When I think of Craters of the Moon, I imagine lunar-like landscapes of bubbling craters, steam vents and colourful soils. True enough, when we paid a visit to this popular geothermal natural attraction in Taupo, Waikato, New Zealand, we were not disappointed by what we saw. 😀
Craters of the Moon Geothermal Walk, Taupo
The Craters of the Moon and the Wairakei Geothermal Field are part of what is known as the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The Zone stretches as far south as Tongariro National Park and as far north as White Island off the coast of Bay of Plenty.
It is a region of active volcanoes and geothermal activity; an area that reminds us New Zealand is a young country balanced on top of two ever-moving sections of the earth’s crust – the Pacific and Indo Australian plates.
Famed for its out of this world looking landscape, the 45-minute walk around the cratered valley treats visitors to clouds of steam hissing out from the ground, bubbling mud pools and colourful soils. The park is open 364 days a year (close on Christmas Day) from 8.30am to about 5 or 6pm depending on the season.
A Showcase of Natural Geothermal Activity
The Craters of the Moon geothermal walk is run by a charitable trust. A small entrance fee of NZ$8 an adult and NZ$4 a child (5 to 15 years) is collected to help maintain the boardwalks, grounds and other facilities at this geothermal attraction. Children under the age of 5 years enter for free.
We bought our entrance tickets at the ticketing booth on the day itself and were seen exploring the area in no time. The pungent stench of rotten eggs was the first thing that hit us. Next, were the billowing clouds of steam hissing from the ground that can be seen from miles away; it was a fascinating sight!
There are two tracks for visitors to take – the Main track and Lookout track. We started our walk on the Main track that took us around the lunar-like cratered valley, hence its name Craters of the Moon. The surface of the track is a mixture of fine gravel, sections of wooden boardwalks and elevated viewing platforms. It is an easy peasy track and is suitable for most people of all ages.
A Picturesque Landscape of Thermal Features
Craters of the Moon has a wide variety of thermal features such as large craters, boiling mud pools, steaming trenches, roaring fumaroles, and brightly coloured soils. The bright orange and red clays are formed by the action of condensed steam and acidic gas chemically altering the pumice soil.
Algae grow around some of the vents, making the soil look green. Walking around these active features and being immersed in all the thermal activities happening around us gave us an interesting experience and insight to how the land works around and beneath us.
For safety and conservation purposes, visitors are strictly advised to keep to the path at all times. Of all the interesting sights we saw at Craters of the Moon, I enjoyed the mud pools the best even though they were pretty dried up due to the hot and dry weather.
Craters of the Moon vs Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
One is in Taupo, Waikato (Craters of the Moon) while the other in Rotorua, Bay of Plenty (Wai-O-Tapu) and both are fascinating geothermal parks. Someone once told me that Wai-O-Tapu is better than Craters of Moon. From the way I see it, they are both unique and it is worth visiting both attractions.
Craters of the Moon is a much lesser-known natural attraction than Wai-O-Tapu in New Zealand and there is no doubt that the landscape and geothermal features of Wai-O-Tapu is more colourful and varied than its counterpart due to the presence of cold and hot springs and even a geyser.
However, the entrance fee to the thermal wonderland is more expensive too. Admission tickets to Craters of the Moon can only be bought at the attraction itself while tickets to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland can be bought online and in advance.
In a Nutshell
Before we head home, we went to the Lookout Point to enjoy a 360° breathtaking view of Craters of the Moon. It was a 20-minute steep climb, but the view was worthwhile indeed. It gave us a clearer picture of the unique geothermal landscape before us and the surrounding areas of Taupo in the region of Waikato, New Zealand.
Address: 171 Karapiti Rd, Taupo 3377
Phone: 0276 564 684