The Māori culture is unique to New Zealand and the cornerstone of the country’s cultural make-up. Experiencing it is simply a must when you’re here; here’s our picks for some of the best places in the country to do it!
Te Puia (Rotorua, pictured top) A brilliant blend of Māori culture and geothermal wonder,allows you not only to catch outstanding Māori cultural performances and watch ancient Māori crafts being taught, but also to discover a geothermal and natural wonderland, and even get up close with kiwi. It’s home to New Zealand’s official Māori cultural centre, The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, with profits used to nurture traditional Māori arts, including wood and greenstone (pounamu) carving, and flax weaving. www.tepuia.com
Waitangi Treaty Grounds (Northland, below) New Zealand’s most important historical site is the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the nation’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed between Māori and the British crown in 1840. At the beautiful and historic site you can take in a guided tour and regular cultural performances during the day and a truly immersive Māori culture experience in the evening that incorporates a wero (challenge) powhiri (welcome) and cultural performance before tucking into a delicious hangi (a traditional meal cooked in the earth). www.waitangi.org.nz
Whakarewarewa – The Living Māori Village (Rotorua, below) The Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao tribe have welcomed people to their home for over 200 years, and carry on that tradition of hospitality today at Whakarewarewa, where you can take a guided tour of the village, experience authentic cultural performances, stay overnight on the marae, eat a hangi cooked in steaming geothermal waters or even receive a traditional Māori tattoo (taa moko) that tells your own unique story, all while viewing the geothermal wonders of the area. www.whakarewarewa.com
Tamaki Māori Village (Rotorua, below) New Zealand’s most award-winning Māori cultural attraction recreates a pre-European Māori village on the outskirts of Rotorua within a natural forest environment. Their complete experience immerses you in the pre-European Māori way of life and all its sights and sounds, alongside cultural ceremonies and performances, and the hangi. Overnight stays are also possible. www.tamakimaorivillage.co.nz
Kiwi Haka (Queenstown, below) You can journey through the legends of the Wakatipu at Kiwi Haka: feel the spirit of history celebrated through song, dance and weaponry displays depicting myths and legends. You’ see the fearsome haka, stunning poi displays and hear the haunting sounds of traditional instruments in their intimate theatre, surrounded by traditional decorations and mythical carved legends, Located in the Skyline complex, your Kiwi Haka experience can be combined with a gondola ride or with dinner in the Skyline Queenstown Restaurant. www.skyline.co.nz/queenstown/kiwihaka/