New Zealand is a unique land of breathtaking scenery that includes some of nature’s most surreal and stupendous ideas, from flightless birds to gigantic kauri trees. Superlatives abound here and visitors may struggle to adequately describe everything they see and experience.
Thrust into the world’s spotlight by the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the country has seen a massive surge in visitor numbers and continues to reap the benefits of this cinematic triumph; and if the country overwhelmed and wowed viewers on the big screen, it’ll leave them breathless when they arrive and explore its remote, rugged and remarkable landscape in reality.
New Zealand is deceptively diverse and complex, punching well above its weight in terms of what it can offer to both the first-time and repeat visitor. The North Island is less dramatic visually than its southern counterpart, but is home to around two thirds of the country’s inhabitants. The majority of the major urban centres are here, including the capital Wellington and the largest city Auckland, creating a vibrant and multicultural region. But nature’s still a major player, with volcanoes, swathes of forest, gushing rivers, spectacular thermal regions and a mass of outdoor activities to undertake.
The South Island, in contrast, is home to far fewer people, but boasts the country’s most spectacular scenery. Empty beaches, soaring mountain ranges, glaciers, fjords and wide-open expanses are all waiting to be discovered. Outdoor enthusiasts are really spoilt for choice, with superb tramping (hiking), cycling, climbing, white-water rafting, caving and other adrenaline-fuelled activities such as zorbing and, of course, bungee jumping on offer.
New Zealand revels in its status as a world leader for ecotourism and has developed into one of the cleanest and greenest countries in the world. There are 14 national parks throughout the country and almost a quarter of New Zealand is protected land. Home to a mass of animals and birds including the reclusive kiwi, fur seals, yellow-eyed penguins, Hooker’s sea lions, dolphins and whales, New Zealand is also a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers. Native trees and indigenous flora provide spectacular surrounds in which to seek out these local residents.
Pair the country’s natural traits with a cultural resurgence that’s seeing local films, literature, painting, sculpture and design gaining more and more attention, and there's a destination that’s becoming increasingly cosmopolitan. Maori culture is thriving and the overall blend of indigenous and European culture provides a unique combination that’s worth exploring in galleries, museums and theatres across the country. Throw in some exceptional local food and world-class wine, a slow food scene, thriving café culture, and a mass of regional specialities, and there’s yet another reason to tour the country.
Essentially, New Zealand is everything a visitor could envisage and much more. Once considered a far-flung, distant backwater, the land affectionately known as Aotearoa (The Land of the Long White Cloud) in Maori, is now a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, welcoming destination for travellers of all interests. If visitors take the time to tour the country and to escape the crowds and clichés, their senses will be bombarded and they will come away with one powerful memory after another.