Catch a whiff of Rotorua’s sulphur-rich, asthmatic airs and you’ve already got a taste of NZ’s most dynamic thermal area, home to spurting geysers, steaming hot springs and exploding mud pools. The Maori revered this place, naming one of the most spectacular springs Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters). Today 35% of the population is Maori, with their cultural performances and traditional hangi as big an attraction as the landscape itself.
Despite the pervasive eggy odour, ‘Sulphur City’ is one of the most touristed spots on the North Island, with nearly three million visitors annually. Some locals say this steady trade has seduced the town into resting on its laurels, and that socially Rotorua lags behind more progressive towns like Tauranga and Taupo. And with more motels than nights in November, the urban fabric of ‘RotoVegas’ isn't particularly appealing…but still, where else can you see a 30m geothermal geyser!