New Zealand, Reviews, Rotorua, Travel Review 18

Review of Te Puia, Rotorua – largest geyser in southern hemisphere and learning about Maori culture

Rotorua has it’s fair share of stunning landscape features that draws in tourists from all over the world. With it’s abundance of thermal springs, mineral rich mud ‘spas’, volcanic activities alongside with a rich Māori history of the Te Arawa people, it is no surprise that this region of New Zealand is a tourist destination hotpsot. On our last trip we made it just to Wai-O-Tapu and that was very unique indeed!


We wanted to explore more natural features during our 5 day campervan trip around Rotorua, but it was difficult to choose which cultural activity and tour to go with for experiencing a Haka performance and learn about Maori history and culture.  There are several Māori villages based here all providing a variation of Haka dance and cultural show, the famous Hangi meal, seeing a working village and its arts and crafts and possibly some geothermal activity on site.

Te Puia stood out amongst the others as it was also home to the Pohutu Geyser, largest geyser in the southern hemisphere and ranked amongst the top 5 geysers in the world by Lonely Planet. There were other active geysers in this 60 hectares geothermal valley.  Te Puia  is located just 5 minutes from central Rotorua so it is quite convenient to get to. Its is situated in the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley home to more than 500 geothermal wonders. There is an Arts and Crafts centre here where you could learn about traditional weaving and wood carving. As part of the guided tour, you get to walk around several of the natural areas of interest, see the bursting geysers which goes off several times a day, you get to visit the weaving and wood carving schools, learn about meeting house, visit the Kiwi enclosure and enjoy an authentic Haka dance and cultural performance.



There are different tours you can book where you combine tour and performance or you can have just tour or add in a traditional Hangi meal cooked using ancient geothermal techniques.  We booked the Te Rā + Haka which was the tour plus performanceWhen we entered the place, you immediately see the 12 carved spiritual guardians of the local Te Arawa tribe along with the stone in the middle which symbolizes the Earth and its Mauri – life force – which Māori believes exists in all things.


The stone is the symbol of life force for the earth and it’s mauri



We met our tour guide shortly after we arrived. The tour lasts 60-90 minutes and you are free to roam the grounds before and after the tour as well.  We didn’t think too highly of the actual tour, mostly because we felt we didn’t learn anymore than what we would have on our own just reading the signs.  Our  guide was very friendly and nice but we felt she took too long explain what the tour would include whilst standing in one spot rather than doing the tour itself! We felt it started off too slow and got rushed at the end. The guide was great for answering any questions and making sure we covered all grounds, but as far as the learning, we enjoyed it far more once the actual tour was done and we could explore at our own leisure.



Whakarewareware Geothermal Valley is close to a zone of active volcanoes so its grounds are heated by magma below the surface. Walking around this active geothermal landscape – bursting geysers, hotsprings, mudpools and unique vegetation – was just stunning, we have never experienced anything like it. Even the stones we sat at to watch the bursting geysers were warm! It’s hard to get good pictures of the geysers itself as it was a cold day and the steam all around was really dense. It was amazing to experience it all though 🙂

The Arts and Crafts centre was very interesting as well. We learnt about the fibre used to make Maori cothing, how most of it is obtained from what is commonly known as flax (harakeke). We saw a cool demonstration by this guy who was working at the weaving school on how he took a piece of the plant, scraped it and turned it into strong fibre.


The wood carving school was really interesting as well. Carving is a very integral part of Māori culture as carvings were used to record and preserve the history and culture. You had master wood carvers here who took on students that are carefully selected so that different iwi (tribes) throughout the country are represented.


We went to the Marae (meeting house) Te aronui a rua next. Our guide explained to us about the importance of the meeting house, how these houses always have names, sometimes the name of a famous ancestor or sometimes a figure from Māori mythology.  They are the centre of any cultural, or family affair which is relevant to the tribe (iwi).

pātaka – richly carved storehouse used to safeguard the heirlooms and treasures of chiefs.


A smaller meeting house Te Whare Wānanga a Hatupatu sits to the left of the main one in the centre


Once the tour was done we walked around some more exploring the mudpools and other natural features of the land. We also visited the Kiwi House but could only see the kiwi on the live camera inside their house.




At 3:30 we went into for the ceremonial entrance to the meeting house for our concert and cultural performance.  It was all really interesting and enjoyable, the kids and adults enjoyed it just as much. Details of the actual performance and its history can be found here.  The best part for us was when the boy (Ashique, Shahaar and our friend Arun) got on stage to learn the Haka from the warriors! I need to learn how to upload videos on the blog so can show a snippet of their fun performance. The other part that was extra special for us was the Poi performance. It was like going back to our roots, seeing where the beginnings of NAUR started 🙂

Just a sidenote, Ashique and I started and performed in a fire spinning troupe where we spun with Poi. We know Poi spinning originated here and I had always wanted to see such a performance.


Doing the Wero



Overall it was a really great experience which both the adults and children in our group enjoyed. A nice mix of cultural experience, being outdoors and enjoying the wonders of nature.  We left Te Puia after nearly 5 hours here. In the following picture near the entrance is the longest word I have ever seen. Our guide actually read it aloud, what a mouthful!



We received press discounts during our visit to Te Puia but all opinions are strictly our own. We would highly recommend this tour if in the Rotorua area. 

I am pleased to finally join #TheWeeklyPostcard where you get to share your travel stories and photographs by linking with us here!

The Selim Family Raasta


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  • Shere says: June 12, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    we missed this one when we were in Rotorua: we had to choose between this and wai-o-tapu. Next time will be on the top of the list!! the pictures with the steam look stunning!!

    • says: June 12, 2015 at 8:00 pm

      Yeah it’s hard to choose when there is so much to do here! We went to Waiotapu the first time but glad we got a chance to be back so could experience this too! perks of slow travel around New Zealand for a year 🙂

  • The Educational Tourist says: June 12, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    WOW! The photos are just amazing. What an incredible place to visit! Your post is inspiring!
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  • Eileen says: June 12, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    I love following your NZ adventures, I was just there for my honeymoon in April! We missed the Maori vilage but did love the thermal pool park, it was gorgeous. Great photos!

    • says: June 12, 2015 at 8:01 pm

      Thanks Eilieen 🙂 We are loving our slow travel NZ adventures! Lovely place to have a honeymoon too 🙂

  • Crysta says: June 12, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I love it! We were there a few years ago, but at night, so no photos. These are fantastic! Wasn’t it amazing?

    • says: June 12, 2015 at 8:09 pm

      It was quite amazing! I just went through your North Island travels, was fun reading the evening version of Te Puia tour 🙂

  • Brenda says: June 15, 2015 at 1:58 am

    What a wonderful place, all that nature make for great photos. I love those intricate wood carvings too. Although, they look a bit scary-lol. Thanks for the tip, will remember this tour.

  • Beth Blair says: June 15, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    I’m sold. Your photos are stunning! I’m pinning this one…

  • Tamara says: June 15, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    This looks stunning! I didn’t realize there were geysers in that part of the world, although I’m not sure why I would be surprised. I’m looking forward to seeing my first geyser next week in Iceland.

    • says: June 15, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      Iceland sounds awesome! I had a traveler who did a guest post on our blog on visiting iceland with her 5 year old, it looks AMAZING!! would love to go myself 🙂

  • Katja - globetotting says: June 15, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    I LOVE New Zealand! Sadly I only got a week in the South Island but would love to go back with the family – and for my kids to learn the Haka! Love all these photos, it looks simply beautiful.

    • says: June 15, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      I hope you get to return with your kids! It is such a beautiful country with so much to see and do 🙂

  • noel says: June 15, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Wow, what a stunning place to visit – I love that they are keeping up with their cultural and creative heritage. That wood working is spectacular!

  • Tonya says: June 18, 2015 at 2:39 am

    I think I just found another destination to add to my bucket list. It looks and sounds stunning.

  • Gemma Wiseman says: June 19, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Amazing sights round Rotorua. Love the Maori art and craft. Absolutely beautiful

  • Life, Other Than (Shannon) says: March 25, 2016 at 2:06 am

    I really enjoyed this piece – both the writing and the photos. I did not know about this place and New Zealand is in the top 5 of my next international travel destinations.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • says: March 25, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Thanks for the positive feedback! Te Puia was definitely a great place to visit and New Zealand is by far our most favourite country to travel in 🙂

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