Ngauruhoe and Tongariro overview

Tongariro – fire ‘carried away’ or ‘seized by the cold south wind’

For a one page fact sheet / poster on Tongariro's volcanoes click VolcanoFactSheetsTongariro2012.pdf (568.43 kB)

Tongariro is a massive complex of volcanic cones and craters formed by eruptions from at least 12 vents over more than 275,000 years. Erosion during the last Ice Age has worn away what was once a substantial mountain into the world famous hiking destination that it is today. The complex includes Ngauruhoe volcano which is described separately here.

Within the landscape of ash, lava flows and erosion features, Tongariro has mineral springs and fumaroles (steam vents) at Ketetahi Springs, the Red Crater and Te Maari craters. These are part of New Zealand’s highest geothermal system which underlies parts of the volcano.

The Red and Te Maari craters were previously active in the 1800’s. The Te Maari area has become active again in 2012.


Altitude, steep slopes, ‘fresh’ volcanic material and erosion prevent vegetation growing on most parts of the Tongariro complex. Some craters have filled with water to create the spectacular Blue Lake and the Emerald Lakes. Check out our video of the landscape features of Tongariro here.

GNS Science monitors Tongariro and Ngauruhoe with 4 seismographs, a microphone, chemical analysis of water and gases, 3 continuous GPS stations, and 3 web cameras.

Check out our giant Gigapan panoramas of Red Crater, the South Crater and the Mangatepopo Valley at the start of the Tongariro Crossing.