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Whakarewarewa - the Living Maori Village

Whakarewarewa

Traditional hot-spring cooking techniques on display at Whakarewarewa
Traditional hot-spring cooking techniques on display at Whakarewarewa

Whakarewarewa is a New Zealand settlement that styles itself as "the living Maori village." It is located in the central North Island, in Rotorua, which is famous for its extensive geothermal activity.

Geothermal activity provided an ample source of energy to the Maori, with steam and hot water freely emitting from the ground, which they used mainly for cooking and bathing.

But later generations of the Maori residents of Whakarewarewa have used the village's thermal resources not just for heating, bathing, washing and cooking, but for tourism.

Entrance to Whakarewarewa
Entrance to Whakarewarewa

The Pink and White Terraces were still in existence at that time, about 20 km away. The people of Whakarewarewa took advantage of the curiosity of European settlers to see this natural wonder by acting as guides. (Unfortunately, the terraces were destroyed in 1886 with the eruption of Mt. Tarawera.)

Monument to pioneering guides of Whakarewarewa Village
Monument to pioneering guides of Whakarewarewa Village

Then, in 1883, the government established Rotorua as a spa town, and by 1894 Rotorua was connected to Auckland by rail. This further boosted Whakarewarewa as a village that turned tourism into its livelihood.

Village Tour

Traditional Maori dance performance, Whakarewarewa
Traditional Maori dance performance, Whakarewarewa

The village of Whakarewarewa is almost entirely Maori in terms of the people living there and the style of the buildings. Tourists are taken through the village with stories of how it has survived amid this almost unearthly landscape, including disasters such as the eruption of a nearby volcano in the late 19th century.

Visitors can see how Maori have traditionally made use of the geothermal resources, and how they live their lives, entertain themselves, and carry out the practices and rituals of Maori everyday life. Furthermore, they get to hear the stories associated with each natural feature and understand how Maori lore draws so intimately on the land.

Geothermal Nature Trails

Walkways around the geothermal features surrounding Whakarewarewa Village
Walkways around the geothermal features surrounding Whakarewarewa Village

There are several walking tracks around Whakerewarewa of differing lengths and degrees of fitness required. They take the visitor through unspoiled native forest and past bubbling mud pools, geysers, and steam eerily wafting from the ground here and there, making for a landscape unfamiliar to most visitors.

Unlike the village tour, the nature walks are self-guided.

The geothermal landscape of Whakarewarewa Village
The geothermal landscape of Whakarewarewa Village

The Name: Whakarewarewa

Long as the name might be, Whakarewarewa is actually an abbreviation of a phrase that means "The gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao" Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, but goes back several generations to the Te Arawa tribe, which has inhabited the area the village is in for over six centuries.

Access - Getting There

17 Tryon Street
Tel: 07 349 3463

Rotorua Airport is 9 km to the northeast. It has flights to Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Rotorua i-SITE is at 1167 Fenton Street. From here long-distance buses leave for Auckland, Napier, Taupo, and Wellington.

Nearby

Pohutu is the largest geyser in New Zealand.
Pohutu is the largest geyser in New Zealand

Pohutu is the largest geyser in New Zealand. It erupts up to 20 times a day sending hot water 30 metres into the sky. The name translates as "big splash" or "explosion" in Maori.

The Prince of Wales' Feathers geyser is adjacent and reaches a height of about 8 metres. The name comes from a visit in 1920 by the Prince of Wales to the area when someone likened the geyser's shape to the feather in the prince's hat.

The Redwoods - Whakarewarewa Forest is just a little east of Whakerewarewa Village. It is suited to visitors of all levels of fitness, and a sight to see both by day and by night when it features a nighttime laser show.

Where nature and humans live in harmony: the grounds of Whakarewarewa Village
Where nature and humans live in harmony: the grounds of Whakarewarewa Village

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