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Our Tongariro travel tips:

  • Tongariro regionThe high Desert Road to the south (State Highway 1) is more dangerous than others, there can be snowfall in May or October, with frosty surfaces at night and if something happens, help is pretty far away. On the other hand the wilderness is exciting and the distances feel epic, as are the views into Tongariro National Park. The Desert Road ends at Waiouru with New Zealand's main army camp, where you can visit the National Army Museum.
  • Tongariro National Park: Instead of taking the Desert Road you can drive on the western side of the gigantic volcanic plateau with its three volcanoes, Ruapehu (2797 metres), Ngauruhoe (2291 metres) and Tongariro (1968 metres). Ruapehu usually has snow on its peak, and in winter the ski fields reach down to its Whakapapa base - an eerie view in summer. Its crater lake is warm and with every eruption there is a risk that a deadly lahar avalanche with water and debris may wash down into the valley. Ngauruhoe is even more active, its current shape an adequate choice for portraying Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films.
  • The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is probably the best day walk in New Zealand because of its unique volcanic features, views and the athletic challenge - a very long day's walk for untrained visitors indeed. The distance is 19.4 kilometres and the altitude difference 900 metres. There are shuttle services to the start and end points. Only super fit climbers should attempt a side trip to the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe, the descent to the bottom is very long anyway and you may run out of time and knees by the end of the day... Get yourself very well informed about the weather forecast at the DOC and visitor centres, because sudden fog and snowfall can quickly turn a nice walk into a nightmare. Please don't leave any rubbish in the National Park.

Where adventure begins

The 800 square kilometre Tongariro National Park (a World Heritage Area) is the centre of attraction for this region. It was gifted to the country by the local Ngati Tuwharetoa people, who recognised that a treasure so precious needed to belong to all New Zealanders.

The park protects three of New Zealand's most dramatic natural assets - the active andesitic volcanoes Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. On a clear day at any time of the year, the mountains are an awe-inspiring sight. Their cones and surrounding lava fields provide amazing opportunities for adventure and exploration.

Ruapehu's main settlements are the ski towns of National Park and Ohakune, the army town of Waiouru and the rural service centre of Taumarunui, nestled on the banks of the Whanganui and Ongarue rivers. Local knowledge and expert guides make it easy to discover the region's famous hiking trails, fishing spots, kayaking, canoeing, horse riding and mountain biking experiences.

Volcanic hiking: Gifted to the nation by the Ngati Tuwharetoa, Tongariro National Park enshrines three massive active volcanoes. Unforgettable hiking trails, including the famous Tongariro Crossing, run around and up

Winter sports: Imagine skiing or snowboarding on an active volcano. On Mount Ruapehu, it's a reality. Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas will tempt you with world class facilities and a huge range of runs - from beginner to advanced.

See here for hotels in the Tongariro region.

Source: Tourism New Zealand

The best Tongariro walks

  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing (6-8 h), from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi
  • Tongariro Northern Circuit - eine of New Zealand's 'great walks' (3-4 days), Whakapapa
  • Taranaki Falls Walking Track (2 h return), from the Whakapapa Visitor Centre
  • Silica Rapids Walking Track - to white silicate terraces (2,5 h return), from the Whakapapa Visitor Centre
  • Tawhai Falls Walk (20 min return), State Highway 48, near the Whakapapa Visitor Centre
  • Waitonga Falls Track - a 39 m high waterfall (80 min return), access via Ohakune Mountain Road
  • The walking brochure from the Department of Conservation features countless other walks in this region

The best Tongariro lookouts

  • Tongariro Summit (2 h return to 1967 m), additional to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Mt Ruapehu Crater Climb (5 h one way to 2672 m), via the Whakapapa Ski Area Chairlift from Iwikau Village
  • Ngauruhoe Summit (7 h one way to 2287 m), from Mangatepopo
  • Waituhi Saddle Lookout, on State Highway 41
  • Waihi Hill, near Turangi, also on State Highway 41
  • Pihanga Saddle, on the Saddle Road to Mount Ruapehu
  • Te Peka Lookout, 30 min return from Ongarue River Bridge, Taumarunui

The best Tongariro museums

  • National Army Museum, Waiouru

Map of the Tongariro region

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