A review of The Buried Village of Te Wairoa, Rotorua

The Buried Village is a museum in Rotorua, but it’s not a regular museum. It combines an inside and an outside area. A whole village. And it’s one extremely scenic (yet tragic) museum. Below is our review of The Buried Village of Te Wairoa, Rotorua!

5 of us walking toward a half buried house - real thing - in The Buried Village of Te Wairoa, Rotorua (NZ). The lava from Mount Tarawera really did it.
The Buried Village, on its outdoors part, one of the half buried houses.

We visited The Buried Village of Te Wairoa and received a discount on our family entry. The opinions are 100% ours.

It gets its name from the village of Te Wairoa – the village that was buried by the explosion of Lake Tarawera.

From their website, ‘Te Wairoa was established by the Christian missionary in 1848 as a model village, however, Te Wairoa survived for fewer than 40 years before it, and the nearby Pink and White Terraces were obliterated by the eruption of Mt Tarawera.

Visiting The Buried Village with kids

The boys inspecting a waka - Maori wooden war canoe, at The Buried Village of Te Wairoa (Rotorua, NZ). They have a good collection of artefacts that were buried by the Tarawera explosion.
The boys looking for a clue near the waka – māori war canoe. It’s one of the recovered items from the excavations

At the entry, the kids were given the first clue of the Treasure Hunt from Margaret. They didn’t even see the inside of the museum, just skipped from clue to clue, so eager to finish it.

We started by the inside of The Buried Village, Rotorua, NZ, which is very informative and has a little part for the kids. It showed how kids lived then, had books, photos, and an excavation site where kids could dig up a few items – just like the real thing.

The whole indoor part is full of models and items recovered from the excavations. It’s small and full of written information. It’s also a little bit dark. Coral was a bit scared at the beginning, but she did get used to it.

A lovely waterfall in the middle of the jungle of The Buried Village (Rotorua, NZ). We took the stairs to watch the waterfall from below - lovely thing!
Wairere Falls, a beautiful thing – you can visit only the trail leading to the waterfall for a smaller price

Then we got to the outside part of the museum, full of the half-buried houses. It’s 12 acres of the archeological site. They dug out the entrance of the houses, now people can enter them. It’s pretty cool to see how deep they ended up buried.

There are also lots of things, like a working manual water pump (which the kids loved), a house, replicas of the beautiful white and pink terraces, a waka (māori war canoe), trees, and other fun things.

The place is great. I thought it would be morbid, gloomy and dark but it isn’t. Not even close. Especially the outside part of it is very well thought of, informative and beautiful.

A cute fantail (bird with a hand-fan like tail) on the grass outside the Buried Village, in Rotorua, NZ.
The cute fantail greeting us. They’re the cutest little birds and this little guy kept us company throughout most of our time there

More to do at the Rotorua Buried Village

We met a cute little fantail (an NZ bird with a tail that resembles a hand fan, the one from the photo above) and it kept on flying around us, so adorable! It stayed with us for around 30 minutes.

There’s a route to follow at the outside part, with clear signs. It’s a very easy, flat, and pleasant walk, it should take around 40 minutes to go all the way. As a bonus, there’s the Wairere Waterfall Trail. It takes around 20 more minutes and it’s not that easy: it was muddy, slippery and full of steep stairs.

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, it was a lovely walk – just not for everyone. Nice exercise for us, and Coral, at the height of her 4 years, did all the walk all by herself (with some help on the stairs). The waterfall is beautiful and the scenery is breathtaking.

raibow trout river
The rainbow trout river – there are lots of rainbow trouts! They’re easily spotted due to their colorful bodies!

You can see Tarawera lake from far away, but it’s not even close to being the highlight of the walk. I mean, waterfalls, waterfall water spray, mud, and birds. The lake didn’t stand a chance! It was still unbelievable that that lake while being so far away, managed to bury an entire village.

At the river, we saw many rainbow trouts and it was a lot of fun finding them. Coral loved it.

The boys were really into the treasure hunt. They had to really look for the clues and they found them all. In the end, Margaret gave each of the kids (even though Melissa and Coral didn’t participate in the treasure hunt) a chocolate coin. They were incredibly happy. It’s amazing what an unexpected act of kindness can do.

buried village museum
The indoor museum at The Buried Village

To finish it…

To finish, we had hot chocolate for the kids, coffee for Angelo and a tea for me in the outside area of the café. It’s covered, so we were sheltered from the rain – that was pouring by that time. We had a lovely afternoon at The Buried Village of Te Wairoa. We highly recommend it. It surprised every one of us, in good ways.

The Buried Village prices are NZ$ 75 for a family of 4 (in 2019). Extra kids (under 15 costs NZ$ 10 and under 5’s are free. The Buried Village Rotorua prices for one adult is NZ$35.

It’s open 9 am ~ 4:30 during winter and 9 am ~ 5 pm during summer.

The Buried Village, New Zealand is a pretty cool attraction, albeit slightly expensive for adults. It really shows the power of nature – and how resilient can be.

  • What / Where
  • Minimun Stay
  • $ ~ $$$
  • Child-friendlyness
  • Best local transport option
  • Safety
  • Do we recommend it?
  • The Buried Village / Rotorua, New Zealand
  • 2 hours
  • $$
  • Super child friendly!
  • Car
  • Safe – unless the volcano erupts again
  • Yes!
The family entering the museum of The Buried Village of Te Wairoa, in Rotorua, NZ. This museum is enormous, combining the real excavation sites, waterfalls, walking trail, and an incredibly informative indoors part about how it came to be The Buried Village.
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  1. […] in there, we visited the Buried Village. We have a review here. Basically, it’s a village that was buried when Mount Tarawera erupted and […]

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