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Visiting New Zealand's Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Visiting New Zealand's Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 22 January 2018

Among the North Island’s amazing natural features you’ll find the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. As its name suggests, this is the place to emerge yourself in the geothermal marvels that make New Zealand’s volcanic activity so compelling.

The active geothermal area is situated within a 30-minute drive south of Rotorua and a 40-minute drive north of Taupo. If you happen to be coming in from Auckland, expect the drive to take approximately 3.5 hours, or slightly longer during the busy summer season. As you make your way towards the visitor centre, these wonders start steaming into view.

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Jason Kane / © Culture Trip

Wai-O-Tapu is a place for self-guided exploration. Walks around the thermal park take between 30 and 75 minutes, depending on which attraction you’ve set your sights on: the colourful hot springs, some stunning lakes and waterfalls and exquisite mud pools you’ll be hard pressed to encounter elsewhere.

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Jason Kane / © Culture Trip

The Wai-O-Tapu thermal area itself is spread across 18 square kilometres (6.95 square miles). Each of these geothermal gems were created out of thousands of years of volcanic activity. The boiling mud pools you’ll see below, for instance, are actually the remnants of what used to be New Zealand’s largest mud volcano.

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Jason Kane / © Culture Trip

Erosion has meant that the pool’s original volcanic cone eroded in 1925, but thermal activity still occurs.

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Jason Kane / © Culture Trip

As gas and steam rise to the surface, bubbles start appearing…

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Jason Kane / © Culture Trip

…only to burst not long after.

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Jason Kane / © Culture Trip

Make sure to come by early: every day at 10:15 a.m. the Lady Knox Geyser puts on quite a show.

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Jason Kane / © Culture Trip

Sit yourself by the surrounding ampitheatre and watch as this spouting beauty lets her warm waters blow.

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Jason Kane / © Culture Trip | Jason Kane / © Culture Trip

This magnificent eruption can soar to heights of up to 20 metres (65.6 feet). How’s that for impressive? Once you’ve finished watching the spectacle, you can make your way to the geothermal park to catch a glimpse of the intriguing hues that make this area so memorable.

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Jason Kane / © Culture Trip