Impressive geysers, natural hot springs and bubbling mud pools are part of the otherworldly landscape of Rotorua, a place where New Zealand's position on the Pacific Ring of Fire is visibly demonstrated.
This is one of the world's most concentrated and accessible geothermal areas and the light but constant whiff of sulphur that hangs in the air is a reminder of the forces of nature in action.
You can see mineral pools of deep green and bright orange, hear the sound of hissing steam escaping from roadside vents, and soak in geothermally fed hot tubs at local hotels and public spas.
The volcanic landscape around Rotorua also provides the backdrop for a range of adventure activities, from mountain biking and trout fishing, to white-water rafting and zorbing (rolling down a hill inside a translucent giant inflatable ball).
Rotorua has welcomed tourists since the mid-1800s and nowadays draws three million holidaymakers a year. Its continued popularity has earned it a nickname as ‘Roto-Vegas'.
Its natural wonders are just a part of its appeal. Alongside geysers and hot pools, Rotorua is also known for its Maori culture and history. Here, on the shores of Lake Rotorua, lived the Te Arawa, one of the country's larger Maori tribes - ever since, as legend would have it, a Maori leader called Ihenga discovered the lake while hunting with his dogs.
The Maori who settled here used the hot pools for cooking and bathing, and built their whare (houses) on warm ground in order to make them cosier in the winter. They revered this place, naming one of the most spectacular springs Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters).
Today, more than a third of Rotorua's population is Maori, many of them of Te Arawa descent, and there are few better ways to learn about Maori values, legends, music and dance than at a concert and hangi (Maori feast) evening in the town.
Top itineraries in Rotorua
Free car hire
This country-spanning tour takes in the best New Zealand's North and South islands. And, between stays in the Bay of Islands, Rotorua, Mt Cook and Queenstown, you'll call into some of the locations used in filming of The Lord of the Rings and, more recently, The Hobbit.
Free car hire
Designed to showcase the best of New Zealand's North Island, this self-drive brings begins with Auckland and the Bay of Islands before dipping south past Coromandel's golden beaches and volcanic Rotorua. Then, via lakeside Taupo and the vineyards of Hawke's Bay, you'll end with a stay in Wellington.
Free car hire
A tailor-made self-drive through much of the most spectacular scenery of the North and South Islands. Discover Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua, Hawke's Bay, Wellington, Abel Tasman and the glaciers and mountains of Franz Josef and Queenstown as you journey through this stunning country.
Top places to stay in Rotorua
Originally built in 1980 as a luxury fishing lodge, Solitaire Lodge enjoys commanding views over beautiful Lake Tarawera and offers guests a stylish and relaxing base from which to explore.
Set amidst a beautiful forest just outside the town of Rotorua, just two hours drive from Auckland on New Zealand's picturesque North Island, Treetops Lodge and Estate is a haven of peace and tranquility, surrounded by sparkling streams and 800 year old trees.
Peppers on the Point is a converted 1930s family mansion offering luxury lodge accommodation on the shores of Lake Rotorua, just ten minutes from the centre of town.
Meet our Rotorua experts
Speak to a tailor-made specialist on 020 7590 0614Meet the team