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- 13 Dec 2019, 3 nights
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Taupō's staggering natural beauty makes it a bucket list-worthy destination, with clear waters, endless blue skies and mountain views. You'll find the town in the middle of New Zealand's North Island on the edge of Lake Taupō, which sits in the crater of a long-dormant volcano. There are geothermal caves and hot springs to visit, as well as breathtaking waterfalls and intricate Māori carvings around the lake. In winter, the mountains make for excellent skiing.
Most hostels in Taupō have one thing in common: spectacular views. You can stay in a Taupō landmark with a huge sundeck, or book a place with an outdoor hot tub. After a day of adrenaline-pumping activities like bungee jumping, a night in with Netflix and free popcorn might be just what you're looking for. Some Taupō hostels have male and female-only dorms, shared kitchens and common rooms, and all have free Wi-Fi.
The town of Taupō is on the edge of the lake, great for water sports, hiking and biking, and taking in incredible views. Here you'll find lively bars and pubs, as well as restaurants serving locally farmed meat and veg. In Acacia Bay is the 10-metre stone carving of Ngātoro-i-rangi, which can only be viewed by boat. To keen anglers, it's worth making the 45-minute drive to Tūrangi – the spot is famous for trout fishing. It also has mountain bike trails for both beginners and experienced riders.
The town's geology is the reason for its main attractions, like the natural hot spring pools. You can hike along geothermal paths up the volcanic mountains or through unspoiled ancient forests. The Great Lake Trail is a 71km walk or cycle that takes you through the bush and past waterfalls. Learn about the local Māori culture and Ngāti Tuwharetoa tribe by visiting Opotaka Historic Reserve or taking a look at the rock carvings at Mine Bay. You can fish for your trout supper in the lake.
Catch a flight from other cities in New Zealand into Taupō Airport and then take the train into town – it'll take just under 45 minutes. Not a fan of flying? You can travel by bus from Auckland (5hrs) or Wellington (6hrs). Rent a bike to explore on and off-road, or hire a car if you want to make long day trips. There are regular buses between the towns and villages too.