Rotorua. Supposedly one of the biggest tourist traps on New Zealand’s North Island (wait, what?!). Google this place and you’ll find a plethora of compliments about it, despite that smell. But we’ll get to that later.
I’m willing to bet that when you think ‘New Zealand’, Rotorua is hardly the first place that springs to mind. Though perhaps it should be! Whilst it may be small, the city has an abundance of things to do – you’ll be spoilt for choice. So, let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?
If you do make the stop in Rotorua you will no doubt be wondering: Seriously, what is that smell?
Well, my friends, that smell is exactly what the city is famous for. Its range of geothermal fields. Though each one is unique, they all come equipped with the same eggy odour. This whiff is due to the regular eruption of geysers, which in turn emit steam and sulphur and create an unappealing rotten egg type odour. Pee-yew.
The city is also home to various thermal pools and explosive mud baths… if you’re into that sort of thing! Sadly, we were only there for one night and weren’t able to experience these attractions first hand. If you are interested in finding out more, I suggest you click here.
All stink aside, the whole place is a natural wonder and I’d never say no to visiting the Polynesian Spa…
The Government Gardens
What was once the Old Bath House, is now Rotorua Museum: a beautifully intricate Elizabethan building which overlooks the Government Gardens.
Our Kiwi Experience driver told us that it was built with such grandeur to impress the Queen on her scheduled visit many years ago, but that she decided to skip her stop in Rotorua which was all very sad for them. Since researching the city myself, I haven’t found any evidence that this story is true, so don’t quote me on it! P.S. Thanks, Lisa. Now I don’t know what to believe!
What do I know to be undeniably true? The architecture of this Museum is incredibly intricate, it’s huge, grand and made me wish I had been born into a different era. You definitely won’t regret seeing it for yourself. So, what are you waiting for? It’s free!
Another of Lisa’s stories lead us to Lake Rotorua, only this time she seemed to be telling the truth. Lisa likes to keep us on our toes.
Lake Rotorua is the second largest on the North Island and has an impressively dramatic story to boot. Formed in a basin caused by volcanic activity, the lake is also home to Mokoia Island and one of New Zealand’s most epic love stories. Think Romeo & Juliet, but a bit more of a mouthful – The legend of Hinomoa and Tutanekai.
I won’t ruin the story by re-telling it, but if you’re interested, you can read the whole thing here. Alternatively, you can just walk around the picturesque Lake and admire its unique colour. Thanks to the sulphur and mineral content, the water appears unusually dark and green. Don’t worry too much if don’t get the chance to see this one – there are plenty more magnificent and colourful lakes around NZ!
Tamaki Maori Village
You can’t visit Rotorua without visiting the Tamaki Village, an authentic and cultural experience which is not only educations, but also hugely entertaining. Hugely.
I must admit that I was hesitant about it at first. Having just shelled out to go caving in Waitomo, I wasn’t planning on paying for another activity just yet. But my other half talked me round, and thank goodness he did. Just don’t let him know I said that!
Opting for the 3.5 hour evening experience, we were collected from our accommodation and taken straight to the traditional Maori Village. The immersive trip began as soon as we were picked up, as our hilarious driver joked and sang for the duration of the drive.
Upon arrival, we had a spectacular welcoming performance before our ‘Chiefs’ were selected. We were then taken through to the forest where we learnt about a multitude of Maori traditions, ranging from tattoos, clothing, and of course the Haka.
The whole encounter was rounded up with a beautiful performance and an absolute feast. Or Hangi meal, as they like to call it in the village. I realise I’m being a little vague in describing this experience, but I don’t want to spill their secrets. That being said, if you do have any burning questions, feel free to drop me a message or leave a comment below.
What I will say about this experience, is that you have the opportunity to participate in each and every aspect of the evening. It’s informative, funny, crazy, interesting, moving, and ridiculous (in the best way). If a cynic like me is advocating an immersive experience, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t regret it!