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New Zealand's North Island: Orakei Korako, the Hidden Valley

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Ann loves to travel at home and abroad. One's own country can provide hidden gems and wondrous scenery.

Wonders in a Hidden Valley

Nestled in a Forested Valley, hidden from View

Nestled in a Forested Valley, hidden from View

Hidden Wonders

New Zealand's North Island provides a tourist's paradise of scenery, beaches, mountains and geothermals. Many areas are well-publicised but Orakei Korako is a relatively recently discovered gem.

It's probably the best example of a geothermal valley and is also referred to as the Hidden Valley, long unknown and even now, fortunately, not on the regular itineraries of travel packages. The name Orakei Korako comes from one of the two large geysers which were at one time visible, before being obscured by the lake.

If you find the Hidden Valley, you are in for a treat! I have never seen anything which stamps the power and beauty of nature so firmly on one's mind.

Take the Boat across the River

Approach across the River

Approach across the River

Colours and Shapes

Colours and Shapes

Facilities, Access & Variety of Natural Attractions

The approach is not difficult but the entry road is not well publicised, being off the beaten track between Taupo and Rotorua, on the banks of the Waikato River, 25 minutes' drive from Taupo and 45 minutes from Rotorua. You can also travel by road shuttle or down the river. The valley is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

A café and visitor centre are near the jetty, from where you take the ferry, the only access to the thermal park.

More than 20 geysers spout here, there are hot springs, bubbling mud pools and large silica terraces.

The colours and textures are phenomenal, from the vibrant orange of sulphur to the deep greens and turquoises of the pools, some of which reach boiling point.

Creation of the Lake

The ferry takes you across Lake Ohakuri, a lake which was created by a man-made dam across the Waikato River. Two of the largest geysers (one of which was the Orakei Korako) were drowned by this lake; the resultant stretch from bank to bank is calm and easily crossed by the ferries.

The ferry arrives at the base of the lowest terrace, Emerald Terrace, over which water enriched by silica flows into the lake. It gives the impression of a large white slide, streaked with orange and flowing over rocks like ice and snow.

Rainbow, Cascade & Golden Fleece Terraces

The wonders of this place never cease. You walk across a boardwalk track which provides easy walking but is not suitable for wheelchairs or for those relying on 'walkers'. The tracks take you past lakes of mud, pools and geysers, then up and down shaded tracks through dense foliage.

I've been told that In the 1960s, you were allowed to wander where you wished, the river was shallower and crossed by jet-boat and there were no facilities. It was even more of a hidden valley then.

Each terrace offers sights of beauty, colours through the spectrum, and a variety of terrain from rocky to flat to muddy lakes of bubbling pools. The Golden Fleece Terrace is 5 metres high and 40 metres long.

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Walkways to Guide you through the Terrain


Map of Africa

It will take you 1 to 2 hours to walk round the thermal park but you can spend longer to fully explore the whole area, providing you don't miss the last boat at 4pm in the winter or 4.30pm in summer.

The Map of Africa is a beautiful dark green pool amid an orange and white landscape, an extraordinary sight which gives you a feeling of being on a different planet. Nature provides scenes with which no landscaping of man can compete.

Pools, Sulphur & Geysers

The Deep Green Pool called Map of Africa!

The Deep Green Pool called Map of Africa!

White/grey Rocks, Mud & Steam

White/grey Rocks, Mud & Steam

Hubble Bubble

Hot Mud bubbling up to a Wide Pool in the middle of a vast mud-filled lake

Hot Mud bubbling up to a Wide Pool in the middle of a vast mud-filled lake

How Deep does it Go?

How Deep does it Go?

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Diamond Geyser & Soda Fountain

Diamond Geyser is unpredictable. One can wait a long time for it to 'perform' but it's worth waiting for. Eruptions can last from a few minutes to several hours. The boiling water which shoots from the depths can reach up to nine metres.

In the cockney vernacular, a 'diamond geyser' (pronounced 'geeser') is someone who is a kind, well respected person. Hence the caption beneath the photo!

Another feature ot the valley is the Soda Fountain. It had been dormant for 17 years but re-emerged, bursting into life in 1984.

Ruatapu Cave

The Ruatapu Cave, reached by a track through lush foliage before steps take you down to a turquoise pool, is one of only two caves in the world known to be found in a geothermal area.

This cave extends 45 metres with a vertical drop of 23 metres, to a pool of turquoise-clear, warm, acid water, rich in sulfates. Its chemical properties enable it, uniquely, to clean jewellery.

It is a wondrous part of this park, the water is deep and beautiful, the air still and peaceful, away from the drama of bubbling mud and erupting geysers.

Outside the cave is a plaque in memory of a local guide, who directed visitors here but who died in Libya in World War II. You can see the full text below.

Plaque erected in Memory of Atama Mikaere

Leave war and strife behind you.

Erected to the memory of Atama (Adam) Mikaere. His spirit hovers in this lovely cave where, as a lad, he guided and delighted visitors with his manly bearing.

He rests in the far Libyan Desert, killed in action 1941, aged 22 years.

Also in memory of his brother Witaiana Mikaere, killed in action 1941, aged 19 years.

A Wondrous Place

One of the hidden wonders of the world, Orakei Korako makes you feel insignificant in the midst of its natural phenomena.

It is a privilege to be in the presence of such awesome beauty and power.

Make an effort to find the Hidden Valley and you will not be disappointed.

There is nothing like it.

Organised visits or impromptu exploration?

Nature, Cities or Theme Parks

Others in the 'Exploring the Back Roads of.....' series

© 2013 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 05, 2018:

You won't be disappointed, Pamela!


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 05, 2018:

Dear Ann, You really insprire me to pack my bags and go!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 05, 2018:

Thank you, Pamela, for popping in this morning. Yes, I love NZ and it is probably the most beautiful place I've ever visited. The colours and the scenery are spectacular.


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 04, 2018:

Dear Ann,

That area in New Zealand is absolutely fascinating. I would love to visit and take in those sights in person. I loved all the pictures and great information. I had a friend in high school that became a nurse, and the moved to New Zealand. I understand she loves it.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 03, 2017:

Thank you for your kind comments, Kenneth. I love writing and I love photography, the passion for both of which I get from my father who was a much better photographer than I.

I appreciate your support.


Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on November 02, 2017:

Dear Ann,

Simply fascinating work! Loved how you laid this out. Very magical looks in your photography.

You are not just a Very Talented Writer, but a Very Talented Photographer.

Keep up your fine work, Ann.

Write soon.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 10, 2015:

Makendra: Thank you for reading and commenting.

Makendra on December 29, 2014:

There's a terrific amount of kngedwloe in this article!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 13, 2014:

DDE: NZ is stunning all over but the Hidden Valley is outstanding in its beauty and its uniqueness. I've never seen anything quite so impressive apart from the Northern Lights!

Thanks for reading and commenting. Ann

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 13, 2014:

Newzealand looks a beautiful place the photos are outstanding.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 19, 2014:

Well, thank you, tobusiness, for such a kind comment! I'm glad to rekindle the travelling bug in you and I hope you get to see this magical place sometime. Ann

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on January 18, 2014:

Ann, you've rekindled the travelling bug in this old girl! Your New Zealand articles are superb, the images are incredible powerful.

Well done.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 11, 2013:

prasetio30: Thank you for your comments and the vote. I hope you manage to visit this wonderful place and I appreciate you visiting here!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on December 11, 2013:

Wow...fantastic and beautiful place. I had never heard about this place before. Thanks for sharing with us. I'll put on my travel list. Voted up :-)

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 11, 2013:

rebeccamealey: Thanks for your kind comment and for the votes. This place truly is awesome and I don't use that word very often. I appreciate you stopping by.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 11, 2013:

Hi Dolores. It is an 'outofthisworld' spot. The best bit is that they don't shield you too much from the mud etc; it makes you part of it all. Apparently, they used to let people just wander about as they pleased! Haven't heard of anyone disappearing into the bubbling geysers!

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Ann

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 10, 2013:

How awesome! The next best thing to being there. Votedawesome and beautiful.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on December 10, 2013:

Hi Ann, thanks for sharing this awesome spot with us! I've always thought of New Zealand as a sort of magical faerie land, even before I found out they shot the Lord of the Rings there. But this spot is so weirdly beautiful! I do think that I'd like some railings on that walkway though!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 30, 2013:

mylindaelliott: Thank you for reading and for commenting. It is indeed an amazing place.

mylindaelliott from Louisiana on November 29, 2013:

It sounds and looks amazing.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 25, 2013:

Thank you Eddy. Great to hear from you. Glad you enjoy armchair travelling with me! A little sunshine in Somerset today and I'm off to see my children & grandchildren for a couple of days. Cheers to you! Ann

Eiddwen from Wales on November 25, 2013:

What a truly beautiful and interesting hub annart. Just the job fir my armchair travelling ;a great asset to any rainy day .Here's to so many more for us both to share on here and I send you lots of love from my little corner of Wales.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 21, 2013:

Thank you sallybea. I'm sure you enjoyed the place as much as I did; I just love everything about New Zealand and I've been fortunate enough to visit much of both islands.

Yes, I had already linked yours and would be delighted if you could do the same for mine. Thanks again. Ann

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on November 21, 2013:

annart - this is such a beautiful place. I have been fortunate to travel there when I went to visit the North and the South Islands. From a photographers point of view it is wonderful - I was fascinating to see one an Aboriginal man boiling a few eggs in a pot in one of the hot baths.

I would be very happy to link my own Hub 'Exploring the Back Roads of Paris and a French Market - Marché Pyrenees' to this one in the Back Road series if you would like to do the same.

Thank you,


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 20, 2013:

Thank you Jamie, glad you like it; definitely the stuff of dreams! They say it's the best of its kind. I greatly appreciate you stopping by. Ann

Jamie Lee Hamann from Reno NV on November 20, 2013:

I will have dreams of this place you described. Beautiful and a great addition to the series. Jamie

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 19, 2013:

always exploring: Thank you for reading and for your kind comment. It's the place itself that inspires the presentation and gave me the dramatic photos! Good to see you.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 19, 2013:

CraftytotheCore, thank you for such a lovely comment. It is amazing, not to be missed if you're in New Zealand. Thanks for popping in to read. Ann

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on November 18, 2013:

This is interesting and informative. I would love to see this in person. Excellent presention...

CraftytotheCore on November 18, 2013:

Wow What A Place! I would love to visit there. As always, your photos and writing are exquisite!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 18, 2013:

I found the others by pure chance; there are probably more as we speak and I guess it's difficult to always find them all. Glad you like it and thanks for linking mine too. You're welcome, I think it's a great idea of yours and it seems to have taken off so well! You should be proud - you've started a hub craze!! Or should I say fashion? Well done!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 18, 2013:

Fantastic! Well done, Ann, and thank you so much for taking part in this series. You linked some I wasn't even aware of. I guess I'd better get busy. I'll link yours to mine and then go read the others. Thank you very much.

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