Maori thermal village Whakarewarewa, Rotorua, New Zealand.

© natmint/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wander the streets of this living village, where the local Tūhourangi/Ngāti Wāhiao people have resided for centuries, with its homes, stores, cafes and lookouts over the Pōhutu geyser in neighbouring Te Puia. Villagers lead the tours (departing hourly from 9am to 4pm) and tell stories of their way of life amid the steamy bubbling pools, silica terraces and geysers.

Admission also includes a half-hour cultural performance (daily at 11.15am and 2pm, with an additional show at 12.30pm from November to April) and self-guided walks out as far as Lake Kanapanapa/Green Lake (a 40- to 50-minute loop). The village shops sell authentic arts and crafts, and you can learn more about Māori traditions such as flax weaving, carving and tā moko (tattooing). Nearby you can eat tasty, buttery sweetcorn ($2) pulled straight out of the hot mineral pool – the only genuine geothermal hāngi meal in town.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Rotorua attractions

1. Te Puia

0.37 MILES

Te Puia dials up the heat on Māoritanga (things Māori) with explosive performances from both its cultural troupe and Pōhutu (Big Splash), its famous…

2. Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest

1.34 MILES

This magical park of forest giants is 5km southeast of town. From 1899, 170 tree species were planted here to see which could be grown successfully for…

3. Government Gardens

1.78 MILES

The manicured Government Gardens surrounding the Rotorua Museum are a wonderful example of the blending of English (rose gardens, ponds, croquet lawns and…

4. Rotorua Museum

1.78 MILES

Constructed in a striking faux-Tudor style, this museum, which began life in 1908 as an elegant spa retreat called the Bath House, has been closed since…

5. Kuirau Park


Thermal activity comes no cheaper than at this free public park that runs along the western edge of the town centre. It's a wonderful juxtaposition of…

6. Ohinemutu

2.32 MILES

Ohinemutu is a lakeside Māori village that is home to around 260 people. Highlights include the 1905 Tama-te-Kapua Meeting House (not open to visitors),…

7. St Faith’s Anglican Church

2.36 MILES

Consecrated in 1918, Ōhinemutu's historic timber church is intricately decorated with Māori carvings, tukutuku (woven panels), painted scrollwork and…

8. Lake Rotorua

2.41 MILES

Lake Rotorua is the largest of the district’s 18 lakes and is − underneath all that water − a spent volcano. Near the centre of the lake is Mokoia Island,…