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

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16244 reviews)

    Rimu nov. 27 - dec. 10 '17

    This trip was unsurpassed by any other I've ever been a part of! Ben and Emma seemed like family to us with their wonderful cooking, extreme knowledge of the island and extraordinary skill as guides made every step of every hike better than the last!
    I have not stopped singing the praises of Active Adventures to my like minded friends since returning!
    You really 'knocked this one out of the park'!
    Bob Anderson Review Image
    – Georgia, United States
    Rimu, January 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16244 reviews)

    Nov 5 2016 Kiwi with Nick B and Jess

    Active Adventures allowed me to experience the breathtaking beauty of the South Island, New Zealand. I had so much fun. I had really high hopes for the trip of a lifetime before we left. My expectations were not only met but surpassed. Nick and Jess were great as was our small group of fellow travelers. The Active Adventures team were responsive to needs and made the trip care free. I would highly recommend the Kiwi trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. I would also look to do Active Adventures other trips when we go to travel again. At the conclusion of our trip, my wife and I asked ourselves what would we do differently if doing it again. Both of our answers was nothing different.
    Mitch Pfeiffer Review Image
    – Indiana, United States
    Kiwi, December 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16244 reviews)

    Loved NZ Kea Adventure

    New Zealand is a beautiful country, but the experience would not have been half as memorable if it were not for our AA guides. They were professional, could answer any question about NZ, incredibly competent in all ways and so much fun! But it would be unfair not to mention the preliminary support team leading up to the trip. All requests and needs were handled quickly and efficiently. And last, but not least, the itinerary was so well thought out. I enjoyed every minute of the trip and was sorry to see it end.
    Lori Schimpf Review Image
    – California, United States
    Kea, January 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16244 reviews)

    Amazing!

    What a great trip! The scenery exceeded our already-high expectations! And the guides were so good (plus the fact that we would like to see New Zealand in the winter), we are already thinking about our next trip with Active Adventures!
    Ron Clark, III Review Image
    – Virginia, United States
    Weka, February 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16244 reviews)

    Trip of a Lifetime!

    I am still basking in the glow from this remarkable trip! I admit that I was a bit nervous at first as I was the oldest person in our group and not as fit (for hiking) as some in the group, so I worried about 'keeping up' on the hikes - especially the steeper climbs. Ben and Lauren were very reassuring and encouraging and I felt that I was able to 'hold my own'. In fact, while the hiking was probably the most challenging I've done in at least 7 years, it was the most rewarding/exhilarating part for me. I loved our group - a very positive, health-conscious and fun group of people from all walks of life. It was also wonderful that we were only 12 people - it helped to create a much more intimate and personal atmosphere. I felt we bonded together well - again, thanks to Ben and Lauren's great skills with ice-breaking, fun games, and ability to set and maintain a positive atmosphere from the beginning.
    From the moment we set off from the airport to the emotional farewells back at the airport at the end of the trip, this was a top notch adventure. Our transportation was comfortable, our accommodations were always different and unique and very comfortable - I loved that they weren't all in your standard hotel and that some of them were really off the beaten track. The food was amazing - from the snack basket in the van, loaded fresh every day with fruit and other snacks, to the amazing meals that Lauren and Ben created and the breakfasts and dinners that we had at various restaurants - there was a lot of variety, special dietary considerations were accounted for and there was lots of it!
    I did the kayak option and it was outstanding. The B&B and our hosts were wonderful (the hot tub at the end of the day was most appealing!) and our kayak guide, Nick was terrific - very accommodating, skilled and he made it all very interesting and fun!
    I cannot say enough about our incredible guides - Ben and Lauren - they truly moved the bar for me from a great trip to one that will go down in history for me as the trip of a lifetime. They were so knowledgeable about the island - I loved listening to the legends/folklore and learning more about the vegetation, birds, etc. Ben was a terrific driver - I always felt safe. Lauren was terrific with her cooking and meal presentations - meals looked fantastic and tasted even better! Both Ben and Lauren added those special touches from decorating the bus for the Christmas season, organizing our Secret Santa, making a fantastic Christmas morning breakfast, complete with Christmas crackers and special hats, managing extra logistics like re-booking the paragliding for us, setting up the helicopter tour, taking the time and effort to help reconnect people with items they had left behind either in our accommodations or on a hike/kayak. They even had the perfect music for when we went through the Homer Tunnel and down into Milford Sound - the combination of the music and the scenery was so moving it had several of us in tears! They really ensured that they got to know each person and took a genuine interest in each person. Their positive energy and enthusiasm was infectious. They took kindness and customer service to a new level! The scenery was breathtaking everywhere we went. It would be hard for me to say what the favourite part was or favourite view as the South Island is simply spectacular. I felt that the trip was organized in such a way that I really got a good feel and appreciation for the South Island. Truly New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places (both 'inside and out') that I have ever visited (and I've visited over 20 other countries around the world). I really loved the more laid-back way of life and the local people we met were so welcoming and kind. I would love to come back again and see the North Island but also re-visit the South Island!
    I highly recommend this trip and have already suggested it to a number of my friends. It really was transformational for me on so many levels! My heartfelt thanks to Ben and Lauren and everyone at Active Adventures!
    Sue Hazell Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Rimu, January 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.

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