short and long tailed bat also make their homes here.
The 1 day Tongariro Crossing is one of New Zealand's Great Walks, taking around 6 to 8 hours to complete. This magnificent walk will take you past the remarkable Emerald and Blue Lakes and through volcanic terrain you won’t see anywhere else in New Zealand. There are many other tracks and trails in the park to suit all abilities, including shorter walks and a guided Tongariro 3.5 day walk. Also lying within the park is New Zealand's largest ski area, Mt Ruapehu Ski Field, encompassing Whakapapa and Turoa.
You'll start your unforgettable adventure with an on-shore safety briefing and paddle instructions with your experienced guide. You and the rest of the crew will then begin your white water rafting journey on grade 3 rapids - an ideal grade for experienced paddlers or first-time rafters. In 2.5 hours you navigate over 60 heart-pounding, roller coaster rapids with an expert guide at the helm. Throughout the trip you'll be treated to sights only accessed by raft. Rafting the Tongariro River offers spectacular unspoilt wilderness and adrenalin-pumping action!
Begin the adventure in Taumarunu. Set off down the line along 40km of the Forgotten World Railway, travelling through 10 tunnels, including the longest tunnel (1.5km), and marvel at the beautiful hand-built brick tunnels, cruising through stunning hill country farms and native bush.
On the return journey, visit Lauren's Lavender Farm. Here you can breathe in the relaxing aromas of the lavender fields next to the Whanganui River and browse the gift shop with all the wonderful lavender products.
Often described as the best one day walk in New Zealand, The Tongariro Crossing provides an opportunity to experience some of the most scenic volcanically active areas of the park. The Tongariro Crossing is challenging and can take up to 8 hours covering a distance of 19.4 km one way. It is not a round trip and transport must be arranged at one or both ends of the track. Your hotel reception will be able to help you book a shuttle transport.
The Crossing is classed as a 'tramping track'. A demanding one day hike, you will need to have reasonable fitness. Traversing a mix of formed track and rough volcanic rock at alpine altitude, some sections are steep, rocky and muddy. However, the track is well marked with signs, poles and markers.
For more information including what to bring visit the Department of Conservation website.
This leisurely two-hour trip down the soft, tumbling waters of the Lower Tongariro brings the magic alive for first time rafters and especially children. For those who want to experience white water rafting but prefer a gentler pace. You still get to paddle and there are some small rapids to navigate but nothing too wet or wild.
There are a plethora of walks in and around Whakapapa Village and Tongariro National Park. From short 15 minute hikes to longer 5 hour treks, there is something for every level of fitness. All established tracks are maintained by the Department of Conservation and before heading out on a walk, it is best to check the track conditions and suitability at the local DOC information office in the centre of the village. Below are a selection of the best walks to do: