Since the early 19th century, Rotorua’s natural hot springs, bubbling mud pools and active geysers have attracted many visitors.
Māori culture and history infuses Rotorua life. The town of Rotorua, on the shores of Lake Rotorua, is home to the Te Arawa iwi – one of New Zealand’s larger Māori tribes. In fact, one third of Rotorua’s population is Māori.
Rotorua was discovered about 600 years ago by a Māori leader called Ihenga. According to legend, Ihenga was out hunting food for his pregnant wife when one of his dogs ran away after a kiwi. When the dog returned with a wet coat and threw up a half-digested fish, Ihenga realised that there must be water nearby so he explored the area, discovering Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotorua. (Rotorua is a māori name, meaning “second lake”.)
Rotorua offers a rich Māori experience based on many local legends and long cultural history.
At Whakarewarewa, a living Māori village in an active geothermal setting, residents still use natural resources for cooking, washing and bathing. Guided tours include bubbling mud pools, mineral springs where families bathe, and local cuisine cooked in thermal waters and traditional hangi ovens: Whakarewarewa
Te Puia, an important Māori culture centre, has visitor experiences covering traditional artforms, carving and weaving, Māori story-telling, and authentic cultural performances.
Another way to be immersed in the Māori culture while in Rotorua is to experience one of the incredible evening performances and hangis provided either by Tamaki Tours or by the Mitai Māori village. Your māori guides will tell you local māori stories, history and protocols, and the sound of ancient Māori instruments and songs together with traditional performance create a palpable, electric atmosphere. At the end of the evening you will enjoy a traditionally-cooked feast (a hangi) from earthen ovens.
You can read more about these evening performances on the following websites:
Another option is a personalised tour with local Māori guides, who offer in-depth Māori cultural experiences by taking visitors off-the-beaten track into the region and the local culture.