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World Travel Guide > Guides > Oceania > New Zealand

New Zealand travel guide

About New Zealand

Widely held to be one of the most breathtaking countries on the planet, New Zealand is a phenomenal travel destination. The rugged mountains and remote valleys that thrust the destination into the world’s spotlight through The Lord of the Rings trilogy tell only part of the story – you’ll also find beaches, fjords, lakes and gorgeous swathes of forest, not to mention age-old Maori culture, forward-looking cities and, famously, a world-class array of outdoor activities. Not only does it pack a punch as hard as an All Black tackle, but it's also incredibly easy to travel around. What’s not to love?

Split into two main landmasses – the North and South Islands –New Zealand is a deceptively diverse and complicated destination that rewards both first-time and repeat visitors. The North Island is less visually dramatic than its southern counterpart, but it 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 increasingly dynamic city of Auckland. But nature is still a major player, thanks to volcanoes, thermal regions and the magnificent Bay of Islands.

The South Island is home to far fewer people, but boasts the country’s most spectacular scenery. Empty beaches, soaring mountain ranges, glaciers, fjords, wide-open expanses – they’re all here. Outdoor enthusiasts can take their pick from tramping (hiking), cycling, climbing, white-water rafting, caving, zorbing, sky-diving, bungee jumping and more. Christchurch, a city bouncing back with extraordinary creativity from earthquake damage, is also here.

New Zealand has also 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. What else? There’s wildlife, wine and a cultural resurgence that’s seeing local films, literature and art gaining more and more attention.

A blend of Maori and European culture, coupled with breathtaking landscapes, provides New Zealand with a truly unique character. 

Key facts

Area:

270,534 sq km (104,454 sq miles).

Population:

4,565,185 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

16.4 per sq km.

Capital:

Wellington.

Government:

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state:

Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy since 2016.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern since 2017.

Travel Advice

COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.