Only 20 minutes drive south of Rotorua, Waimangu Valley is the youngest geothermal system of the world (this is already a good reason to visit it) and a place where the oddest things happened.
Once called Pink and White Terraces, the site was completely destroyed by the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886 and unexpectedly resurrected from ashes like a phoenix. In 1900, it became famous worldwide for the activity of the Waimangu Gayser, that abruptly started to blow-up up to 1500 ft and equally unexpectedly disappeared 4 years later.
In a geological twinkling the eco-system re-grew a spectacular landscape made of thick forests, colourful mossy rivers, steaming pools and black deep and leafy fissures in the ground.
A visit to Waimangu Valley can take up to 4 hours, depending on the track you choose. Collect your map [you can find the interactive map here] at the visitor centre and start your walk down a gentle downhill path across a lush forest.
Enjoy views of the Southern Crater from many lookouts and don't be put off if you start smelling sulfur, you are visiting a very active thermal region, after all!
After 15 minutes or so be awed in front of the steamy patterns of the Frying Pan Lake, one of the world's largest hot springs. Towering over the lake there is the Cathedral Rock, a steaming monolith made of 60,000 years old lava.
Follow the stinky river that connects the Frying Pan with Lake Rotomahana and enjoy the small white and yellow bubbling springs and the strangely coloured layered rocks around you.
Waimangu River: an artist's palette
Before the bridge, you will need to make a choice between the easy walk that continues along the river or the relatively challenging Mt Haszard Trail. Don't hesitate and go for this one to be rewarded with the most impressive views of the valley.
A three minutes climb will lead you to the tiny Inferno Crater, a misty bright blue lake blown in the side of the mountain, which is known to have a mysterious connection with the Frying Pan.
Continue the trail discovering two deep and steep sided craters formed by lava bluffs (56 m deep Fairy Crater and oddly pink-walled Black Crater) and the first glimpses of Lake Rotomahana.
Cross the road and join again the easy track. Multi-coloured silica platforms and small waterfalls characterise this second part of the valley. Relax at Warbrick Terrace while deciding whether to take the free shuttle back to the visitor centre or continue the walk towards the lake where you can embark on a 45 minutes boat cruise around the lake.
Thank you for the very nice article about our wonderful valley, but your readers should know that it is not something you can do in Christchurch, (situated in the South Island of New Zealand). Waimangu Volcanic Valley is found in Rotorua, in the Bay of Plenty area of New Zealand's North Island.