Named after the nearby lake and nicknamed Sulfur City, Rotorua is a small New Zealand North Island city known for its geothermal activity, a quirk that leaves the smell of Sulfur forever drifting over the city, and makes for an adventure-strewn environment.
In fact, you’ll probably want to head straight for the volcanoes and coat yourself in a mud pool or watch a geyser spraying water high into the air, things you just can’t do everyday. To get a great overview – both literally and metaphorically – head for Mt Tarawera, a dormant volcano with a cratered heart, from which you can stare down at lakes formed by years of volcanic eruptions and tectonic friction. To make the most of the natural offerings found in Rotorua, head for one of the natural spas, where you can drench yourself from head to toe in mud or take in a bubbling, naturally heated spa. You’ll have to get used to the eggy stench, though.
It’s hard not to be seduced by Rotorua’s volcanic side, but there’s plenty more to lap up, too. Take the abundant Maori culture, which you can sample in watching the dances and concerts, or explore the indigenous cuisine in a delicate marae meeting place. Native dragon boating is another big draw, while for those with plenty of energy, mountain biking through the hilly scenery or white water rafting down the world’s most vicious commercially available rafting sight are equally essential.
In fact, the town itself is unlikely to even get a look in, with most of the region’s visitors heading for the hills, floating on the lakes or paying out for a flight over it all on for the majority of their stay. The scenic vistas here seem all but endless. When you are hanging around town, make the most of a homestay and indulge in a different kind of kiwi hospitality.
New Zealand has a mammoth international reputation for extreme beauty and breathtaking destinations. Rotorua is as good as any, and – if you can get used to the sometimes-overbearing smell of Sulfur – a place you’ll find very hard to leave.