A civilized country, yet far off from all other civilizations, New Zealand is an adventurer’s dream. Thanks to its natural beauty, photogenic New Zealand has been used as a setting for many a movie, the most famous one being the successful trilogy ‘Lord of the Rings’. Visitors generally agree that this country is one of the most beautiful ones out there, and if it weren’t so far away, it would surely be one of the most world’s most visited places.
New Zealand is comprised of two main islands, which are separated by the Cook Strait, and several smaller islands.
Due to the islands’ distinct geographic location, New Zealand has developed a unique flora and fauna. It is also known as ‘the land of the kiwi’, the kiwi being a New Zealand fruit, the national bird, and a term for the country’s inhabitants.
A mountain range runs down the spine of the country and offers fantastic opportunities for many outdoor activities. Due to a temperate climate, South Island, with its many fjords and snow-capped mountains is a haven for all those who love skiing, paragliding, rafting, canyoning or heliskiing. Go hiking on the stunningly beautiful Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier, one of the country’s gems, or visit the world-famous Abel Tasman National Park with its fantastic Coastal Trek and mind-blowing views. A great base for many outdoor sports is Queenstown. The area is home to a variety of natural wonders and great hiking opportunities. Among the most popular ones are the Routeburn Track in Mt Aspiring National Park and Milford Track, which is supposedly the world’s most beautiful trail. Don’t miss the world-famous Milford Sound, with its amazing, roaring waterfalls and sharp cliffs or Doubtful Sound, both of which are located in Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other popular tourist destinations include the scenic region of Otago with its university town Dunedin, as well as Stewart Island, New Zealand’s Tasmania, which is located just south of South Island.
Although many of the popular sports and outdoor attractions can be found on South Island, North Island also has its share of natural beauty. It boasts numerous active volcanoes, a great coastline and great spots for sunbathing and diving. For an unforgettable experience, you should do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is an excellent day-trek, offering magnificent views of the mountains and crater lakes. A long-time tourists’ favourite is the Bay of Islands in the far north, as well as the North Cape and the Coromandel Peninsula, which is comprised of a gorgeous stretch of coast and boasts the majestic Cathedral Cove. Another nearby attraction is White Island, which is the country’s only live marine volcano, offering a unique and fascinating experience even to those who think they’ve seen it all.
Although New Zealand is mainly popular for its natural attractions and outdoor activities, it is well worth it to spend a few days in its cities. Most travellers arrive in Auckland, which is located at the northern tip of North Island. The country’s largest city, commonly nick-named ‘The City of Sails’ is home to a beautiful natural harbour and is almost completely surrounded by water. Its most notable features are the high quantity of sailboats, the nearby volcanoes, and its fantastic aquarium with an Antarctic Exploration Center. For great views of the city and the surrounding regions, don’t miss visiting the Sky Tower. From the three viewing platforms you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city. Thrill-seekers can jump off the tower for a truly exhilarating experience.
Don’t miss Rotorua, which is surrounded by many geysers and hot pools, and is a perfect base for exploring one of New Zealand’s most visited attractions, Wai-o-Tapu. Rotorua is also the heart of the Maori culture. Here you can learn about the indigenous culture, customs, language and way of life.
Wellington, the country’s capital city, is a quiet, yet breezy city, with a great location. Climb Mt Victoria for an amazing view of the city and the incredibly beautiful bay surrounding it. Marvel at the Old Government Building, which is one of the world’s largest wooden constructions, and visit ‘The Beehive’, a modern architectural wonder, which houses the country’s government. Wellington is also home to the National Museum, Te Papa, which is well worth a visit.
Christchurch, South Island’s largest city is also called the ‘Garden City’ and is popular for its comparably rich history and gothic architecture. The city is also the birthplace of bungee jumping, so if this activity is on your to-do list, why not do it here?
Since New Zealand is completely surrounded by ocean, it is subject to some strong southerly winds, also called the roaring forties. The country, especially South Island, experiences four distinct seasons, with snow falls in the mountains on South Island. In general, the western parts of both islands experience more rainfall than the eastern halves. While winter, from June through September is the coldest and at the same time the main skiing season, summers are mild, but seldom hot. The only warm days are in December and January, with temperature in the mid-twenties. From December through March, Kiwis and foreigners flock to the magnificent national parks and coastal regions. Don’t forget that prices for the best hotels and even for cheap hostels are on the rise during these periods. For cheap flights and accommodation, you’re better off traveling in October/November or April/May.
© Salsa-Trips, Rico Jochen Anderer