Rotorua sits on the edge of one of the most awesome and concentrated volcanic areas in the world. In every direction is tangible evidence of a riotous geological past extending back millions of years. The Te Arawa people settled the area in the mid-14th century, and their descendants began tourism in the area in the 19th century, guiding visitors to the famous Pink and White terraces. The 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera destroyed the terraces, but the legendary Maori hospitality lives on. Coupled with enough daredevil activities to rival Queenstown's reputation as New Zealand's adventure capital, the famous welcome continues to draw international visitors at a rate of 1.6 million a year.
Volcanic activity was also responsible for the formation of Lake Taupo. In A.D. 186, an enormous eruption -- estimated to have been 100 times greater than that of Mount St. Helens in 1980 -- tore a savage hole 30km (20 miles) wide, 40km (25 miles) across, and 180m (600 ft.) deep. Today, we're thankful for that. Where would New Zealand holidaymakers be without the cool blue waters that provide ideal conditions for fishing, water-skiing, and boating?
South of Taupo lies Tongariro National Park, home to three volcanoes. Tongariro was New Zealand's first national park (the world's second after Yellowstone), and today it is a winter playground for skiers and a perfect place for summer tramping.