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Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in New Zealand

The thermal wonderland amuses with bright-coloured pools, daily geyser eruptions, steaming grounds, and boiling muds

Best time: September–May

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai-O-Tapu is Maori name that literally means "sacred waters". This name refers to one of the world's oldest and most famous geothermal parks. Its first visitors started coming in the late 1880s, and nowadays it remains one of New Zealand's most unique natural attraction. What makes this park particularly attractive to tourists, is a number of coloured pools. Their nice palette is good for viewing, but not appropriate for bathing. The lakes are too hot for that—water temperature in each lake is at least 60°C.

The only exception is the Devil's Bath—this is the only pool that doesn't steam, but its green to yellow colouring along with the lovely name are rather alarming than welcoming. This water is extremely acidic owing to a great content of sulphur. So even though being cool, the pool isn't suitable for swimming neither.

The Champagne Pool enjoys the greatest popularity. It is 60 m deep, and its main feature is it's the hottest basin found in the park, boasting stable 74°C.

Another bright highlight of the area is Artist's Palette set right beside the Champagne Pool. It astonishes with a variety of colour shades.

Besides the coloured pools, people also come to see bubbling muds, steaming ground and above all—the eruption of Lady Knox Geyser which occurs on a daily basis in the morning. The show is really short-lasting, so you are advised to arrive at 9:30 am not to miss it.

All in all, the area is beautiful and accessible year-round, even in the rain. The only drawback of the latter is worse photography. For the sake of great shots visit the park is the least rainy season—in the north of New Zealand most of the rain falls in winter, so spring to autumn will be a better choice, that's virtually October to April.

The thermal wonderland is located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, some half an hour drive from Rotorua.

Practical info

What makes Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland historically significant?

Wai-O-Tapu has been famous for over a century as one of New Zealand's most unconventional and spectacular natural wonders. It's an ancient geothermal park well-known for enchanting its visitors with bubbling mud, steaming ground, colourful pools, and the daily eruption of Lady Knox Geyser. The Maori name for the site is Wai-O-Tapu, which translates to "sacred waters." Show more

Are any of the colourful pools in Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland safe for swimming?

None of the vividly coloured pools at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland are suitable for swimming. They're too hot and acidic, such as the Devil's Bath, with its green to yellow hue. These hot springs serve as visual treats for tourists who come to witness the beautiful Palette and Champagne Pool, or the exciting eruption of Lady Knox Geyser. Show more

What is the temperature and name of the hottest pool in Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland?

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland's Champagne Pool stands out as the hottest of them all, remaining steady at 74°C. The pool is 60 meters deep and has a unique orange edge that transitions to various shades of aquamarine in its centre. The bright colour comes from its heavy mineral deposits, including gold, silver, and mercury. Swimming or bathing in the Champagne Pool, as previously noted, is not permitted. Show more

When is the Lady Knox Geyser eruption visible, and how long does it take?

The Lady Knox Geyser display is visible every morning, and visitors are advised to arrive promptly at 9:30 am to ensure they do not miss it. The geyser's eruption is induced artificially and reaches a height of 10-20 meters. It lasts up to an hour, gradually tapering off in intensity. Timeliness is crucial to experiencing the whole performance fully. Show more

What is the best time to photograph the area, considering climate conditions?

The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is an exhilarating place that visitors can explore throughout the year. For the most favourable weather conditions and photo opportunities, the best time to visit is from September to May, during the region's least rainy season. The North Island of New Zealand tends to receive most of its rainfall in winter. Hence, spring, summer and autumn - when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, the brilliant pools are at their finest, and the vegetation green and lush- offer better weather and more suitable conditions for photography. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin