Emerald Lakes on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. © Breathing Images

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: one of the best one-day walks in the world


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Look, we wouldn’t want to oversell it or anything, but the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered to be one of the ten best one-day walks in the world. Uh-huh. Quite a claim.

Ask anyone who’s done it – and that’s a few hundred thousand by now – and they’ll tell you it’s one of the best things they’ve done ever.

Now, let’s clarify a few things. It’s a 20km walk over some steep terrain which, if you keep moving, will take you six to eight hours. But there’s no prize for racing it; it’s so spectacular that you will want to take your time. Because in that 20km you are going to catch views that you will just want to stand and soak up – colour-drenched lakes, red-rimmed craters, dark, forbidding volcanic rock. That’s before you look up and see the mountains. On a clear day, you can see all the way across to Mount Taranaki. That’s a view that takes some beating.

And if you’ve got the time – make the time, we say – you can summit Mounts Ngauruhoe and/or Tongariro. Our woollen hats off to you if you do, but if you don’t, you’ll have still have achieved an amazing and unrivalled undertaking.

To experience alpine conditions without having to take half an outdoors store with you is a chance not to be missed. Sure, in winter, you’ll need an ice axe, crampons, a guide and the willingness to feel like you’re on the set of Game of Thrones: ‘winter is coming’ and all that. But in summertime, well, it’s a slog at times, but a totally do-able one.

So yep, it’s popular. Hence it can look less like the craters of the moon and more like a Goretex catwalk. But the landscape will soon win you over. And you will finish wondering only one thing: when can I come back and do it again?

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