Geographically, there's a reason Peter Jackson chose this location to shoot the Lord of the Rings movies, and not just because New Zealand is his own backyard. This 'backyard' boasts incredibly beautiful and diverse geography in a relatively small area, where you can find alpine, tropical, temperate and maritime landscapes within miles of each other on the two main island landmasses that make up the country. The south island is the larger of the two islands, and is split down the centre by the Southern Alps which has 18 peaks over 9,000 feet, deep fiords and glaciers.
The north island has fewer mountains, but is home to volcanoes and the country's largest lake, formed in the caldera of one of the world's most active supervolcanoes.
The geography is spectacular, worthy of any shutterbug's tripod, or adventure lover's adrenaline rush. (Not to mention the wildlife spotting in those rainforests, marine habitats and inland waterways.)
Whether your passion is capturing landscapes through your lens; rafting or hiking, through those landscapes; or just spotting the creatures who live there, New Zealand is the destination for you.
But it would be a mistake to judge New Zealand only by its physical beauty. New Zealand is beautiful on the inside, too. Culturally, its population is a mixture of Maori, European, and Asian people, whose influence is seen in everything from the government system to the arts and the cuisine.
The Maori's Polynesian influence and tribal heritage is celebrated in traditional crafts such as carving and weaving, particularly their cloaks made of flax and patterned with unique black, red and white geometric shapes. Their songs and dance performances also reflect this south Pacific heritage, and if you've been to luau's in Hawaii, you'll notice similarities in some Maori food and the fire pit cooking technique where meat is wrapped and buried with hot coals to roast. Visiting a Maori festival is always a highlight of any visit to New Zealand.
The European immigrants who followed Abel Tasman (the Dutch explorer who first sighted New Zealand in 1642) brought their own influences to New Zealand as well, especially the British, as the country is officially part of the Commonwealth. Architecturally, you'll find beautifully restored colonial buildings in old Auckland, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Parliament Buildings in Wellington, and of course Botanical Gardens, which seem to sprout up wherever the British settled.
Wellington’s Botanic Gardens
What all this means for the traveller is the opportunity to visit a country of delightful contrasts: somewhat familiar yet different in many ways; discovered, yet undiscovered due to its remote location; and a country that is both urban and rural, yet maintains a friendly vibe in both big cities and small towns. After all, Kiwi's are prolific travellers themselves, so they understand that hospitality and adventure go hand in hand.
Experience a little of that hospitality first-hand with our New Zealand adventure. Learn more here.