Spectacular Geysers and Colourful Crater Lakes at Waimangu Volcanic Valley
April 05, 2017
Mount Tarawera erupted in a devastating explosion of ash and lava in 1886. This eruption ripped the mountain in two and gouged a 17 kilometres rift into the landscape. Lake Rotomahana swelled to twenty times its size, and the seven craters that make up today’s Waimangu were created. Look forward to getting up close to spectacular geysers and colourful crater lakes when you visit Waimangu Volcanic Valley!
Located just 20 minutes south of Rotorua, I spent a morning exploring Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Before arriving at Waimangu, the tour bus made a stop at the legendary Pohutu Geyser in Te Puia, just 5 minutes from Rotorua city central. This geyser erupts to a height of 30 metres up to 20 times a day, and once erupted non-stop for more than 250 days! The viewing platform was packed like sardines – kids were hopping around excitedly, while a couple of photographers jostled for space for their tripods, and tour guides could be heard narrating the history and stories of Pohutu Geyser at the top of their voices in many different languages. I wasn’t surprised to hear applauses and cheers when the geyser finally erupted!
After approximately 15 minutes’ drive, the tour bus finally arrived at Waimangu Volcanic Valley. In the Maori language, “Waimangu” means black water, and the area was once the location of the most powerful geyser in the world. This geyser spews black mud 460 metres into the air! In 1904, it became extinct, but the gorgeous valley still bears the name. This is the youngest geothermal site in the world, boasting unique ecology, rare botany, and fascinating geothermal features such as multicoloured rock, amazing coloured water, and steaming volcanic crater lakes. The area is now a protected scenic reserve and wildlife refuge.
You can select a range of self-guided eco tours and walks through this geothermal park, from a 45 minutes walk to an extended 4 hours of discovery through Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Choose an easy-walking track, or take an invigorating hike to enjoy panoramic views. If you feel exhausted at any stage of your walk, you can opt to take a shuttle bus which regularly circles the valley, back to Waimangu Visitor Centre.
The Emerald Pools are one of the many stunning natural wonders within Waimangu Volcanic Valley. It sits in one of the craters left behind by the 1886 Tarawera eruption, nestled amongst native bushland. The lush green colour of the pools is the result of sphagnum moss, once used in healing for its extracting properties.
Watch steam rise from the tantalisingly blue Inferno Crater which is the largest geyser-like feature in the world. The Inferno Crater also has a mysterious connection with Frying Pan Lake. Listen closely and you’ll hear the crackling and sizzling coming from this lake. When the Frying Pan erupted in 1917, the Cathedral Rocks changed in shape. It is composed of massive rhyolitic lava which is at least 60,000 years old, much older than Tarawera Volcano. There is also the Fairy Crater, a deep, steep-sided crater plunging 56 metres down with remarkable lava bluffs forming its walls.
You’ll also come across other impressive formations such as the Warbrick Terrace, Black Crater, and others. Waimangu Volcanic Valley is home to native plants and bird-life such as the black-billed gull, a New Zealand songbird called Tui, Caspian Tern, Finch, and many more. If you have more time to spare, take a cruise on the beautiful Lake Rotomahana. The rare geothermal sights are not accessible on foot.
Do note that if you’re heading for the Mt. Haszard hiking trail, good fitness is required. It is steep and is rough underfoot in places, so good walking shoes with treaded soles are recommended. Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult at all times. The unforgettable smell of sulphur, clouds of steam and volcanic activity are a natural part of life in Rotorua.
Address: Waimangu Volcanic Valley, 587 Waimangu Road , Rotorua Central, Rotorua, 3073, New Zealand
Opening Hours: 8.30am to 5pm daily (6pm in January). Last admission for the shortest walk is at 3.40pm (4.40pm in January).