The Waimangu Valley (otherwise called the "Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley") is known as the youngest geothermal valley in the world. It was formed by a volcanic eruption in 1886 in New Zealand's North Island. Today the valley has become a significant tourist attraction.
Waimangu boasts the world's largest hot spring, the eye-catching pale blue Inferno Crater Lake, and even the largest geyser in the world (although it can't be seen as it's at the bottom of a lake). New Zealand's North Island is one of the best places to discover volcanic and hydrothermal attractions - one of the musts is hiking the world-famous Tongariro Crossing.
The Massive Tarawera Eruption Of 1886
The story of the Waimangu Valley and the Tarawera region is a fascinating one of superlatives, destruction, and recreation. Prior to the eruption of 1886, the area was fast becoming a tourist destination. People would flock there to see the hydrothermal marvels like the Waimangu Geyser - once the largest geyser in the world that erupted up to 450 meters (1,476 feet) into the air.
Once Home To The Largest:
- Geyser: The Waimangu Geyser
- Terraces: The Pink and White Terraces
Another of the area's attractions was the Pink and White Terraces - forget about the stunning terraces of Pamukkale in Turkey - these were said to be the largest terraces in the world. People would bathe in these mineral waters, and they were extolled as the 8th natural Wonder of the World.
While these natural wonders were destroyed in the eruption, in their place, new geothermal and volcanic wonders were borne.
Waimangu - The World's Youngest Geothermal System
Following the destruction of the old wonders - Waimangu - the world's youngest geothermal system was created. The eruption of Mount Tarawera on 10 June 1886 was massive and ripped a 17 km (10.5 miles) rift on the earth's surface.
- Formed: 10 June 1886
Today Waimangu is protected as a Scenic Reserve in New Zealand. The native forests in the area are still recovering from the complete devastation of the volcanic eruptions.
Besides the other-worldliness of the valley, attractions in the valley include:
- Lake Rotomahana: Blasted 20x Larger By The Eruption
- The Frying Pan Lake: The Largest Hot Spring In The World
- Inferno Crate Lake: Pale Blue And Steaming
There are a number of tour packages to choose from to discover the wonders of the Waimangu Valley or one can just explore them by oneself.
Full Day Tour Of The Waimangu Valley
One of the most comprehensive packages is The Round Trip experience. On The Round Trip, visitors will uncover the stories of the famed Pink and White Terraces and the devastating Tarawera eruption.
The tour is a full-day tour that includes return transport from the gateway town of Rotorua, a boat cruise of the Lakes Rotomahana and Tarawera, a tour of the Buried Village, and a guided walk at the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.
- Duration: 7.5 Hours
- Price: From $245 NZD ($155 USD)
- Pick Up Location: Center Of Rotorua
The Round Trip is dedicated to providing a comprehensive tour of the stunning region. First, the tour heads for a guided walk through the valley to see a number of notable sights, then the tour embarks on a boat over Lake Rotomahana (and over the resting place of the Pink and White Terraces). On the cruise, passengers will see steaming cliffs, small geysers, and other hydrothermal activity.
- A Guided Walk Through Waimangu Volcanic Valley
- Packed Lunch
- Boat Cruises On Lakes Rotomahana and Tarawera (Inc. Hot Water Beach)
- Isthmus Track Walk
- Buried Village Experience
After the cruise on Lake Rotomahana, hike the Isthmus Track. It is a short 1.5 km (1 mile) trail from Lake Rotomahana to Lake Tarawera and takes around 20-30 minutes to hike. It may be a little strenuous as it rises 400 meters (1,310 feet) over a saddle.
On arrival at the jetty on Lake Tarawera, take another boat for an eco-tour on Lake Tarawera. Be amazed by the tales of the region - its history, legends, and place in local Maori culture. The boat tour also stops over at Hot Water Beach where visitors can enjoy the thermal springs.
The final attraction is the Buried Village which was destroyed by the powerful eruption. It was New Zealand's first ever tourist hub.