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Tongariro National Park

It may be surprising to hear that the Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park. It was established in 1887 and, incredibly, was only the fourth national park to be established globally! The second park to be formed in New Zealand a few years later, Egmont National Park, was also on the North Island. Then it wasn’t until 1929, when Arthur’s Pass National Park was created, that the South Island had its own protected area.

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Dual World Heritage Area Status is Twice as Nice

Tongariro National Park is a dual World Heritage Area, which means it’s recognized both for its Maori culture and outstanding volcanic features. To Maori people (Tangata Whenua, ‘People of the Land’), the volcanoes represent a core part of their history and are entwined into their ancestry and legends. The three volcanoes in the heart of the national park are Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.

Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. In 1995 and again in 1996, Ruapehu erupted in spectacular fashion, sending clouds of steam skyward and covering the mountain in a layer of ash. There was plenty of warning, so the area had already been evacuated for some time. Apart from a premature end to the ski season and a no-fly zone for a period of time, there were no other ill effects. 

Tongariro is a Study in Contrasts

A real highlight of this park is the extreme contrast between barren lava flows, winter snow fields, hot springs and active craters. It makes it a fascinating place to visit. There are amazing plants surviving the harsh climate and poor pumice soils – alpine herbs, pockets of podocarp forest, dense beech forest and swathes of tussock. It’s no wonder that Peter Jackson chose to shoot a number of scenes for The Lord of the Rings here - including Ithilien, Mordor and the Gates of Mordor!

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Hiking the Famed Tongariro Crossing

Aside from Lord of the Rings, the park is probably best known for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – certainly one of the best day hikes in New Zealand and often rated on international ‘top 10’ lists of must-do hikes. The hike is 19.4 km (12 miles) long, usually takes between 7 and 9 hours to complete and takes you from alpine meadows to the mountain summit with stunning volcanic features along the way. It’s the highlight for many who come on our Kauri trip, especially as they get to relax in a hot spring at the end of the day.

What Else to do in Tongariro National Park

You can also mountain bike, ski, snowboard, kayak, raft and fish in Tongariro National Park – so there’s something for everyone! There’s also a premium mountain bike track called the ‘42 traverse’ requiring a bit of expertise to handle the uphill sections and technical descents – it’s 46 km (28.5 miles) long and takes 4-6 hours to complete. For keen anglers, Tongariro National Park is an excellent fishing destination where you can do lake fishing or head out into the wilderness and backcountry headwaters to cast your fly line. The Whakapapa River has some great trout fishing, where visibility is generally more than 15 metres year round.

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Trip Reviews

  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Tui in February

    I combined Kauri with Tui and it was the perfect blend to see both Islands in New Zealand. My Tui experience was terrific. It certainly was an active adventure!
    Andrea King Review Image
    – Connecticut, United States
    Tui, March 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Awesome New Zealand experience

    Wow, what a great trip! New Zealand was at the top of my bucket list & this trip was everything I expected and more. Mt. Cook on a beautiful evening with no clouds and the lake in front was one of my favorites. Milford Sound kayaking was another. Just getting to Milford Sound is spectacular! I'd go back in a heartbeat if it weren't so far away.
    John Lippitt Review Image
    – Massachusetts, United States
    Rimu, December 2016
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Outstanding!

    First, there is the magical place that is New Zealand -- unique, varied, and beautiful. Second, there is the operation that is Active Adventures -- organized, engaged, and attentive. Together, they make for an outstanding experience. Thank you!
    Nanette Bahlinger Review Image
    – Tennessee, United States
    Kauri, December 2016
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    A Great Eight Days

    My wife, Shanen, and I had a goal of running a marathon on all seven continents and our seventh took place on March 18, in Rotorua, NZ. So two days after completing our goal, we returned to Christchurch and met up with our guides, Hillary and Dan, along with our fellow travelers. As good fortune would have it we all clicked as a group and off we went.

    For the remainder of our journey it was clear that both Hillary and Dan took great joy in what they do. Furthermore, and of great importance to us, they ensured meals had met our vegetarian and vegan needs. We were never made to feel our dietary needs were inconvenient to them and they were handled in such a way that all of us were able to enjoy our group meals.

    The actual adventure was well planned out and the expectations of each day were always explained. Our group was one that started together, made sure all finished and enjoyed the adventure.

    John Edmundson Review Image
    – Arizona, United States
    Tui, April 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Trip of a Lifetime!

    This was such an amazing trip! Our guides Ash and Astrid did a fantastic job. Everyday was met with amazing views and challenging activities like kayaking, biking and hiking. Two weeks felt like a month because we did so much in one day but there was still some down time to enjoy the beauty that is New Zealand. A must for anyone who wants to be active in New Zealand.
    Kilo Piedra Review Image
    – California, United States
    Rimu, March 2018

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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