Found 64 mi/103 km from Taupo, this is the oldest of New Zealand's national parks and a dual UNESCO World Heritage area, recognized for its unique volcanic features and Maori spiritual significance. The area was also immortalized as Mordor in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The park is dominated by three volcanoes: Ruapehu (depicted as Mount Doom), Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe.
Around these peaks lie hot springs, emerald lakes and lush forest. All these views and more can be taken in along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is consistently rated the best one-day trek in New Zealand. Many other hikes, both long and short, can be found throughout the park, although a guided tour may be a better option on multiday hikes.
In winter skiers flock to Ruapehu's slopes. The Tongariro River offers ample fly-fishing opportunities, while its rapids lend themselves to white-water rafting.
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