Rotorua is often referred to as the ‘birthplace’ of tourism in New Zealand – but do you know why? Throughout the first half of the 1800’s, people would journey from all over the world to see the geothermal wonder that was the Pink and White Terraces, and to learn more about Māori culture, mostly via performing arts. The Pink and White terraces were unfortunately destroyed in Mount Tarawera’s 1886 eruption, but the world’s fascination with Māori culture lived on. Today no visit to Rotorua would be complete without experiencing our rich and unique ways of life.
Choosing how to experience Māori culture in Rotorua can be a little tricky – each experience is unique and unforgettable in its own way. To make your decision easier, here’s a quick overview of how each of Rotorua’s cultural experiences differ, and the types of manuhiri (guests) they suit the most.
Whakarewarewa – The Living Māori Village (from $45.00/adult)
This Marae is not just for looking at – being a real Māori village, it is often home to funerals, weddings and meetings.
One-of-a-kind Whakarewarewa is New Zealand’s only living Māori village and is as authentic as it gets – and yes, people really live here! Whakarewarewa Village is the legacy and home of the Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people who have been sharing insights into their culture and ways of life since those very first travellers arrived in the early 1800’s. Tourism in itself has helped our people embrace and preserve their culture into the modern day – and this is visible via the passion and pride you’ll see in our guides. Set amidst hot pools, boiling mud geysers, including Pōhutu Geyser and steam vents, a visit to Whakarewarewa is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The daytime experience involves a guided tour, cultural performance and access to stunning walking trails in and around the village. It’s a cultural experience that seamlessly combines traditional and modern ways of life, and promises to forever change the way you see the world around you.
Trip Advisor has recently awarded Whakarewarewa with both the 2018 Certificate of Excellence and 2018 Traveller’s Choice Award.
- Daytime experience
- Guided cultural tours include the world-famous Pōhutu Geyser, authentic historic landmarks including Wharenui (meeting house)
- Live cultural performances twice daily (three times in summer)
- Meet and greet the locals who reside in the real living village
- Nature trails to explore through native New Zealand bush
- Traditional Māori hangi meals available, cooked in the Village’s steam boxes and geothermal hot pools
- Manuhiri (guests) looking to experience authenticity – this is a real living Māori village: Whakarewarewa is the real deal!
- Families who would prefer a daytime experience to an evening experience
- Great value; an easy choice for all budgets
Te Puia (from $56.00/adult)
Whilst not a village, located in Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, Te Puia is home to the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute and it shares the world-famous Pōhutu Geyser with Whakarewarewa – The Living Māori Village. Offering both day and evening experiences that can be purchased as a combo package, Te Puia is committed to preserving the natural and cultural treasures it safeguards. This is one of the only places in Rotorua where you can witness master carvers bringing their work to life.
- Day and evening tours
- A kiwi house & viewing enclosure
- Home of New Zealand’s Māori Arts and Crafts Institute
- Explore Te Whakarewarewa’s Geothermal Valley and Pōhutu geyser
- A model pre-European Māori village and sacred marae
- Traditional Māori hangi meal
- Cultural performances
- People looking for both a daytime and night time experience in one
- Great for families with children interested in seeing Māori arts & crafts in action
Tamaki Māori Village ($130/adult)
Cultural storytelling forms the fabric that ties everything together at Tamaki Māori Village. Recently rated Top 10 in the world by Trip Advisor 2018, an evening at Tamaki Māori Village enthrals and entertains audiences with its captivating and interactive elements. From learning the haka, to discovering how Māori first came to New Zealand, to hearing a song about a famous love story, this is an experience guests rave about.
- Major award-winning 3.5 hour Evening Experience
- Learn and engage in poi dance and the haka; discover cultural myths and legends
- View your hangi being pulled up from the earth
- Witness live cultural performance; spanning traditional to contemporary song and dance
- Traditional Māori hangi buffet meal
- Bus transport to and from Rotorua accommodation included
- People looking for an immersive, memorable, interactive evening experience
- Those wanting to learn the haka
- Appeals to a wide range of people – from families to couples and youth travellers
Mitai Māori Village (from $118/adult)
Crafted by the Mitai Family, a visit to Mitai Māori village delivers an indigenous cultural experience that incorporates a traditional hangi meal, cultural performance, warrior canoe and a sacred freshwater spring. Guests also get to see resident glow worms, and view their hangi being prepared beforehand.
- All-inclusive evening tours
- Crafted and performed by the Mitai family
- Traditional Māori hangi meal and cultural performance
- Best value evening experience in Rotorua
- Guided native bush walk with glow worms
- Those who are price or budget conscious
- Guests interested in seeing glow worms as well as having a cultural experience
- Guests not wanting to travel too far: the location of Mitai Māori village is very central and bus transport is included
A visit to Rotorua is the perfect opportunity to experience and better understand Māori culture. From myths and legends to customs, performing arts and kai (food), the culture proudly showcased with the world in Rotorua is incredibly varied, unique and rich. Each of these experiences offer something unique. Have a think about which one suits your travel style and itinerary, or, to get a feel for what others think of each option, take a look at TripAdvisor.