New Zealand: Raw Nature and Happy People
With more than a third of its land declared as parks or nature reserves, New Zealand is the destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Here you will find immaculate beaches, volcanic plateaus, rolling green hills, fjords, geysers, impressive glaciers and a wide variety of flora and fauna. The country is divided into two islands, North and South, each with its own identity.
The North Island is represented by volcanic landscape surrounded by subtropical forests, high mountain lakes, and highlands covered with vineyards and meadows. It is the cradle of Maori culture which goes back to more than 700 years. Their culture, language, and traditions are part of the country’s identity. The folk songs, traditional Hangi dinner, Hongi (welcoming ritual of rubbing noses), famous Haka (traditional war dance) and the visual arts such as wood carving, weaving, and tattoos are integral elements of the immense cultural wealth of New Zealand.
The Southern Alps dominates the South Island. In its wild nature, you will discover rolling plains, snow-capped mountains, alpine lakes, glaciers, fjords and dense forests. You can even admire whales, dolphins, penguins and endemic fauna such as kiwi, kea, and yellow-eyed dolphins.
Christchurch is undoubtedly the most English of all the cities of New Zealand with its traditional neo-gothic style British architecture, award-winning botanic gardens, trendy boutiques, and pop-up pubs. After the 2011 earthquake affected the Christchurch adversely, it has rebuilt its urban landscape with an artistic, energetic, and refreshing vibe. The River Avon and the nearby gardens are reminiscent of the British heritage, while the Antarctic Center lets you experience the South Pole right here in Christchurch. The gondola ride takes you to the top of the Port Hills providing panoramic views of the city, icy peaks, and lakes along the journey.
Akaroa is an hour-and-a-half drive from Christchurch on Banks Peninsula. It was founded in 1840 by French settlers, with references to the culture still evident in the little township. Many of the street names are in French. There’s a festival every year celebrating the town’s French roots with entertainment, music and food. Akaroa attracts a lot of tourists, so there are a number of activities you can get amongst to experience the best of the Banks Peninsula. There are plenty of campgrounds in Akaroa and around the bays to pitch your tent for a weekend out of the city.
The capital of adventure, Queenstown is a dynamic city that is an attractive destination both in winter and summer thanks to its privileged location between lakes and mountains. Queenstown is the mecca of thrill-seekers due to the extensive adventure sports options: skiing, jet-boating, paragliding, skydiving, bungee jumping, zip-lining, rafting, rock climbing, kayaking – you name it. The city has a large number of hotels, bars, and restaurants, which contribute to the dynamism of the local nightlife. If you go a bit further, you can escape to the glaciers in the north and the fjords in the south. It is difficult to leave Queenstown without letting adrenaline rushing through your veins and your heart pounding through your chest. But if you’re looking for something slow-paced, you still won’t be disappointed. Escape into the nearby vineyards for a wine-tasting tour, sample the famed Fergburger, enjoy a romantic dinner with views of the mountains, or immerse yourself in the private natural hot springs in Omarama.
Auckland is the largest city the economic capital of New Zealand. Popularly known as the City of the Sails due to its thousands of sailboats, each part of this cosmopolitan city has a story of its own. Located between Northland and the green hills of Waikato with ancient extinct volcanoes, the Auckland lies on a narrow isthmus between Manukau Bay and Hauraki Gulf. Climb to the top floor of the iconic Sky Tower to enjoy the incredible views of the city and dine in one of the two restaurants that offer panoramic views. Experience a slice of New Zealand’s history in the Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand Maritime Museum, and Auckland Art Gallery. Get close to nature by hiking on the extinct volcanoes of Mt Eden and Mt. Albert. Auckland has been continuously voted among the most livable cities in the world – another reason to visit the city.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and is nestled between the sea and mountains, at the southern tip of the Island of the North Island. The city has plenty of green spaces throughout the city and wild beaches just minutes from downtown. On the same day, you can take the funicular up to the botanical gardens, visit the National Museum of Te Papa Tongarewa, enjoy a delicious dinner with local wine at Lambton Quay and discover the kiwis in Zealandia Sanctuary. And if that’s not enough, Kapiti Island and Martinborough are less than two hours away by road. Cuba street is probably the liveliest areas of the city where you can dine, shop, indulge in activities, and immerse in the cultural vibe of the city.