The very core of New Zealand bubbles up and breaks the surface in Rotorua, one of the big tourist hotspots of the North Island. Rotorua is quite literally alive. It breathes steam through cracks in the road, shoots soaring water geysers beside spectacularly coloured lakes and bubbling mud and boiling hot pools are dotted all around this geothermal town.

The town is surrounded by 18 lakes and native forest. You’ll find plenty of adrenalin-inducing activities to make you long for a hot spring soak at the end of the day.

To spend a weekend in Rotorua is hardly enough time to scrape its remarkable surface, but here some highlights that Expedia travellers love.

The Smell

Lets address the elephant in the room. Yes, the scent of sulphur wafts through the air in Rotorua. It stings the nose of the first-timer but locals aren’t bothered. And after a few days in town, you’ll hardly notice it either. As long as the fiery depths let off steam all day, every day, there isn’t any risk of a big blow out.

Te Puia

Rotorua is also home to some of the best Maori cultural attractions in New Zealand. For a great insight into Maori culture, visit this cultural institute for at least a few hours or even dinner. Te Po is described as a “feast of story telling, entertainment and Maori cuisine”. You’ll be officially welcomed with a powhiri and experience the haka (warrior’s challenge) up close and personal. If you stay for the evening show, you’ll have food cooked in a hangi (earth oven) along with more contemporary cuisine.