The Tongariro National Park encircles the volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu and features some of New Zealand’s most contrasting landscapes.


Tongariro National Park – covering almost 80,000 hectares – was gifted to the nation by Maori chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV in 1887. Just over a hundred years later, the park was awarded dual World Heritage Site status.


Emerald lakes, alpine meadows and hot springs surround the largest volcanoes in the North Island, offering an environment of stunning diversity.


All three volcanoes are very much alive, with Mount Tongariro erupting as recently as August 2012. But this doesn’t deter people from skiing down the slopes and hiking to the craters – a monitoring system provides early warning of eruptions.


The park's most celebrated activity is the 'Tongariro Alpine Crossing', a one-day trek that traverses the otherworldly terrain along the slopes of all three mountains.


Steaming craters, old lava flows and thermal lakes make the walk an unforgettable experience.


At 2797, 2291 and 1968 metres respectively, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are sizeable volcanoes. Tongariro's huge massif extends over 18 kilometres in length - classic, cone-shaped Ngauruhoe is actually one of Tongariro's vents. Ruapehu had the honour of playing Mordor and the Emyn Muil in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the near-perfect comical shape of Ngauruhoe was the basis for Mount Doom.


The mountains of this national park have deep spiritual significance for the Maori people. Legend has it that 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.


The lower slopes of the mountains are blanketed with forest where alpine herbs, tussocks, flax and low-growing shrubs provide a habitat for many native birds. New Zealand's only native mammals, short and long tailed bats, also live in the pa