Rotorua. Supposedly one of the biggest tourist traps on the North Island of New Zealand (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 about travelling to New Zealand, Rotorua is hardly the first hotspot that springs to mind. But, perhaps it should be! Located in the Bay of Plenty region, this city may be small but it has an abundance of things to do. 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 geothermal activity. Whilst each geothermal field 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, exuding an unappealing rotten egg type odour. Pee-yew.
The city is also home to various thermal pools and bubbling 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. To find out more, I suggest you click here.
All jokes (and smell) aside, the whole place is a natural wonder and I’d never say no to visiting the hot pools at the Polynesian Spa.
The Government Gardens
What was once the Old Bath House, is now Rotorua Museum. Housed in a beautifully intricate Elizabethan building, the Museum overlooks the Government Gardens.
To give you a bit of background, I travelled around New Zealand via the Kiwi Experience bus. When we pulled up in Rotorua Museum, our driver informed us that it was intentionally built with grandeur. Why? To impress the Queen on her scheduled visit many years ago. Unfortunately, she decided to skip her stop in Rotorua and all the citizens were very sad. Since researching this backstory myself, I haven’t found any evidence that a word of it’s true, so don’t quote me on it. Thanks, Lisa. Now I don’t know what to believe!
What I do know to be undeniably true: The architecture of this museum is incredible. It’s huge, it’s grand and it makes me wish I had been born in 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 lake on the North Island and has an impressive, dramatic story to boot. Formed in a basin caused by volcanic activity, the lake is 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 scenic 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. This captivating experience celebrates Maori culture in a way that is not only authentic and informative but also hugely entertaining. Hugely.
I must admit that I was hesitant about visiting Tamaki at first. Having just shelled out to visit the Waitomo Caves, 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 ;)!
*The Kiwi Experience introduces you to lots of activities you may not have known about in advance. All of which are tempting… Just not for your wallet.
What to Expect at the Tamaki Maori Village
If you opt for the 3.5-hour evening experience, as I did, you’ll be collected from your accommodation and taken straight to the traditional village. The immersive journey begins as soon as you’re picked up: Our hilarious driver joked and sang for the entire duration of the drive!
Upon arrival, you’re treated to a spectacular welcome performance before the ‘Chiefs’ are selected. You’re then taken through to the forest where you’ll learn about a multitude of Maori traditions. These range from facial tattoos to traditional clothes. And, of course, the Haka. The evening experience finishes with a beautiful performance and a traditional feast. Or hangi meal, as they like to call it in the village.
I realise I’m being a bit 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 leave them in the comments below :).
What I will say about the Tamaki Village, is that it presents every visitor/traveller with the opportunity to try out every activity. It’s informative, funny, crazy, interesting, moving, and ridiculous (in the best way). And if a cynic like me is advocating an immersive experience, it’s got to be pretty good!!
I hope that this article has inspired you to visit Rotorua! If you have any questions or have your own recommendations to suggest, please feel free to share these in the comments section below.
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