Rotorua Stinks, Yet It’s the Most Visited City in New Zealand
Get hot in Rotorua.
And smelly, too. Not because the place is a dump, quite the opposite in fact, but because it is a highly volcanic area where not only spas and steam baths are the thing to do, but it is also the best place in New Zealand where you can learn about Maori culture and understand the cultural heritage of this distant country (New Zealand is, after all, far away from everywhere).
We arrived to Rotorua from the North with our camper van, and were sure we were on the right track when the southern winds brought the sulfur stench up our nostrils (Sulfur smells like rotten eggs. It emanates naturally from volcanoes, an element highly present in the Earth’s core), making Liza and I stare at each other as if asking who had hmm…errrr…farted.. before remembering where we were arriving.
Rotorua is a pleasAï¿½ant town: small, well designed, clean, with a few phoAï¿½toAï¿½graphic areas, it is quite manAï¿½ageAï¿½able and has many spots near the lake (lake Rotorua) where you can park the camper van or pitch the tent for an overnight stay.
Most visAï¿½iAï¿½tors come to Rotorua to gaze at the geotAï¿½herAï¿½mal activAï¿½ity within the city, engage in any of the extreme sports that are popAï¿½uAï¿½lar in the area (skyAï¿½divAï¿½ing stealAï¿½ing the show), and visit any of the Maori culAï¿½tural shows that abound. These do not vary too much in conAï¿½tent, but do vary a lot in price, some of them costAï¿½ing up to 200 NZD per perAï¿½son for a 4 hour show. Upon askAï¿½ing at a souAï¿½venir store what are the best activAï¿½iAï¿½ties in Rotorua he sugAï¿½gested among other things that we visit one of these shows, but not one of the expenAï¿½sive ones (like Te Puia) but the cheapAï¿½est instead.
The reaAï¿½son is that where as in the expenAï¿½sive shows everyAï¿½thing is staged, Te WhakareAï¿½warewa has a small dance show (that I admit is not that great) and also includes a guided visit of Te WhakareAï¿½warewa vilAï¿½lage, and this is what difAï¿½ferAï¿½enAï¿½tiAï¿½ates it from the rest. In this vilAï¿½lage peoAï¿½ple still live as they used to over 400 years ago, right in the midAï¿½dle of a highly geotAï¿½herAï¿½mal area (some houses have had to be abanAï¿½doned because of safety reaAï¿½sons), and there is a nice walk to be enjoyed in the nearby woods. The very enterAï¿½tainAï¿½ing guide explains how they live in harAï¿½mony with nature and the many uses they make of geotAï¿½herAï¿½mal energy. This tour costs 28 NZD and is very good value in my opinAï¿½ion. Highly recAï¿½omAï¿½mended (you can get more info at ).
Other things to do include a walk along the lake, visAï¿½itAï¿½ing any of the museAï¿½ums of the city, jumpAï¿½ing on a speed boat for a fast race against time, visAï¿½itAï¿½ing the nearby redAï¿½wood forAï¿½rest and as a perAï¿½sonal sugAï¿½gesAï¿½tion I recAï¿½omAï¿½mend you visit Okareka lake which is only a 15 minute drive away, towards lake Okataina. In fact if you’re sleepAï¿½ing in a camper van or a tent, spend a night there. Right besides the dock there is a small parkAï¿½ing space with a green area and campAï¿½ing tables. The scenery here is breathAï¿½takAï¿½ing, both durAï¿½ing sunAï¿½set and in the mornAï¿½ing, makAï¿½ing you feel alive as soon as you look close the day or welAï¿½come the new one. Plus the ducks that want your food are a geat source of enterAï¿½tainAï¿½ment. Again, if you’re a phoAï¿½togAï¿½raAï¿½phy afiAï¿½cionado, have your camAï¿½era ready. You wont regret it!
nless you want to expeAï¿½riAï¿½ence all of the extreme activAï¿½iAï¿½ties in the area or are a very slow walker two days is enough to see and enjoy what Rotorua and nearby surAï¿½roundAï¿½ings has to offer, but not less. It is a must in your North Island tour and one place you will not forAï¿½get. Don’t you think?