There are so many iconic facets of Tongariro National Park. People come to this diverse piece of land to be wowed by what nature has provided. But the wonders of the Emerald and Blue Lakes in Tongariro National Park is always a highlight for visitors to the region.
As much of the area is built around the remains of volcanic eruption, Tongariro National Park is incredibly unique.
We also have the geothermal activity to thank for providing us with the mysterious hues of the Emerald and Blue Lakes in Tongariro.
When describing the Emerald and Blue Lakes, the names say it all.
The Emerald Lakes are strikingly green and the Blue Lake is the colour of the sky on a clear summer’s day.
The intensity of the colour will leave you wondering how the lakes got their bright hues.
It’s handy to know a bit about Tongariro National Park before you visit, especially if you’re planning to trek the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Let’s learn about the Emerald and Blue Lakes and how these natural wonders came to be.
How were the Emerald and Blue Lakes in Tongariro created?
Volcanic activity is the cause of most of our natural wonders in Tongariro National Park. Eruptions began more than 275,000 years ago and continued to shape the region into what it is today.
It seems Mother Nature’s most destructive events have resulted in the most beautiful natural landmarks.
The Emerald and Blue Lakes in Tongariro are also products of past volcanic activity. The lakes were formed inside craters from a mix of mineral deposits and melted snow and ice.
What gives the Emerald Lakes their colour?
The Maori name for the Emerald Lakes is I Ngarotopounamu, meaning greenstone-hued lakes. It’s the magical combination of volcanic mineral and sunlight that gives the Emerald Lakes their beautiful green glow.
The colour is created when sunlight reflects off a while layer of calcium carbonate (marl) settled on the lake bed. The marl is made when dissolving limestone reacts with the calcium naturally found in the water. Also contributing to the layer of calcium carbonate are diatoms, a form of algae. If you look closely at the marl layer, you’ll see tiny snail-like shells embedded in the lake bed.
How can I see the Emerald and Blue Lakes?
Only while walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing will you see the Emerald and Blue Lakes in Tongariro. Fortunately, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the region’s main attractions.
This 19.4km walk through the Tongariro volcanic zone is no easy feat and should ideally be completed outside of the snow season. As we’re coming into the winter months, you’ll only be able to trek the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with a guide.
The Emerald Lakes come into view just after you’ve reached the highest point (1886 m) of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. From here you can also see across to the Blue Lake which you’ll approach as you descend further.
Although they’re not quite frozen yet, the Emerald and Blue Lakes do disappear when the three neighbouring volcanoes become blanketed in snow. Avid trekkers like to see the difference in the view of the lakes between seasons so, if you fit this category, perhaps you should consider a guided trek through the Tongariro Alpine Crossing this winter.
As the snow begins to melt at the end of winter, the Emerald and Blue Lakes miraculously reappear. The green hues of the Emerald Lakes show up as bright as ever and the crystal blue water of the Blue Lake returns once more.
If you’d like to see the lakes in the biggest, brightest and most magnificent state, it’s best to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing between the months of November to April.
Remember, look but don’t touch
Both the Emerald and Blue Lakes in Tongariro are not suitable for swimming but each has a different reason behind the rule.
The Emerald Lakes are very cold and highly acidic. Often there is thermal steaming around the lakes which is also the cause of the sulphuric smell. Although the Emerald Lakes are stunning to look at, you won’t want to take a dip in any of them.
The Blue Lake, on the other hand, is tapu (sacred) and visitors are prohibited to touch the water or even eat or drink around its shores. If you’re planning on visiting the Emerald and Blue Lakes in Tongariro, you must do so with the utmost respect for the area.
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen them, the Emerald and Blue Lakes in Tongariro are always a surprising natural wonder. As they slowly come into view along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, you’ll want to stop, sit and take it all in.
Nature has created some spectacular sights here in Tongariro National Park and we’re lucky to have it all on the doorstep of The Park Hotel.
The weather may be cooling down but the outdoor adventures are ramping up.
The snow season is just around the corner and we’re getting ready for one of the best ski seasons yet.
Call us today to book an unbeatable winter experience.