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Orakei Korako Geothermal Park is the Earth’s equivalent to an oil-painting. It’s is about the closest you’ll get to walking on Mars. As you cross the Waikato River by boat and speed toward a colorful and steaming rainbow of yellow, green and blue algae, it feels like you’re crossing an inter-planetary vortex. By all accounts you’re transforming into an alien…Because it’s hard to believe this place actually exists on Earth!
If you can stomach the faint aroma of smoked bacon and the strange smell of slightly off eggs, you’re in for a real treat when visiting the Orakei Korako, New Zealand’s answer to Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Although not quite as awe-inspiring as Yellowstone, the hidden valley of Orakei presents some intriguing and unbelievable earthly delights like bubbling hot springs, gushing geysers (or steaming clouds of boiling water in layman’s terms) and rare geo-thermal caves that will float even the most nerdish National Geographic-lover’s boat.
Described by Lonely Planet as “arguably the best thermal area left in New Zealand and one of the finest in the world”, the park itself is one of the most-concentrated and highly active geothermal areas in Rotorua and Taupo’s Volcanic Zone, most notable for its series of fault‑stepped sinter terraces.
As you step off the boat (*cough* space-shuttle) and onto the wooden path that winds and climbs its way around the park, the first thing you’ll feel is the intense heat from the gurgling, boiling water beneath your shoes (and it’s about this time you thank your lucky stars you wore rubber soles). Designed to take a leisurely 1-hour walk, the path takes you through countless natural wonders and vistas (cue perfect photo opportunities) before finally teleporting you right back where you started (the boardwalk when the speedboat dropped you).
The admission fee of $36 NZD per adult is slightly on the expensive side, but when you take into the account the costs associated with allowing this unique place to stay put it seems more bearable. Don’t forget your sandshoes!