Tongariro National Park
Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's first National Park, and the fourth National Park to be created in the world.
Tongariro National Park has gained international significance by being awarded UNESCO Dual World Heritage, a status which recognises the park's important Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.
The park is home to the famous 19.4km Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the best day hike in New Zealand and one of the best treks in the world. The trek is tough and the weather unpredictable but the rewards and the sense of accomplishment are well worth it. For those who have already conquered the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, there are many other hikes and walks to enjoy in Tongariro National Park.
The Tongariro National Park has also gained much fame after the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The area was depicted as the Land of Mordor, with one of the mountains in the park, Mount Ruapehu, featured as the forbidding Mount Doom in the movies.
The Tongariro region is one that is of great significance to the Maori people. The origin of the park was originally 'gifted' to New Zealand by Ngati Tuwharetoa Paramount Chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV.
According to one legend the high priest Ngatoroirangi was frozen in a snowstorm while exploring Tongariro and called to Hawaiki, the traditional Polynesian homeland of the Maori, for fire. His prayer was answered, via the channel we now call the Pacific Rim of Fire, and the mountain erupted.
Tongariro National Park is dominated by the three volcanoes of Mount Ruapehu (2797m), Mount Ngauruhoe (2291m) and Mount Tongariro (1968m). The region has been formed by many volcanic eruptions over the last 300,000 years; as well as glaciers from the last ice age. This has created surreal colours, landscapes and textures.
The lower slopes of the mountains are covered in forest; and are home to many native birds, as well as short and long tailed bats, New Zealand's only native mammals. Today the region is popular with both hikers, and in winter skiers.