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Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Created in 1887, Tongariro National Park was New Zealand's first National Park, and the fourth National Park to be created in the world. Tongariro National Park has now gained international significance, by being awarded Dual World Heritage site status.

Located in the central North Island of New Zealand, approximately midway between Auckland and Wellington, on the southern side of Lake Taupo; the nearest towns of significance are Turangi, National Park and Ohakune.

The Tongariro Region is one that has great significance to Maori people. The park was originally gifted to New Zealand by Maori Chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV. According to one legend the high priest Ngatoroirangi was frozen in a snowstorm while exploring Tongariro and called to Hawaiki, the traditional Polynesian homeland of the Maori, for fire. His prayer was answered, via the channel we now call the Pacific Rim of Fire, and the mountain erupted.

Tongariro National Park is over 18 kms in length, and is dominated by the three volcanoes of Mount Ruapehu (2797m), Mount Ngauruhoe (2291m) and Mount Tongariro (1968m). The region has been formed by many volcanic eruptions over the last 300,000 years; as well as glaciers from the last ice age. This has created surreal colours, landscapes and textures.

The lower slopes of the mountains are covered in forest; and are home to many native birds, as well as short and long tailed bats, New Zealand's only native mammals. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mount Doom was Mount Ruapehu.

Today the region is popular with both hikers, and in winter skiers. There is a warning system that monitors the mountains, to provide an early notification in case of eruptions.

Hiking in Tongariro National Park

There are many Tongariro Walks that you can do. Tongariro National Parks most popular hiking trip is the day hike on the "Tongariro Alpine Crossing". This crosses past thermal lakes, steaming craters and old lava flows past the peaks of Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, a truly amazing experience. Another great one day walk is the Ruapehu Crater Lake Walk.

If you have the time, the 3 to 4 day trek around the "Tongariro Northern Circuit" is well worth doing, with its even more spectacular with its weird boiling mud pools, fumaroles and craters. These hikes are part of the New Zealand "Great Walks" network.