Exploring a Hidden Valley of Geothermal Wonders at Orakei Korako

When you step our of your hostel and the smell of sulfur licks your face, you know you’re in Rotorua! The city is a geothermal hotbed. When walking or driving around the city, it’s easy to catch sights of steam billowing from some unknown source behind buildings. We even notice steam rising from some of the city’s drains. The day has finally come for us to start exploring some of the geothermal wonders of the Rotorua-Taupo Volcanic Zone, and we’re heading for the most remote and off-the-beaten-track geothermal park there is, Orakei Korako!

A geothermal wonderland under the rain

Like we said, that smell of sulfur licks our face, as well as heavy drops of rain, as we leave the Planet Backpackers and hit the road towards Taupo. The windscreen wipers wipe faster than they ever have in rain that surpasses the heaviness of what we experience in Fiordland National Park, which is said to be one of the wettest places in the world. We’re not sure how this rain is going to effect our experience around a geothermal park, but at least the geothermal park might keep us warm?

Getting off the beaten track

Orakei Korako is also known as The Hidden Valley, and we can definitely see why as we drive almost an hour from Rotorua into more bush-clad areas and 14km down a road off the main highway. It’s very obvious when we approach the geothermal park revealed across the mighty Waikato River. The largest silica terraces we have ever seen divide the wild native forest around it and pump out steam seen so vividly against the cold rain. It’s a magical sight even before we have got there!

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