Those stereotypes about New Zealand as a boring and slow place make me smile every time I read another “smart” comment on my Facebook page. I mean, guys, I can’t imagine how to see and try everything even our unique Bay of Plenty has to offer, saying nothing about the rest of the country! Just have a look at the youngest Volcanic Valley in the world we explored on my Birthday a month ago – isn’t it just incredible? Any more comments on being bored to stay thousands km away from the rest of the planet?
Waimangu Volcanic Valley was created on the 10th of June 1886 after the solid Tarawera Eruption, so it’s not only world’s youngest valley of that kind, but also the only one, associated with the exact moment and event in history. How impressive is that?
Basic information about Waimangu Volcanic Valley tours
Today’s tourists are lucky to see the huge volcanic valley itself, and also to have a boat cruise around the deepest on Northern island lake Rotomahana. The walking part is aprx 4 km long one way and will take you around 3-4 hours. You can always hop on the free shuttle bus on the way back or to skip any part of the track, if you feel too tired. The other option is to choose the shorter Highlights tour, that is only 1,5 km long. But trust me, the path is comfy and easy all the time (if you’re not challenging yourself to hike Mt Haszard, like we did), so 4 km walk is totally pleasant and worth it!
The full tour costs $80 for an adult, while just one part will cost you half the price. Though I would strongly recommend to take the full tour – the emotions you will get on each stage can’t be compared to anything else and the views are so spectacular, that should be definitely included in all the New Zealand guides.
Before entering the territory of the Valley, you will be given a detailed map and a brochure (most probably – in your native language. They have great variety!). Mostly it’s needed just to get some more information about what you see at the moment, as the walkway itself is really obvious and easy to follow.
What to bring and wear at Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Strolling through the geysers and volcanoes might sound spooky, but actually it’s nothing more, than an outdoor sightseeing, so you can easily wear comfy and beautiful dress without being afraid to destroy it. The two things, that are an absolute must though, are definitely good walking shoes or sneakers and a hat. Most of the trails don’t have any shadow and the sun can become really aggressive in New Zealand.
That is why I also recommend to have your sunscreen at the bag all the time and make sure you have enough of water. Snacks are also a great idea, as you will walk (and burn calories) for 3-4 hours, add almost an hour of boat cruise and the time you will spend on getting to the Valley by car or by bus (from Tauranga, for example, it took us around one hour) – and here comes the hunger, bad partner for any adventure!
Drones are strictly prohibited at that area, so relax and grab nice and easy to carry around camera:)
What to see at Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Waimangu is absolutely stunning! Imagine those champagne fountains rising from the ground, boiling lakes with turquoise water, yellow and white formations and unique plants, that can survive in highly toxic places and extreme temperatures. Sometimes you even forget it’s still planet Earth and imagine yourself discovering new eco-system somewhere under the unfamiliar sun.
The first highlight of the Waimangu Volcanic Valley you reach is the Frying Pan Lake. Make sure you will climb a small staircase on the right from the main road to get to the perfect observing point with comfy benches and even several picnic tables.
This lake is one of the largest hot pools in the world and has the temperature of 50-60 degrees above zero all year round. It might look boiling, but actually those are carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide gases swirling all around. The places like that always remind me of how hot and dangerous our planet really is. The cool and sleeping surface we call ground makes us too relaxed, right?:)
The next place you will never forget is the Inferno Crater. This one is a tiny lake hidden in between the hills with a welcoming turquoise water, But don’t you dare to be fulled by its beauty! It’s actually the largest geyser-like feature in the world! Though you won’t see the geyser itself, it’s hidden underneath the water, but it’s still active and makes water super acidic and as hot as 80 degrees! The secret behind it’s magical color is the silica. But I really would prefer it to be Maldivian reefs instead:))
The most exciting thing about those two bad boys is that they are actually secretly connected to each other! Just imagine, two lakes are united by a river, that changes their depth following the strict 38 days cycle. As you might have already understood, when one lake becomes deeper, the other one looses part of its water. Inferno lake, for example, jumps from being 30 meters deep to 18 meters and back! Just like the old fashioned scales in any pharmacy. How crazy is that?
Last but not least place that impressed me the most at the Waimangu Volcanic Valley was definitely the lake Rotomahana. The boat cruise is just spectacular in every aspect – from the gracious black swans greeting you at the pier to the exciting stories told by the captain. Cosy small boat takes tourists to the deepest part of the lake and along the boiling hills. Yes, you got it right, the huge lake covers about 15 volcanoes, quite an extreme feeling to be above them, should I say! But the picturesque ride is definitely worth it – 45 minutes is just enough to enjoy the views, relax after the long walk and not to get bored.
In a nutshell (they told me using this phrase during the IELTS exams will bring me the highest score – never worked out!), I was super fascinated by the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Even after all those waterfalls, hills and giant trees we spotted here it still remains one of the most unusual places in New Zealand for me. Looking forward to what is yet to come and highly recommend this place to everyone still thinking New Zealand is boring:))