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Guest Post by my buddy and baby daddy Tom Wilson

Step Into An Alien World On The Tongariro Trek

Have you ever been somewhere that feels like a different world?

The Tongariro trek is like that.

shaye in front of the emerald lakes on the tongariro trek
The I-can't-believe-how-green-they-are pools

You can imagine aliens living there...

  • Black boulders dot the landscape... the perfect cover for watching eyes.
  • Sulfurous steam spews from cracks in the ground... entrances to an underground lair?
  • And those enchanting green pools... surely a mirage designed to lure you to the queen mother.

Some friends and I recently took a trip to the Tongariro National Park in the central North Island. We hiked the famous Tongariro crossing, a day trip across an active volcanic field. And although we didn't see any real aliens, we did see some out-of-this-world scenery.

If hiking through an alien landscape sounds like fun to you, then you will love the Tongariro trek. Read on to learn more about this strange and beautiful place...


Human Friend - Are You Up to The Challenge?

the beginning of the tongariro trek
The beginning of the Tongariro trek before you climb the mountain

If you're reasonably fit, then the Tongariro trek is the perfect 1 day hike. It's 19.4km long and takes around 7-9 hours to complete at an average pace.

The hike takes you between 2 active volcanoes, Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe. It's steep terrain and you climb to a maximum altitude of 1869m at the red crater. That's a long way up!

If you're super fit and looking for a challenge, you might like to try one of the 2 optional side trips. One goes to the summit of Mt. Ngauruhoe. The other goes to the summit of Mt. Tongariro. These are meant to have amazing views.

If you do decide to walk these, you'll need to get to the park early and move quickly. Each side trip adds about 2 hours onto your total walk time. I would have loved to do these but I couldn't because we ran out of time.


Encounter weird lunar landscapes

the alien landscape on the tongariro trek
It's like walking on the moon

The landscape on the Tongariro trek is amazing. It's not your typical picturesque scenery. It's a harsh environment, similar to what I imagine the moon looks like.

There are vast fields of boulders left over from past eruptions. It's steep and mountainous terrain. Even the plants are stunted.

You wouldn't normally associate these with being beautiful. But despite the barren landscape, it really is breathtaking.

The higher you go up the mountain the better the scenery gets. You can see 360 degree panoramic views of the Tongariro national park. My favourite view was this photo overlooking the central crater, the blue lake and the emerald lakes.

what a landscape
My favourite view on the New Zealand Tongariro trek


Experience wild weather that invigorates the soul

it gets very cold on the tongariro trek. Ice will form on your eyelashes
The cold weather wakes you up alright

The weather changes quickly on the Tongariro trek. You're either boiling hot from the scorching sun or freezing cold from the icy wind. There doesn't seem to be much of an in between.

This sort of weather makes you feel alive and invigorated. But you need to be prepared with plenty of warm clothing.

On the way up to the red crater, the wind got so cold that my eyelashes froze!


Discover unforgettable emerald pools

beautiful emerald lakes at the tongariro crossing
Tom walking to see the beautiful emerald lakes

I had seen photo's of the emerald lakes before the trek. But I hadn't given them much thought after that. I was mostly just looking forward to the walk.

But when I saw the emerald lakes in real life, my jaw dropped!

They are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Photographs don't even scratch the surface of how beautiful they are.

In such a barren landscape, their vivid colours jump out and grab you by the eyeballs.

The emerald lakes were my favourite part of the trek by far. We ate our lunch next to them so that we could soak up their beauty for as long as possible.


Experience Exciting Volcanic Activity

staring into the red crate on the tongariro trek
Looking into the red crater you can see steaming vents and bright red minerals

The Tongariro trek is an active volcanic field. Which means the volcanoes you're standing on could explode at any time. Exciting huh!

Everywhere you look you can see signs of this volcanic activity.

  • The emerald lakes are bright green because of their high volcanic mineral content.
  • Fumaroles vent hot sulfurous gases into the air.
  • The red crater is full of bright coloured mineral deposits.
  • Hot streams trickle down the mountainside.

Mount Tongariro erupted on August 6th 2012. But don't worry, nobody was hurt and it's back open for business! It was just a small eruption and they continually monitor the volcano for seismic activity... So you should be safe ;)


Explore these Mysterious Volcanoes With Friends and Reduce Costs

Explore the tongariro national park with friends
The Tongariro crossing is the perfect New Zealand adventure travel destination to go with friends

The Tongariro trek is a great social event. Everyone I've ever spoken to who's done the trek has gone with a big group of friends.

It's more fun that way and it cuts down the price too.

We booked a house out in the National Park village for 2 days to share between 7 of us. It was about $120/night split between 7. A measly $17 per night per person.

You can find Kiwis who rent out their baches (holiday homes) on or


Avoid These 4 Perilous Mistakes!

1. Missing the bus home

We saw lots of people miss their bus and we almost did it ourselves. It's a 30 minute drive back to civilization and after a full day of hiking - we did not want to walk it! Shaye and I had to run ahead to ask the bus driver to wait for the rest of our group. Luckily the driver kindly waited an extra 15 minutes for us. But it was close.

The Tongariro trek is surprisingly long. Make sure you set a good pace to reach the buses on time.

2. Drinking the night BEFORE your walk

Like I said, the trip is usually quite a social event and some people get a little over-excited. They head to the pub the night before the tramp.

Not a good idea! I can't think of anything worse than a hangover on the Tongariro crossing.

It's a much better idea to head to the pub after you've finished the trek. Plus, this way it will dull the pains of your tired body!

3. Not taking enough food

The Tongariro trek is a big walk. Throughout the day you'll burn a lot of energy. Make sure you take enough food because otherwise your energy will crash on the final stretch when you need it most.

4. Going during the busiest periods

The Tongariro trek is popular. In the peak season (November to April) it gets between 500-700 walkers in the day. This can feel a little crowded on the track at times. Especially at the beginning when everyone is starting the walk. As the walk progresses, people drift apart and it feels a lot better.

If you want to avoid the peak times it's best to go during a weekday and during non-school-holiday times. You can also go during off-peak season.

How To Book Your Adventure

tongariro national park
Shaye and I posing in front of the emerald lakes

I loved my Tongariro trek. It was strange and beautiful. And wow, those emerald lakes... I will never forget them!

If you'd like to explore this alien world too then I suggest going to this website. It's got info about how to book.