Experience Māori culture in Rotorua like no other place

Here in Rotorua lies a rich tapestry of culture that has been woven over centuries.

Te Arawa Māori, with their deep-rooted tikanga (traditions), spiritual beliefs, and vibrant cultural practices, have shaped Rotorua’s unique identity, creating an enviable place to live, work and play. Over the years, Māori cultural tourism has evolved significantly, offering a bridge for visitors from around the globe to connect with the authentic essence of Māori heritage.
The origins of Māori cultural tourism trace back to the early interactions between Māori communities and European settlers. Initially, these encounters were based on trade and mutual curiosity. As Rotorua became a popular destination for international travellers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Te Arawa iwi began to share their culture more formally with manuhiri (visitors). This included marae visits, traditional performances, carvings, and storytelling, laying the foundation for what would become a thriving cultural tourism sector.
One of the earliest and most iconic examples of Māori cultural tourism is the Pink and White Terraces, once considered the eighth wonder of the world before their destruction in the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption. The surrounding areas, including what is now the Buried Village, became sites of significant cultural exchange and learning, as Māori guides led visitors through the remnants and shared stories of their ancestors.
Today, Māori cultural tourism in Rotorua is a vibrant and essential part of Aotearoa’s tourism industry, offering a wide range of experiences that allow visitors to learn about and immerse themselves in the Māori way of life. Some of the most notable experiences include:

Buried Village of Te Wairoa

This site offers a poignant glimpse into the past, showcasing the effects of the Mt Tarawera eruption on the local Māori community. Visitors can explore the excavated remains of the village, participate in guided tours, and learn about the resilience of the Māori people in the face of natural disasters.

Whakarewarewa Living Māori Village

Located in Rotorua, this living village offers an authentic experience of Māori daily life. Visitors can witness traditional cooking methods using natural geothermal features, enjoy cultural performances, and learn about the significance of geothermal activity in Māori culture.

Te Puia

Renowned for its geothermal wonders – including the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere – and the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. Here, visitors can see master carvers and weavers at work, explore the geothermal valley, and experience the powerful Pōhutu Geyser.

Te Pā Tū

This immersive experience transports visitors back in time to a pre-European Māori village. The evening includes traditional ceremonies, performances, and a hāngī feast cooked in an earth oven.

Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa

Leveraging the geothermal riches of the land, this spa offers a unique wellness experience grounded in Māori healing traditions. It combines the therapeutic properties of mineral-rich waters with traditional Māori massage and herbal remedies.
With a growing emphasis on sustainability and genuine cultural exchange, Māori operators in Rotorua are leading the way in creating experiences that not only educate and entertain but also preserve and promote Māori culture for future generations. This involves careful stewardship of the land and resources, as well as ensuring that the benefits of tourism are shared within Māori communities.
Māori cultural tourism in Rotorua invites visitors to not just observe but to participate in a living culture that is deeply connected to the land and its ancestors. Through these experiences, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the Māori way of life and the values of respect, hospitality and kinship that define it. And, as the world becomes increasingly globalised, the unique offerings of Māori cultural tourism provide a beacon of authenticity and connection in a fast-paced world.

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