Rotorua is also known as “Rotten-rua” because of the smell of rotten eggs that hangs over the city. It’s not that there’d be too many chickens and people couldn’t eat all the eggs fast enough, it’s because Rotorua lies in New Zealand’s most active thermal area and it’s the smell of sulfur rising from the many bubbling mud pools and holes and other geothermal features in the area.
There are dozens of places to visit around Rotorua, including many spas and hot springs and other nice places to relax. However, since the weather forecast predicted only a few nice days that week and we didn’t want to risk having to do the Tongariro crossing in bad weather we had to rush a bit. Our Airbnb host recommended Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and, although we didn’t visit any other place, I guess that’s a great place to go if you can (or want to) visit only one site.
Every day at around 10.15 am, the Lady Knox geyser gushes up a 20 meters high fountain. With a little help, of course, otherwise I doubt it would be that punctual. This means that people arrive in the morning, buy their ticket, and head straight to the geyser. This also means that, if you choose not to see the geyser, you have the rest of the wonderland all to yourself. We decided we’d see a geyser in Iceland, someday (now we have one more reason to visit that country). So we skipped the daily geyser show and were able to finish the walking trails just before the crowds arrived.
Walking through the Wonderland
There are three trails, all of them connected, and including photo stops it takes about 1.5 hours to walk all three. The trails lead to bubbling mud pools, steaming ponds and holes in the earth, and incredibly green lakes.
The most beautiful one, in my opinion, is the steaming Champagne pool with its orange colored shore and bubbling light green water. Or the amazing green lake hidden at the end of the longest trail. But actually, all the ponds and lakes and holes are fascinating and it’s well worth walking all three trails.