Published: July 2009

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Fire and Ice

Enter the otherworld of The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park.

By Mel White
Photograph by Stuart Franklin

As you contemplate the heart of Tongariro National Park— three peaks that rise in one of the most beautiful places in the famously beautiful country of New Zealand—you may well find questions of aesthetics intruding on your appreciation of the spectac­ular scene before you.

To the south looms the craggy mass of Ruapehu, at 9,176 feet the tallest peak on the North Island. Built by 250,000 years of volcanism, it's still active today—waking every few years to send up enormous columns of steam and ash. To the north is Tongariro, even older, a sprawling complex of ancient craters where vents continuously and ominously exhale sulfurous clouds.

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