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Explore New Zealand: Travel through the land of Lord of the Rings

The gorgeous and, above all, diverse landscape of the two main islands in the Southwest Pacific that form New Zealand is a must for fans of Lord of the Rings. But even if you aren't inspired by visions of Middle Earth, if you're looking for jaw-dropping natural beauty, you should add a vacation in New Zealand to your bucket list. It is a land of extremes: both spectacular volcanoes and imposing glaciers are characteristic of this top adventure destination.

New Zealand fascinates with its snow-capped mountains and summery beaches, with its impressive glaciers and impenetrable primeval forests. And many of these wonders are relatively close togehter, meaning you can experience all the seasons, as well as a vast array of vegetation, all in one day. How does it sound to take a refreshing dip in the morning and head out for a mountain hike in the afternoon? On vacation in New Zealand, it's entirely possible. The island state in the South Pacific Ocean is geographically part of Oceania and lies between other exciting destinations like Australia, New Caledonia, and the South Sea islands of Tonga and Fiji. In the south, New Zealand is close to Antarctica. The north and south islands together make up a total land area of ​​around 270,000 square kilometers. And as for the rumor that more sheep live in New Zealand than humans? It could be true: only 4.7 million people live in New Zealand (a bit more than half the population of New York City). The clocks in the capital, Wellington, run a full sixteen hours ahead of EST. The currency is the New Zealand dollar.

New Zealand is a traveler's paradise, and for good reason. Adventurers with an appreciation for the diversity of nature, from icy glaciers to snow-white beaches, as well as a good spirit to enjoy the vibrant cities will have the vacation of a lifetime.

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Popular regions and destinations for your vacation in New Zealand

North Island, South Island, or both? There are a total of 29 regions to discover in New Zealand and each has its own special charm. We're here to introduce you to the most beautiful destinations in the land of the kiwis.

The most popular destinations on the North Island of New Zealand

About three-quarters of New Zealand's population live on the North Island, and Wellington, the capital, is also located on there, on the smaller of the two islands. Scenically, it is characterized by dense rainforests, but also soft green hills and rugged volcanic landscapes. Be sure to visit:

  • Auckland
  • Wellington
  • Rotorua

Auckland: New Zealand's secret capital

A relaxed, fun atmosphere awaits you in this city to the north: Auckland is New Zealand's largest city, with a unique multicultural flair. You'll get a fantastic view of the city from the  Skytower—a thrilling experience, given that you can drive up to an altitude of 220 meters via the outdoor platform. Fom Auckland it's not far to the beautiful beaches on the west coast.

Wellington: New Zealand cuisine

The capital, Wellington, on the east coast of the North Island is a charming small town with big-city influences. The restaurant scene is legendary throughout the country—supposedly there are more restaurants here than in New York. From Mount Victoria  you can see the entire city, and in the interactive Te Papa National Museum you can learn all about the history of the capital and the culture of the indigenous Maori.

Rotorua: Big thrills on the Ring of Fire in New Zealand

Geysers, hot springs, and spectacular landscapes: in Roturua it will become clear that New Zealand is right in the middle of the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a volcanic belt that runs along the Pacific and Australian continental plates. This manifests itself in the form of hot springs and the impressive Pohutu geyser. In the winter, don't worry too much about the cold: most of the houses are heated by natural geothermal energy. In Roturua, the ancient Maori culture is still alive in Maori villages.

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New Zealand highlights

A trip to New Zealand comes with numerous must-dos. These should definitely be on your travel agenda:

  • A visit to the Shire, the original film set from Lord of the Rings in Matamata
  • Whale watching in Kaikoura
  • The isolated sandy beaches in the Abel Tasman National Park
  • Franz Josef Glacier: glacier meets rainforest

South Island of New Zealand highlights

Powerful fjords, pristine landscapes, and Mount Cook make the South Island afavorite destination for nature lovers. These are the most beautiful destinations:

  • Christchurch
  • Fiordland National Park
  • Mount Cook

Christchurch, the contemplative metropolis of New Zealand

Action, nightlife, adventure: in Christchurch you can roam the city's entertainment district, stroll through markets and shopping streets and enjoy interesting flora in the Botanic Gardens. In the surrounding area you can see the world's smallest dolphins: Akaroa Harbor is a good place to keep an eye out for them. 

Pirate tip:  at the gates of Christchurch you can see the shy national animals of New Zealand, the Kiwis, up close in the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.

In the land of the fjords in New Zealand

With an expanse of more than 12,500 square meters, Fiordland National Park is the largest national park in New Zealand. Waterfalls rushing thunderously into the mighty fjords, hundreds of miles of trails that take you past stunning mountain and glacier panoramas, glittering mountain lakes, wild open plains, and fascinating wildlife like penguins, fur seals, and thousands of exotic birds.

New Zealand's highest mountain

The Aoraki, meaning "cloud piercer" in Maori, is 3,754 meters high. The ascent should only be undertaken by experienced mountaineers. Even if you won't attempt the ascent, Mount Cook National Park is worth a visit: the mighty three-thousand-meter-tall mountains dominate the alpine landscape, where the New Zealand Kea bird makes its home.

The most beautiful highlights of the North Island for your vacation in New Zealand 

"Let's go to perfect places" - this line from a song by the New Zealand singer Lorde could easily apply to her home country. New Zealand is a fascinating country that draws visitors from all over the world. In fact, Lonely Planet listed it among the trendy countries to visit in 2018! Find a summary ofcan't-miss destinations below:

  • Auckland
  • Wellington
  • Rotorua
  • Coromandel Peninsula
  • Taupo
  • Waitomo Caves
  • Tongariro National Park
  • Tauranga
  • Mount Taranaki
  • Hobbiton
  • Northland, Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga

Auckland, New Zealand's largest city

Most travelers arrive in Auckland not only because it's the country's largest international airport, but also because it's New Zealand's largest city. With a population of around 1.4 million, the city feel is quite impressive and warrants an extensive stroll upon arrival. If you like wine, we recommend a trip to Waiheke Island, as it is home to numerous wineries. Cheers!

Auckland also has several inactive volcanoes that you can climb. The ascent to Mount Eden is particularly worthwhile, as it offers a magnificent view of the entire city.

If you want to dive into the nightlife, you'll certainly end up on the notorious K Road  (short for Karangahape Road ). This road is less than 1 km long and there are restaurants, bars, clubs, hip boutiques, second hand shops, sex shops—anything you can think of. Just around the corner is the snazzy Ponsonby Road, which leads you into the neighborhood of the same name. The vibe here is a bit more relaxed and the prices are higher. There are some good restaurants and bars here, for example Burger Burger. For a true New Zealand experience order the "Kiwi Classic Burger", which you will also find throughout the country. In addition to the usual cheeseburger ingredients, this burger includes a fried egg and pickled beetroot. An absolute must-try!

A dreamy beach near Auckland is Piha Beach , which is definitely worth a day trip. Another great choice is Muriwai Beach. This beach is a bit more northern than Piha Beach and on your visit you can see the legendary Muriwai Gannet Colony. Gannets are the seabirds that build their nests here between August and March to hatch their chicks. It's fascinating to watch the gannets create homes for their newborn chicks.

Wellington, New Zealand's capital

After taking in some of the natural beauty of the island, perhaps you're ready to dive back into a city. No problem, because your next stop is Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, which is located in the very south of the North Island. Wellington owes its nickname "Windy Wellington" to its position on the island, because the weather here is oftenwindy and cool. Nevertheless, its possible to get proper sunshine on your visit here. An absolute must-do in the city is a visit to the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum . The New Zealand National Museum will inspire you, even if museums are not really your thing. 

A ride on the bright red Wellington Cable Car is extremely popular with visitors. If you want to save a few bucks and get some exercise in, you can also complete the ascent on foot. From the top you have a great view of the capital and while you're there you can also look at the sprawling botanical garden and learn a good deal about the flora of the country. It's useful to note that from Wellington you can take the car ferry to South Island.

Pirate tip:  Fish and Chips are an integral part of the New Zealand cuisine and you can sample some of the finest at Mt. Vic Chippery. The cheapest method is to get one of the lunch menus. Looking for a greater array of choices? At the International Food Court Capital Market you will find everything your gourmet heart desires.

Rotorua in New Zealand

Time to heat things up, because in Rotorua the earth is steaming. From geysers to hot springs and bubbling mud ponds, the air is heavy with heat and the biting smell of sulfur. The city was built on a volcano which quickly becomes apparent as you explore the sights. Each year, many tourists come to Rotorua to see the geothermal spectacles.

One of the most popular attractions is the geothermal area of Whakarewarewa, which is also a Māori community. You can admire several geysers, the technicolor Blue Pool, and numerous mud ponds. In the center of Rotorua there is a free park, where you can also see hot springs and mud ponds. 

Pirate tip: Make sure to take a detour to the Whakarewarewa Forest, where you can see a plethora of ferns and giant redwoods.

Northland, Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga

If you have enough time, then hit the region north of Auckland. The Northland region is considered the "starting point" for land settlements by both the Māori and the white colonialists that came later. The founding document of New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed here in the town of the same name.

This area is not lacking in sights. Near the top you can visit the northernmost point of New Zealand, the well-known Cape Reinga with its iconic lighthouse. You can go sandboarding and sand-surfing in the surrounding dunes. The Ninety Mile Beach comes highly recommended—on this ultra-wide sandy beach there is even space to drive a car. However, you should only attempt it if you have four-wheel drive, and you should keep in mind that many car rental companies explicitly advise against it (or prohibit it entirely). In the Bay of Islands you can spend the day relaxing on the beautiful beaches, sailing, or swimming.

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