East Coast and the Volcanic Zone Sights

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Buried Village Te Wairoa

On trail overlooking Lake Tarawera

Buried Village Te Wairoa Review

At the end of the 19th century, Te Wairoa (tay why-ro-ah, "the buried village") was the starting point for expeditions to the pink-and-white terraces of Rotomahana, on the slopes of Mt. Tarawera. As mineral-rich geyser water cascaded down the mountainside, it formed a series of baths, which became progressively cooler as they neared the lake. In the latter half of the 19th century these fabulous terraces were the country's major attraction, but they were destroyed when Mt. Tarawera erupted in 1886. The explosion, heard as far away as Auckland, killed 153 people and buried the village of Te Wairoa under a sea of mud and hot ash. The village has been excavated, and of special interest is the whare (fah-ray, "hut") of the tohunga (priest) Tuhoto Ariki, who predicted the destruction of the village. Eleven days before the eruption, two separate tourist parties saw a Māori war canoe emerge from the mists of Lake Tarawera and disappear again—a vision the tohunga interpreted as a sign of impending disaster. Four days after the eruption, the 100-year-old tohunga was dug out of his buried whare still alive, only to die a few days later. An interesting museum contains artifacts, photographs, and models re-creating the day of the disaster, and a number of small dwellings remain basically undisturbed beneath mud and ash. A path circles the excavated village, then continues on as a delightful trail to the waterfall, the lower section of which is steep and slippery in places. Te Wairoa is 14 km (9 mi) southeast of Rotorua, a 20-minute drive.

    Contact Information

  • Address: 1180 Tarawera Rd., Rotorua, 3076 | Map It
  • Phone: 07/362–8287
  • Cost: NZ$32
  • Hours: Oct.–Apr., daily 9–5; May–Sept., daily 9–4:30
  • Website:
  • Location: Rotorua Environs
Updated: 02-18-2014

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