How to Behave… at ‘Hell’s Gate’

How to Behave … at ‘Hell’s Gate’


Not the Devil’s front door, but New Zealand’s Rotorua: a steaming, volcanic casserole. If you can stand the smell, then Hell’s Gate may be your very own slice of heaven.


  • Resign yourself as quickly as possible to the repugnant odour of rotten eggs, courtesy of the sulphurRotorua, New Zealand belching out of the rift. There is no escape.

  • At the geothermal reserve of ‘Hell’s Gate’, totter carefully around boiling lakes, where there’s nothing between you and an eternal stew in ‘The Devil’s Bath’ but flimsy little ropes.  The bubbling, demonic crators spew and seethe menacingly. With its heat source just one kilometre below the surface, it’s not surprising that Rotorua is so fiercely active. They may smell foul, but the jewel-coloured waters are certainly beautiful. The dazzling ‘Champagne Pool’ is intoxicating in all senses . Peer down unfathomable caverns, but don’t breathe too deeply; the sulphur clouds rise chokingly. Animals, birds and insects are noticeably absent.

  • Don’t be late for the Lady Knox Geyser, which performs promptly at 10.15 a.m. each morning, 108_0805courtesy of a dose of detergent. While washing their clothes, prisoners discovered that soap triggers the scalding fountain – poor them!   It’s a stark reminder of ‘what lies beneath.’

  • Brave swirling clouds of steam to admire the Kakahi Falls, the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere.

  • Visit Wai Ora Spa, perched beside Rotorua’s hissing whirlpools, for a soak in mineral-enriched, miracle-working mud. Yes, you’ll look like a hippo, with only beady eyes left twinkling, but the mud promotes skin cell regeneration and detoxification: no bad thing if you’ve been indulging in lovely New Zealand wine. Once showered, head to the red hot sulphuric pool, which overlooks the geothermal reserve.  Maori warriors bathed their wounds in these magical waters after battle, so you can be sure that your own aches and pains will be soothed.  You’ll emerge purged and radiant.

An alternative version of this article originally appeared in Moscow’s Passport magazine

Passport Magazine