Flights to Tongariro and Ruapehu: Volcanoes, ski slopes and carrots
Back to nature
Ski in winter, hike in summer. Tongariro National Park is a year-round adventure playground. Tackle Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a strenuous 19km one-day hike over the soaring craters of Mt Tongariro. Expect the surreal; moon-like landscapes, steaming volcanic chasms and bright emerald crater lakes. Cycle the challenging 42 Traverse or the somewhat lazier downhill Fishers Track. Or cast a line on your Tongariro and Ruapehu holiday. Big, fat trout lurk in rivers and lakes throughout the region.
Meet the locals
Forget skiing. Ohakune, the village at the base of Mt Ruapehu, is New Zealand's 'carrot capital'. A massive carrot sculpture welcomes you to town (for trivia buffs, it also appears on the NZ Here & Now Monopoly board game). Why? Because of the area's rich soil and gardening history. Sip carrot juice, crunch on the real thing and enjoy the carrot party.
After a day spent tramping the mountains of Tongariro and Ruapehu, take flight to the elegant, heritage-listed Chateau Tongariro and cosy up in front of opulent Ruapehu Lounge's crackling log fire. The view from the floor-to-ceiling Ngauruhoe Window has to be seen to be believed. Sip a mellow merlot as you watch the sunset colour the volcanoes red, or dine on tender chateaubriand beneath the chandeliers.
Mt Ruapehu's two snow fields, Whakapapa and Turoa, are the only fields in the world built on an active volcano. This lends a certain frisson of danger to skiing and snowboarding. Whakapapa chairlifts also operate in summer, offering easy access for climbers seeking higher climes and bigger thrills. Ruapehu's blue-green crater lake has been known to blow its stack without warning.
Where? Tongariro National Park is in the centre of New Zealand's North Island. Allow four hours to drive south from Auckland, or north from Wellington.
Key dates: In 1887, the Ngati Tuwharetoa people gave the peaks of their three sacred mountains to the New Zealand nation. These form the nucleus of today's much larger national park.
Did you know? Tongariro National Park is the first dual World Heritage park, recognized for both its natural and cultural values.
Getting about: Sealed roads lead to Mt Ruapehu's two snow field car parks. Chains might be required in winter.