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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

  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Kiwi & Active Adventures - Perfect!

    With great anticipation, and admittedly high expectations, Ann and I left New Orleans on Christmas Day to begin our trip to the North Island of New Zealand. We each had long wanted to see this special place! From the moment that Phil and Vanessa picked us up, until the time that Phil and Elder dropped us at the airport for our return flight, we could not have been happier, or more satisfied, with our trip. Phil, Vanessa, and Elder were perfect guides... and hosts. The history and information that Phil shared along the way helped us understand, and therefore appreciate even more, the places we visited and the people we met. We fell in love with the North Island, and its people and history! With Active Adventures having arranged practically everything, and Phil, Vanessa, and Elder taking great care of us along the way (even preparing our last 2 wonderful evening meals), we had nothing to do but rise each morning and enjoy our day! Perfect!
    Thad Minaldi Review Image
    – Louisiana, United States
    Kauri, January 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Very Glad We Added Kauri to Our Trip

    We added Kauri to our Rimu trip because we wanted to spend more time with the Maori culture and see the north island. Our wishes were more than fulfilled by this excellent trip.
    Rick Lent Review Image
    – Massachusetts, United States
    Kauri, December 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Birthday we'll never forget

    We expected a great trip with where we were going, BUT Active Adventures guides (Michele and Rachael) made it that much more special. Their knowledge, expertise and storytelling abilities made it fun and engaging. Accommodations were better than anticipated, they were great.
    An absolute must for those thinking about this type of a trip.
    Liz Clapp Review Image
    – California, United States
    Tui, February 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Lots of fun, great guides

    Guides Phil & Jo kept us busy with a variety of fun activities. The time just flew. I'd love to join another trip led by Phil & Jo.
    Rich Partridge Review Image
    – New York, United States
    Kauri, March 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Rimu - Awesome South Island trip!

    This trip is really a great way to experience the true beauty of the South Island. We hiked in beautiful areas with spectacular views, biked the Te Araroa track and sea kayaked in Milford Sound and in the Okarito Lagoon. Our guides, Ben and Emma, were absolutely great! They were cheerful, caring and attentive to our needs. They kept us well fed all along the trip even while hiking in remote areas with minimal cooking facilities. Accommodations were great and representative of the visited area. Thanks to one of our travel companions, we had magnificent weather for the trip duration… we cannot have asked for better temperatures.
    Claire Barrette-Remy Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Rimu, December 2017

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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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