Welcome to Hell’s Gate in Rotorua, New Zealand

While you probably won’t run into Satan, a visit to Hell’s Gate in Rotorua, New Zealand, will immerse you in a world of boiling natural ponds, smoking sulfur pits, active volcanoes, and the Inferno, two violently erupting geothermal pools. The area, which was originally called Tikitere, looks so much like a trip to the underworld that when Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw set his gaze on the area he immediately dubbed it “Hellsgate”, as that’s where he believed he was. In fact, it is said that Shaw, who was an atheist before visiting the site, converted his religion after spending a week there.

While New Zealand is located on the chaotic “Ring of Fire”, Rotorua itself sits on the country’s volcanic plateau, causing erupting geysers, mud pools, steaming fumaroles, and boiling hot natural pools. Hell’s Gate itself formed over 10,000 years ago when an ancient lake emptied into the sea.

Along with being unique in landscape and natural features, Hell’s Gate also has a rich history. The local Maori people have lived on the site for over 700 years. During those early years a young Maori princess named Hurutini, whose abusive husband was the Chief of the tribe, threw herself into one of the boiling pools to “remove the shame of her people”. Sadly, Hurutini died in the pool, which now bears her name.

Despite the area’s resemblance to the nether world, the natural properties found in the geothermal features of Hell’s Gate actually make for a holistic and healthy experience. The sulfurous hot waters are good for healing wounds while black geothermal mud can help to cure arthritis and rheumatism. There is also an ice cold white mud that changes back and forth from liquid to solid that is used to relieve burns, and a grey mud that exfoliates and nourishes the skin. Luckily, there is an on-site spa where you can try all of these mud-healing treatments for yourself.

For a better idea of what Hell’s Gate looks like, check out the video above. And keep in mind, none of this is man-made.