Anyone who has seen the epic trilogy Lord of the Rings will almost certainly recall how menacing and dreary the land of Mordor is. They will almost certainly also be surprised to learn that the place actually exists, and, in some strange twist of nature, found in one of the most picturesque places on the planet: New Zealand.
An island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean known for the kiwi bird and its sports teams’ traditional war dance called the haka and performed before every match, New Zealand lies some 900 miles east of Australia and about 600 miles south of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. It consists of two main landmasses—the North island or Te Ika-a-Māui, and the South island or Te Waipounamu—and several smaller islands. It’s so far away from centers of civilization that it was one of the last lands to be settled by human, first of whom were the Polynesians who developed the Maori culture that the country has long since been known for.
Today, New Zealand is a developed country that boasts a high-income economy and a high ranking in international comparisons in the aspects of health, education, economic freedom, and quality of life. It relies heavily on international trade, exporting mainly dairy products and wood, mostly to trade partners Australia, U.S. Japan, China, and the United Kingdom.
While it may not be a major tourist destination yet due to its remote location, those who have taken the extra mile have found the trip to be worth it. It’s a relatively small space crammed with astonishing scenery, cosmopolitan cities, and an awe-inspiring coastline that allow for so many great things to do. Here are but a few of them, and where in New Zealand you can try them:
FLY A STUNT PLANE
Conquer your fear and the skies as you pilot a stunt place. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or professional, as a senior aerobatic flight instructor of the U Fly Extreme flight school will assist you as you roll, loop it, fly figure 8s, and even inverted.
Of course you need to do this at the place where its inventor, AJ Hackett, did it first. You can try the original bridge jump or, for those looking for the ultimate thrill, the terrifying Nevis Bungy where you jump from a height of about 440 feet over the middle of a gorge.
WALK ON A GLACIER
Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Forget about boonie stomping for a while and try walking on ice, literally. With glacier guides on hand to make sure you don’t slip or fall off, you can peer into holes and crevasses, or even walk through them if they’re big enough and stand under a roof of ice. The walk ends in an ice field that could be the nearest experience you can have to a Mount Everest expedition.
SWIM WITH DOLPHINS
The Bay of Islands
You’ll be amazed at how bottlenose dolphins actually approach your boat and interact with people, especially if you jump right in the water. Their inherent curiosity will allow you take the best selfies to brag about back home.
CRUISE MILFORD SOUND
Fiordland National Park, Piopiotahi Marine Reserve, Te Wahipounamu
Catch a glimpse of seals, penguins, dolphins, and even humpback whales as your boat winds down the fiord, which has been voted the world’s top destination in the 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor. Even the famed writer Rudyard Kipling fell in love with, calling it the eighth Wonder of the World.
FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FRODO AT TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING
Tongariro National Park
One of the best day hikes in the world, it became the location of Peter Jackson’s Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings. Of course, unlike Frodo who felt dread every step of the way with his baggage of the One Ring, you’ll feel your heart soaring as you take in the beautiful scenery of huge valleys, mountain slopes, and volcanic lakes.
TAKE A DOSE OF THE FAMILIAR BUT UNIQUE
Just like our very own Chamorro Village, New Zealand also offers a glimpse of its past at the Tamaki Maori Village where a formal welcoming ceremony called Powhiri awaits, followed by warrior dances and songs that you will certainly enjoy.
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