The Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley is on the north island of New Zealand and is made up of 7 volcanic craters. In geological terms, the Valley was created only recently, during the eruption of Mount Tarawera in Rotorua in 1886. At this time, the eruption split the mountain in two and opened Lake Rotomahana (meaning ‘Warm Lake’) up into a space 20 times its original size.
Waimangu means ‘black water’ in native Maori, referring to the dark colour of the water thrown up by the Waimangu Geyser, which was black with mud and rocks. Today, one of the most beautiful sights, though, is the Emerald Pools which sit in one of the seven craters. They are coloured a vivid, sparkling green by the sphagnum moss that thrives in the environment.
The Valley features a fascinating range of geothermal features such as Inferno Crater Lake, where water temperatures can reach 80°C (176°F); and Cathedral Rocks which expel billowing clouds of steam. Another attraction for visitors is the Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world, named for the sizzling, crackling noises it makes.
The valley is huge and even though there are many visitors, you will certainly not feel crowded. There is a range of options to suit everyone for exploring the area: there are paths for those looking for easy walking, advanced hiking trails and for those who like to take things at a more sedate pace, boat cruises on Lake Rotomahana from which you can see the protected wildlife refuge with its endangered native New Zealand birdlife.
As a multiple New Zealand Eco-Tourism award winner, the Waimangu Volcanic Valley is a protected scenic reserve and wildlife refuge which offers something for everyone.