Take a short drive out of Rotorua and explore a village trapped in time. The Buried Village of Te Wairoa is a remarkable relic of Victorian-era New Zealand, preserved by volcanic ash from the 1886 Mt. Tarawera eruption. Walk around the village and marvel at this portal to the past, nestled in the Bay of Plenty forest.The Basics
Te Wairoa was buried by volcanic ash in the devastating 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera that also famously buried the Pink and White Terraces. But much of the village was preserved by the ashes and so, over the last hundred years, archaeologists have been able to excavate many of those old buildings. You can explore the remains as you walk through the Te Wairoa grounds, which sprawl across 12 acres (4.9 hectares) of forest in the Bay of Plenty forest.
The Museum of Te Wairoa displays items left behind by people escaping the Tarawera eruptions, and exhibits explain the geological history of the region and the deteriorating relationship between local Maori and European colonizers at the time. There are also several forest walks around the buried village, including a challenging walk up to the near-100-foot-tall (30-meter) Wairere Falls.
Some half- and full-day guided tours of Rotorua include admission to the buried village.Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- The Buried Village of To Wairoa is a must-see for history and culture enthusiasts.
- Wear sturdy walking shoes and come prepared for changing weather—pack sunscreen and rain jackets.
- The museum is home to several remarkable, towering Maori carvings, as well as a Children’s Discovery Room for your kids to learn about the region’s history through play, and a scavenger hunt is available to make exploring the archaeological site more fun.
- The on-site café, Vi’s Tea House, serves coffee and light meals, while the gift store sells a range of carved jewelry and books about the history of the village and the Tarawera eruption.
- The museum and much of the village is accessible to wheelchair users, but the path to Wairere Falls is steep and not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers.
Te Wairoa is fewer than 10 miles (16 kilometers) out from Rotorua, just a short, scenic drive down Tarawera Road. To get to Tarawera Road from the center of Rotorua, follow State Highway 30A and State Highway 30 around Lake Rotorua—the turnoff is in the suburb of Ngapuna. Local taxi and shuttle operators can provide transport for larger groups.When to Get There
The Buried Village is open every day except Christmas. The village is at its busiest on weekends, so try visiting on a weekday during summer—there’s less risk of getting rained on and fewer crowds to disturb the peace and quiet of the forest around Lake Tarawera.
Guided Tours of the Buried Village
The Buried Village of Te Wairoa guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more. The site also offers Mozivision, a multimedia device that shows you where to go and teaches you more about the village’s storied past. If you want to explore solo but would still like some background information, the village has several scheduled introductory talks during the day.