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In 1993 Tongariro became the first property to be inscribed on the World Heritage List under the revised criteria describing cultural landscapes. The mountains at the heart of the park have cultural and religious significance for the Maori people and symbolize the spiritual links between this community and its environment. The park has active and extinct volcanoes, a diverse range of ecosystems and some spectacular landscapes.
You have probably seen images from Tongariro National Park before without knowing it. Mt. Ngaruhoe which is inside the park was made famous as the fictional Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. It is a popular location for skiing and trekking in New Zealand and is one of the highlights of the North Island. It is a day’s drive from Auckland and should be on your list of places to visit if you ever find yourself on the North Island.
How to Tongariro National Park
It is easy to get to Tongariro National Park. The starting point of your journey is in Tongariro Alpine Crossing wherein you will be traversing good quality and paved roads with stunning scenery. Another starting point would be at the Whakapapa ski area at Mt. Ruapehu. Both of these starting points require a travel time of 20 to 35 minutes in order to get to Tongariro National Park.
If you are starting off from Lake Taupo township, the travel time can be up to 1 hour and 35 minutes. All of these jumping off points provide a unique view that you can enjoy along the way.
Basic Facts About Tongariro National Park
- The Tongariro National Park is the first national park in New Zealand (the fourth in the world). When it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it became one of few sites that held dual status as a national park and world heritage site. That is also when it gained international significance and attention.
- The park showcases the importance of the Maori culture and spiritual associations in the region. Plus, it highlights the volcanic features in the area. It is a mixed site recognized for its natural and cultural value.
- There are three volcanoes within the park: Mount Ruapehu (2,797 meters), Mount Ngauruhoe (2,291 meters) and Mount Tongariro (1,968 meters). The volcanic activity and eruptions contributed to the geological formations in this region of New Zealand.
- The climate in the park is a temperate zone. It also gets a significant amount of rainfall. But temperatures can drastically change even within a day. The average temperature is 13 degrees Celsius. In the summer, it can go up to 25 degrees Celsius while winter temperature can average at -10 degrees Celsius.
- The Tongariro National Park is visited by approximately 1 million visitors annually.
The rich biodiversity in the national park offers plenty of tourist activities in the area. The most popular of these activities is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. More than 70,000 hikers go to this park each year to conquer and complete this hike. It is considered to be one of the best hiking trails in the world as it offers fine views of Mount Taranaki and Lake Taupo.
In addition to hiking, tourists also love to ski in the park. There are several ski areas in Mount Ruapehu and tourists flock here during ski season that kicks off in July. For non-skiers, tubing and tobogganing are other popular activities.
View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in New Zealand.