Wow, could I have picked a more beautiful place for my first multi-day (& first solo) hike?!
I took 4 days/3 nights to complete this roughly 45km hike, although certainly you can do it in less time if you're fitter than me (one group of guys did the whole thing in a day!)
The hike goes through the Tongariro National Park & basically loops around Mount Ngauruhoe (AKA Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings movies) with views of Mount Ruapehu off to one side (that's the one that still has some snow on the top!) & Mount Tongariro to the other.
There's multiple active volcanoes in the park that have created some gorgeous volcanic landscapes complete with alpine lakes and streams.
The Tongariro Northern Circuit is one of New Zealand's "great walks" (of which there are 9, although one is in fact not a walk at all, but a canoe journey) and as such has a number of fantastic huts to stay in if you'd prefer not to carry your own camping gear. Each hut has mattresses, gas stoves, water, and toilets, plus in the great walks season the huts here each have a live in ranger. They cost $36 per person per night and usually book out well in advance. This hike also overlaps with the much more popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing day walk in parts, meaning a nice quiet track quickly becomes a busy highway, then just as quickly you find yourself in peaceful solitude again.
Now being in an alpine region, and being my first multi-day hike I'm not gunna lie, this was HARD. There was alot of ups and downs (literally) & that pack felt VERY heavy despite doing my very best to keep the weight down (I'll put up a post of what I carried in there soon!).
Needless to say my body is definitely feeling it today. I was also very lucky to have near perfect weather - it's certainly not always like this and conditions can turn from serene to treacherous very quickly.
But for scenery like that I'd say it was all worth it!
And for any novice hikers I seriously recommend joining the group "hiking in Australia and New Zealand". They were a wealth of knowledge as well as being super supportive. I definitely wouldn't have had the balls to do this without them!