Tongariro Northern Circuit

Country: New Zealand
Location: Northern Ireland
Outdoor Activity: Tramping
Duration: three days
Sustainable tourism rating: écotourisme-5-SOL

Into the Wild is one of my favorite movies, and since I saw it I have not stopped feeling the need to become one with nature.
However, we do not all have crazy ideas or the spirit of this young adventurer, this modern hero who leaves everything to finally feel alive exploring the great outdoors.

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If you’re like me, adventure is in your heart, fond about nature but also attached to your urban life, a trek will give you a generous taste of what it is to get detached from all civilization’s advantages.

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Tramping is accessible to everyone, regardless of age or physical condition, there is something for all tastes and all levels.
The interest in leaving for several days (except for carrying a big backpack 🙂 ) is to be able to immerse yourself in a world of tranquillity and spectacular beauty that spices up your life when the routine starts to get you down!

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Checklist to make your first (tramping) trek a success:

– Prepare physically before the start (fitness, cardio, endurance)

– Bring the right equipment. A trek in summer at 1500 m does not require the same equipment as one in winter at 4000 m. Knowing the length of your hike is also essential to know exactly what are the provisions needed.

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– Find a teammate. Even if you are a solitary person, it’s always good to be accompanied. Otherwise inform your relatives by giving them the exact route you will follow.

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– Watch the weather and be equipped accordingly (a rainproof jacket is a must).

– Kilometres are important but also be aware of the change in altitude when you plan your trip.

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– Carry a good map, a compass and check the water points on your way.

– Choosing quality equipment is essential! Shoes that give you blisters after a few hours of walking will quickly sap your enthusiasm for the track
Same for the tent or clothing …

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Now that you know all about tramping, just choose the time and the place to begin your adventure.

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Our favorite tramping in New Zealand: The Tongariro Northern Circuit!

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This hike of 3 to 4 days is one of the DOC’s Great Walks. Over a distance of 43km, you will discover a rich and varied ecosystem. Active volcanoes, volcanic lakes, snow-capped peaks, emerald blue rivers, forests of pines and ferns, deserts, rocks that rise in the middle of nowhere and vegetation that resembles the pampas – all of it to give you enough choices to fill your camera!

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The SoL team tested this three-day track with a night at Mangatepopo Hut and a second one at Waihohonu. Both huts have been rebuilt and the quality is impeccable. The rangers are also very friendly. Only one negative – there were too many people in the room and we slept very badly. If you are a light sleeper and you go there in summer, opt for camping as this is cheaper and you have access to the communal kitchen and all the facilities of the hut. One night in a hut will cost NZD 32 / person while in camp you can have for NZD 14 / person.

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At every hut you can refill your water, it must be boiled but it’s drinkable enough 😉 we put some tea in it to give it more flavor ;).

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The first day begins at Whakapapa Village and ends at Mangatepopo (At the DOC’s Visitors Center you can leave your backpacks if you have heavy stuff that you do not want to take with you). 8.5km which DOC considers feasible in 3 to 5 hours if the weather is not good (in our opinion this hike should be banned if it rains because the ground becomes too slippery!).

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We got lucky and the sun accompanied us throughout this adventure.

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The first part includes a short detour towards a beautiful waterfall but you can also see it on the last day.
The scenery is awesome and these first hours are not difficult!

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Our second day had nothing to do with the first one. It started badly because we did not sleep at all and in addition it was very cloudy, preventing us from seeing the spectacular landscapes on which the path winds.

After a walk of half an hour we passed everyone. The clouds also began to dissipate gradually, and we decided to film our journey. Unfortunately our super GoPro camera failed us after 20 minutes of recording…

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But the sunbeams, which unveiled the landscape, offered us a beautiful show and we could not stay upset.
If the climb was quite physical, the view that we had at the top of the Mount Mangatepopo was unspeakable: crater lakes (you can even swim in the Blue Lake), green valleys, snowy peaks everything is perfect everywhere you look!

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In addition, as we left the refuge early we met the sunrise at the peak before the tourist crowds had arrived. Indeed, 75,000 people hike here each year because is part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (which only takes one day, but we do not recommend it because it is so crowded …).

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After a nice aperitif the descent is much less funny! The sun begins to hit hard and the slippery soil is more suitable for sledding down that for hiking.

I hadn’t fallen over but my knees were starting to annoy me a bit and two Swiss guys had passed us (They make the trek in one day!)
We caught up with them at the next hut where we stopped for lunch.

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The afternoon was less difficult because the hike traverses less abrupt scenery and it ends in a dense forest where the sun cannot penetrate. There is even a river where you can cool off!

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At the hut, we met as usual very friendly people with whom we had a lovely evening.

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The last day comprises of 14.3 easy kilometres meandering through breathtaking landscapes that change from one moment to the next – we do not get tired at all. Over the last kilometres, the rain caught up with us and hiking was much less enjoyable but all is well when you know you’ll have a hot shower and a good meal after days of canned tuna and noodles.

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If our journey inspired you and you have the opportunity to visit New Zealand for holidays, you have all the necessary information and more technical details here. Remember to book huts or campsite early: it’s fully booked a few weeks in advance during peak season.

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4 thoughts on “Tongariro Northern Circuit”

  1. You can definitely can you just need to follow your heart and discover the beauties of the nature all around the world!

  2. Found your post as doing the northern circuit in 2 days’ time. Have done the crossing before. It’s very hot at the moment so your tips in dipping in the river to cool off were very welcome. Thanks so much for sharing. Can’t wait xx

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