Exploring Tongariro National Park: Why you need to visit Lord of the Rings Country

written by:
Rachel Stewart


Exploring Tongariro National Park: Why you need to visit Lord of the Rings Country

Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro… the all enchanting and all incredible mountains that form part of Tongariro National Park.

I grew up on the North Island of New Zealand, and it is still my home to this day. Although we don’t quite have the abundance of mountains that the South Island does, we do have this very special part of New Zealand that is rich in cultural significance, powerful in its spectacular landscape, and a place where winter wonderland meets the North Island.

Peter Jackson chose to film parts of the Lord of the Rings movie series here in Tongariro National Park, and it’s no surprise why when you look at what’s on offer. Rocky landscapes, deserted hills, majestic waterfalls and not to forget those incredible mountains.

Perhaps the most famous of the scenes is where Mount Ngauruhoe was used as a stand-in for the fictional Mount Doom. This gained the mountain worldwide attention and Lord of the Rings fans come to visit this area just to see those famous scenes in the flesh. You can also find locations that were used for the Gates of Mordor, Mordor, Gollums Pool… just to name a few.

Having said that, there is so much more to this region on offer other than the incredible movie scenes.

If you are an adventure enthusiast, then this is where you need to be. If you are into snow sports and love to hit the slopes, then this is where you will find some of the best ski fields in the North Island.  If you like short daywalks, bike rides and taking things at a slower pace, the region is full of easy paced activities for anyone and everyone. Whether you are an avid Lord of the Rings fan looking to retrace the movie locations, someone looking for an adventure, or a family looking for activities you can do together, I encourage you to visit this part of NZ on your next travel adventure.

I will leave you with some photos from my experience here, and hope that it might inspire you to visit too. I was not able to visit the whole region, and unfortunately most of the time I was there Mount Ruapehu was under a big cloud (!), but here is a snapshot of the places I visited and also a list of Lord of the Rings sites you can visit in New Zealand.

Sunset on The Road to Mt Ngauruhoe – Mount Doom
Mangawhero Falls (Ithilien Camp)


Accessed from the Ohakune side of Mount Ruapehu, this beautiful drive through native forest up to the Turoa Ski Field is one that should be on your to do list.

Mount Ngauruhoe as seen from Bruce Road – Whakapapa
Whakapapa Ski Field (Isildur cuts off Sauron’s finger and the ring in this area).
Taranaki Falls under the Milky Way – Mount Ruapehu

Taranaki Falls is a short 2 hour return walk from Whakapapa Village. Even in the dark its an incredible sight. I had seen many photos from this spot but the sheer scale of these falls can not be appreciated unless seen with your own eyes.

Lord of the Rings sites in NZ that you should also visit:

1# Tukino Ski Area – Tongariro National Park

2# Rangipo Desert – Tongariro National Park

3# Tawhai Falls – Tongariro National Park

4# Hobbiton – Matamata, Waikato

5# Kawarau Gorge – Queenstown

6# Mt Sunday – Canterbury

7# Putangirua Pinnacles – Wellington

8# Skippers Canyon, Queenstown

9# Twizel, Canterbury

10# Kepler Mine, Te Anau

11# Snowden Forest, Fiordland

12# Mt Victoria, Wellington

13# Waiau River, Te Anau

14# Mavora Lakes, Fiordland

15# Twelve Mile Delta, Queenstown

16# Paradise, Glenorchy

17# Mt Gunn, West Coast

Rachel Stewart

Rachel Stewart is a self-taught landscape, travel and adventure photographer based in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand.

With a passion for nature, art, adventure and exploring, Rachel’s photography can be characterized by her desire to seek out and find the beauty created by the natural world.

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