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The Tongariro National Park encircles the volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. It was gifted to the nation by Maori chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV in 1887. Just over a hundred years later, the park was awarded World Heritage Site status.
The fact that the volcanoes are active doesn't deter people from skiing down their slopes and hiking to their craters. A monitoring system provides early warning of eruptions.
The park's most celebrated activity is the 'Tongariro Crossing', a day trek that traverses the otherworldly landscape between Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Steaming craters, old lava flows and thermal lakes make the walk an unforgettable experience.
The mountains of this national park have deep spiritual significance for the Maori people. Legend has it that the high priest Ngatoroirangi was frozen in a snowstorm while exploring Tongariro and called to Hawaiki, the traditional Polynesian homeland of the Maori, for fire. His prayer was answered, via the channel we now call the Pacific Rim of Fire, and the mountain erupted.
The lower slopes of the mountains are blanketed with forest, which provides a habitat for many native birds. New Zealand's only native mammals, short and long tailed bats, also live in the park.