Rotorua Stinks, Yet It’s the Most Visited City in New Zealand

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 pleasA�ant town: small, well designed, clean, with a few phoA�toA�graphic areas, it is quite manA�ageA�able 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 visA�iA�tors come to Rotorua to gaze at the geotA�herA�mal activA�ity within the city, engage in any of the extreme sports that are popA�uA�lar in the area (skyA�divA�ing stealA�ing the show), and visit any of the Maori culA�tural shows that abound. These do not vary too much in conA�tent, but do vary a lot in price, some of them costA�ing up to 200 NZD per perA�son for a 4 hour show. Upon askA�ing at a souA�venir store what are the best activA�iA�ties in Rotorua he sugA�gested among other things that we visit one of these shows, but not one of the expenA�sive ones (like Te Puia) but the cheapA�est instead.

The reaA�son is that where as in the expenA�sive shows everyA�thing is staged, Te WhakareA�warewa has a small dance show (that I admit is not that great) and also includes a guided visit of Te WhakareA�warewa vilA�lage, and this is what difA�ferA�enA�tiA�ates it from the rest. In this vilA�lage peoA�ple still live as they used to over 400 years ago, right in the midA�dle of a highly geotA�herA�mal area (some houses have had to be abanA�doned because of safety reaA�sons), and there is a nice walk to be enjoyed in the nearby woods. The very enterA�tainA�ing guide explains how they live in harA�mony with nature and the many uses they make of geotA�herA�mal energy. This tour costs 28 NZD and is very good value in my opinA�ion. Highly recA�omA�mended (you can get more info at ).

Other things to do include a walk along the lake, visA�itA�ing any of the museA�ums of the city, jumpA�ing on a speed boat for a fast race against time, visA�itA�ing the nearby redA�wood forA�rest and as a perA�sonal sugA�gesA�tion I recA�omA�mend you visit Okareka lake which is only a 15 minute drive away, towards lake Okataina. In fact if you’re sleepA�ing in a camper van or a tent, spend a night there. Right besides the dock there is a small parkA�ing space with a green area and campA�ing tables. The scenery here is breathA�takA�ing, both durA�ing sunA�set and in the mornA�ing, makA�ing you feel alive as soon as you look close the day or welA�come the new one. Plus the ducks that want your food are a geat source of enterA�tainA�ment. Again, if you’re a phoA�togA�raA�phy afiA�cionado, have your camA�era ready. You wont regret it!

nless you want to expeA�riA�ence all of the extreme activA�iA�ties in the area or are a very slow walker two days is enough to see and enjoy what Rotorua and nearby surA�roundA�ings has to offer, but not less. It is a must in your North Island tour and one place you will not forA�get. Don’t you think?