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Hit the fresh powder trails on New Zealand's only skiable volcano or tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Witness the rumble of powerful Huka Falls or head below ground on a magical cave tour illuminated by thousands of glow worms. Then witness the majesty of gushing geysers and boiling mud pools on this 7-day touring itinerary.
Your journey of discovery through a land of fire and ice begins in Auckland city. Set within the Waitakere Ranges with twin harbours and stunning views, this city delights with incredible natural beauty, a diverse and delicious dining scene, vibrant shopping, cultural precincts, and the landmark SkyTower.
Set out only a couple of hours south and you’ll find yourself in the underbelly of the earth at the fascinating Waitomo Caves. This network of 300 known limestone caverns thrills with activities like abseiling, zip-lining and black-water rafting. One of the major highlights is simply setting adrift in the dark on an underground river to view the glowworms, spread like a blanket of iridescent stars across the roof of the cave.
Day 3 - 5
You have a choice of locations in which to base yourself as you explore the Central Plateau and North Island ski areas. Taupo town is a bustling lakeside resort town ski shuttles operating daily throughout the winter season and a buzzing cafe and restaurant scene.
You might also wish to spend time in National Park or Whakapapa Village, two smaller settlements close to the Whakapapa ski area. Ohakune, at the southern edge of the Tongariro National Park, sits serenely at the foot of the majestic Mt Ruapehu’s Turoa ski area.
Whakapapa Ski Area on Mt Ruapehu opens in early June and Turoa Ski Area opens early July, offering peak skiing and boarding all the way through to October. There are 54 runs to choose from within a total ski area of 1050 hectares and a great range of packages to suit all skier or boarder abilities or simply enjoy the sightseeing chairlift to lunch at Knoll Ridge Cafe, New Zealand’s highest cafe. Whakapapa is set to be transformed for the 2019 season with a new gondola – one of only two of its design in the world – which will travel 1.8km’s through rugged and spectacular landscapes past waterfalls and snow-laden peaks to the award-winning Knoll Ridge Cafe.
If that doesn’t satiate your appetite for alpine terrain, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is also nearby. Classified as one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, this one-day hike is a spectacular journey from alpine meadows to mountain summit across a surreal landscape of craters, jewel-toned lakes and volcanic rocks.
A visit to Taupo wouldn’t be complete without a day on the crystal-blue lake fishing, boating, sailing or viewing the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, followed by a hot soak in one of the many thermal hot pools. Taupo is also an adrenaline junkie’s mecca. Jet boats, bungy jumping, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and skydiving are all on offer in this nature lover’s paradise, and be sure to experience the power and roar of the mighty Huka Falls, one of New Zealand’s most photographed scenic wonders.
Next, set your sights on Rotorua. This epicentre of geothermal activity is alive with bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers and natural hot springs that make for the ideal relaxation point after all that exploring. This central North Island hotspot also happens to be the perfect spot to immerse yourself in rich Maori heritage, with a cultural evening that culminates in a traditional hangi feast.
Any trip to the North Island simply isn’t complete without a stop at the Kaimai Ranges to follow in the footsteps of Frodo at the Hobbiton Movie Set. Transporting you to the world of JRR Tolkien’s famed Lord of the Rings trilogy, you can learn all about this real-life creation of Middle-earth. It’s a unique end to an equally unique journey.
From the Shire, a 2 hour drive will see you back to Auckland, ready to depart – senses engaged, body refreshed.