If Queenstown is the adventure capital and Auckland the coastal cosmopolitan hot-spot, then Rotorua is the cultural heart of New Zealand. Rotorua has longstanding Maori ancestries and ancient cultural traditions that are alive and well. Learn about the fascinating tribal life, traditions and beliefs at Mitai Maori, a small village in Rotorua. Sample traditional ‘hangi’ cooking, food such as fish and chicken, and root vegetables. Head to Te Puia to watch live Maori performances and check out the national schools of weaving and wood carving. Te Puia is situated in the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. Here, be sure to see the Pohutu Geyser, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere with eruptions that reach 100 feet high! The entire Whakarewarewa Valley is chockfull of ancient bubbling pools and unique traditions dating back centuries – like using the Ngāraratuatara geothermal pool to boil fresh food inside special flax-woven baskets. A visit to the thermal spas and mud baths is a must.

Rotorua also offers outstanding excursions through forests of towering redwoods. Explore on foot; or for a faster paced experience, canopy walk, bike or zipline is on offer. For even more excitement, raft the impressive Kaituna River and its waterfalls.

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Lara Ray