Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, Te Waihou Walkway

This is part two of my little New Zealand's Best Hike series. In this post I'll tell you about 3 more incredible hikes/walks on the North Island of New Zealand. One of them is even known to be the best hike you can do in the whole of New Zealand! Check part 1 of this series if you haven't read it yet. Now let's get straight to it!

Te Waihou Walkway
Although we got a lot of tips and suggestions for good walks from Kiwis, but this wasn't one of them. I actually discovered this walk through this Instagram post, and decided that I had to see this beautiful place with my own eyes. Te Waihou is an easy 3 km walk from one car park to another, so not a loop. What makes it special is the Waihou river you follow, which has the most incredible turquoise blue colour I've ever seen. It hardly seems real! You can also swim in the river, but I skipped out this time since the water was only 14 degrees.  The walk leads to the Blue Spring, which is one of the world's purest water sources. A must-see!
New Zealand's best hikes | Te Waihou Walkway

New Zealand's best hikes | Te Waihou Walkway

New Zealand's best hikes | Te Waihou Walkway

New Zealand's best hikes | Te Waihou Walkway


Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland
A New Zealand must-do is to see the mud pools and other geothermal attractions in and around Rotorua. We initially planned to skip Rotorua (very touristy), but when we passed a sign for Wai-O-Tapu, we made a little loop to see what the fuss was about. There are three walks here, of which the longest one takes less than one hour. The most famous sight at Wai-O-Tapu is the champagne pool, which is quite spectacular with its bright colours and smoke. You do need a strong stomach though, because the smell that lingers around here can best be described as rotten eggs. This is one of the only walks we did where we had to pay to enter so it's quite touristy, but if you're only visiting one of the geothermal attractions, it's worth it.
New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland


New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland


New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland


New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

New Zealand's best hikes | Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland


Tongariro Alpine Crossing
I've saved the best for last! Tongariro was definitely one of my favourite hikes of the whole trip. I think that everyone who goes to New Zealand does this hike, if the weather allows it of course. Because it's quite a challenging day-hike, it can only be done when the weather is good, otherwise it gets too dangerous (check the forecast online before going). The hike leads you to an active volcano called Mount Ngauruhoe (also known as Mount Doom from the Lord of The Rings films), past active craters, steam vents and the most incredible emerald-coloured lakes you've ever seen. 

You have to start early in the morning, so you need to sleep somewhere nearby (we stayed at a small campsite at Motuoapa, 1 hour away but much cheaper than the places closer to Tongariro National Park). Since you start at one parking lot and end at a different one, you either have to arrange a shuttle to bring you back to the first parking lot, or you need to do part of the hike and then backtrack. We walked past the largest lake and then went back, which took us 6 hours. If we would have gone the one-way, it would have taken 5 hours. We had a fast pace, so it can take up to 7 hours to complete the 19.4 km hike. Some parts are very steep and quite tiring, but once you get up to the point where you see the lakes, it's all worth it. The first hour of the hike is easy and really special with the sun rising over the active volcano wrapped in fog. We started the hike at 8 am and were back in our car at 2 pm. Don't plan too many activities for the rest of the day because you'll be quite tired. 

This is a hike you really need to be prepared for. It's not for the faint-hearted, so you first of all you need a good condition. Other essentials are hiking boots (there are lots of loose rocks), anti-blister socks, snacks/lunch, water, sunscreen, a hat and several layers of clothing (it can get very cold). The sun is very strong here and because it might be cold and windy at times, it's important to protect your skin with sunscreen and a cap. I wore Lululemon leggings, hiking boots, two tops, a longsleeve plus a hoodie, a cap and my small backpack. Don't overpack, the hike is already tough enough without the extra weight. 

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a really surreal experience, it almost feels like you're on a different planet. Kind of hard to explain, so I hope you'll get to do this hike one day too!


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing

New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing

New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing

New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing

New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing




New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing




New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


New Zealand's best hikes | Tongariro Alpine Crossing


These were all the hikes on the North Island of New Zealand that I wanted to share. I'll share my favourite hikes on the South Island with you soon as well! Make sure to check out part one if you haven't done so already. Happy hiking!

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