Te Puia

Top choice Cultural Centre

in Rotorua
Image by Marco Simoni / Getty Images
Image by Marco Simoni / Getty Images

Te Puia dials up the heat on Māoritanga (things Māori) with explosive performances from both its cultural troupe and Pōhutu (Big Splash), its famous geyser that erupts around 20 times a day, spurting hot water up to 30m skyward. It erupts in tandem with the adjoining Prince of Wales’ Feathers geyser. Also here is a kiwi conservation centre and the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, where you can watch students at work.

Daytime visits (Te Rā) include an informative guided tour of the entire complex (departing on the hour), which also features a wharenui (carved meeting house), a re-created precolonial village (Te Puia is on the site of a Māori Village that was inhabited for 600 years), the kiwi enclosure and a large chunk of the Whakarewarewa thermal zone. After the tour you're welcome to wander around at your leisure. It's well worth paying extra for the cultural performance (10.15am, 12.15pm and 3.15pm), incorporating a traditional welcome into the wharenui and a 45-minute kapa haka (traditional song and dance) concert. The three-hour Te Pō (night) experience starts at 6pm and includes a cultural show and a hāngi meal, followed by a tour through the thermal zone in a people mover.

The Arts and Crafts Institute houses the national carving and weaving schools, and you're free to watch the bone and wood carving and the flax weaving.