Of rotten eggs and champagne pools
Can you imagine a place where it constantly smells like rotten eggs? Well, I couldn’t. Until I came to Rotorua, also known as Sulphur City.
But it’s not actually as bad as you might think – while I never got used to the smell (in the few days I’ve been there) it didn’t bother me most of the time.
Background: Taupō Volcanic Zone
Rotorua is a bit like a witch’s cauldron. It steams and sizzles virtually everywhere in town and a whiff of sulphur hangs constantly in the air.
The Kuirau Park in the heart of town is free of charge and one gets a good first impression of the geothermal activities of the area.
Also well worth a visit is Rotorua’s Redwood forest for its magnificent collection of Californian Coast Redwoods. And – of course- you can find some geothermal sulphur lakes there, smelling disgusting but are strangely pretty and reminded me immediately of the eerie Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings films.
Wai-O-Tapu (Māori for Sacred Waters) is a pretty fascinating, unreal place and probably the most impressive geothermal field in New Zealand.
Due to dramatic geothermal conditions beneath the earth’s surface, the area has many dazzlingly colourful pools and hot springs, including the Artist’s Palette with the famous Champagne Pool, Devil’s Bath and Ink Pot as well as boiling mud pools and the Lady Knox geyser.
You can easily spend a good few hours wandering around the breathtaking Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland without getting bored – but the intense sulphur smell might go to your head (and literally take your breath away) after a while.
Taupō - Craters of the Moon
After visiting Wai-O-Tapu, Taupo’s Craters of the Moon weren’t as wowing as they could have been. Being a relatively “new” addition to the geothermal region of the TVZ, the area was significantly altered by the construction of the nearby geothermal Wairakei Power Station in the 1950s. As the pressure in the hot water systems below the earth’s surface decreased, geysers at Wairakei completely disappeared while the heat output at the Craters of the Moon increased. Soon multiple hydrothermal eruptions occurred and formed the moonlike craters of today.
The Taupo Volcanic Zone is an immensely interesting area to visit as marveling at such diverse geothermal activity is quite simply spectacular. And apart from colourful lakes and sulphur-rich air you’ll also find countless spas with natural hot pools in the area, too!