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Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand.

Tongariro National Park is one of the three places in New Zealand recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other two are Te Wahipounamu and the Subantarctic Islands.

Tongariro National Park
The volcanic landscape of Tongariro National Park


The Tongariro National Park covers the area of three mountains in the centre of the North Island, all sacred to the Maori. The mountains, Ruapehu, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe are part of an area that is still active volcanically.

Mount Ruapehu at 2797 metres is the tallest of the three and is very active. It erupted in 1953, 1969, 1973 and most recently in 2007.

Mount Tongariro at 1967 metres is the lowest and northernmost of the three mountains, which the Maori believe are warriors battling against each other.

The youngest of the three peaks is Mount Ngauruhoe which was chosen by director Peter Jackson to portray Mount Doom in the Harry Potter trilogy of movies.

The National Park is crossed by several hiking trails taking in the crater lakes and volcanic landscape of Tongariro and the outstanding natural beauty of the oldest National Park in New Zealand.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The most famous hike is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, part of the longer Tongariro Northern Circuit. The approximately 6 to 8-hour, 19.4 km tramp is walked by around 100,000 people each year. The trail begins at Mangatepopo Road car park off State Highway 47 and ends at Ketetahi Road off State Highway 46. The walk can be hazardous so please come prepared with the correct clothing and sufficient supplies of food and water. A number of companies offer guided walks.

In the winter snow season from June to November, skiing and snowboarding replace the summer activities of hiking, cycling, and climbing in the area. In addition, the park offers opportunities for paddleboarding on its crater lakes and fly fishing, canoeing and rafting on its rivers including the Whanganui River, New Zealand's third-longest.

The main ski resorts are at Whakapapa and Turoa on either side of Mount Ruapehu at around 2,300 metres. There are runs to suit all levels of experience and the ski lift pass covers both slopes. Ohakune is the main après-ski hangout with a number of standout bars and restaurants.

Crater lake in the park.


Whakapapa Village in the heart of the park with a population of just under 4,000 people is a popular place for visitors to stay. Some recommended places here are Skotel Alpine Resort with a hot tub and a terrace bar and the large and historic Chateau Tongariro Hotel with a 9-hole golf course and a cinema.

12 km west is National Park Village, the highest urban township in New Zealand, at 825 metres. There are more accommodation options here including several Alpine-style lodges such as National Park Alpine Lodge built in 1912 and offering budget, backpacker-style accommodation.

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand.

Access - Getting There

From Auckland, Tongariro National Park is an approximately 4-hour drive due south on Highway 4. From Wellington, Ohakune, the southern entrance to the park is 3 hours, 30 minutes on Highway 1. Buses from both cities also run to the park, though the journey time is 5 hours, 30 minutes from Wellington, and 6 hours, 30 minutes from Auckland. There is a shuttle bus service (Tel: 027 394 1498) operating from National Park Village to various destinations in the park and beyond.

The Northern Explorer train from Auckland to Wellington operated by KiwiRail Scenic stops at National Park Village and Ohakune. The Northern Explorer Auckland to Wellington train leaves Auckland Strand station southbound on Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 7.45 am arriving in Wellington at 6.25 pm.

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