The sulphuric smell that pervades Rotorua, a city on the southern shore of the North Island's Lake Rotorua, is unmistakable. This geothermal wonderland of mud pools, geysers and hot springs has been luring people to its therapeutic waters for centuries.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley is one of the best spots to witness Rotorua's unique geothermal landscapes. Formed after Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886, the area is now home to volcanic craters, rare flora and fauna and Frying Pan Lake – the world's largest hot spring. More attractions await at Wai-O-Tapu, including Lake Knox Geyser and a surreal-looking green pool.
Spas are an indulgent way to experience Rotorua's hot springs firsthand. Polynesian Spa features a relaxing outdoor mud bath, while Hell's Gate Geothermal Park & Mud Spa offers sightseeing trips between bathing sessions to see its hot waterfall and mud volcano.
Nearly a third of Rotorua's population is Maori, and their cultural presence is evident. Traditional hangi banquets and tribal performances rival the area's natural landscapes in popularity. At Te Puia, you can visit a weaving and carving school after seeing the geothermal valley. In Tamaki Maori Village, visitors can learn about and participate in the haka, listen to master storytellers and even stay overnight.
As one of the larger cities in New Zealand, Rotorua offers much in the way of entertainment. Catch a rugby match at Rotorua International Stadium, or spot endemic species such as kiwi, kea and tuatara at Rainbow Springs Wildlife Park.