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Nomadic Matt's Travel Site

Travel Better, Cheaper, Longer

13 Great Reasons to Visit New Zealand

Snow-capped mountains in the background of a green valley in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. With its snow-capped mountains, ancient glaciers, rolling hills, and copious amounts of wine, it’s a destination unlike all others.

Tucked away in the corner of the world, it’s a country that requires some planning to visit. Flights here aren’t cheap, after all. Round-trip flights from the United States are almost always over $1,000 USD and the journey takes upwards of 23 hours.

And even when you arrive, the country itself is far from being budget-friendly.

Yet even with that in mind, it’s a destination I never get tired of visiting. New Zealand is worth every penny if you ask me.

While it has seen a boom in tourism in recent years, New Zealand is still the beautiful and pristine country I first visited many years ago.

Christchurch has recovered from its earthquakes and now a hip place to be; Wanaka is still offers incredible hiking; the glaciers were just as mind-blowing as ever; the forests still home to wonderful walks; and Kiwis just as fun and friendly as ever.

In short, if New Zealand isn’t on your travel list, it should be.

To help you plan your trip, here are my favorite places to visit and things to do in New Zealand that you shouldn’t miss:  

1. Explore Abel Tasman National Park

An empty beach and clear water in Abel Tasman National Park

The park covers over 23,876 hectares (59,000 acres), and even though it’s the country’s smallest national park, there’s a ton to see here. If you want to explore the park beyond its hiking trails, rent a kayak. That way, you can visit the tiny coves and beaches that make the area so special. Full-day rentals start at around 85 NZD, or you can join a guided kayaking tour starting at 130 NZD.

The park is best as an overnight or multi-day trip as it’s too far from Nelson to really do it justice in a day trip.  

2. Glacier Trekking on Fox and Franz Josef

A massive glacier in Franz Josef, New Zealand

At present, the only way to trek on the glaciers now is via heli-hike (a half-day or full-day helicopter/hiking experience). They are expensive (485-499 NZD) but the helicopter ride, trekking, and whole experience are worth the price in my opinion.

Conversely, you can just go on a helicopter tour without the hiking (they last about twenty minutes and start at around 225 NZD) or just hike to the glacier face and take photos from a distance.

No matter what option you choose, pass through this area while you make your way down the South Island. You won’t regret it!  

3. Do an Extreme Sport

group of people going down river rapids in a raft

There are a million activities to choose from: you can skydive basically anywhere; Queenstown is home to Shotover jets (rocket-like boats that zip on shallow rivers), ziplines, and bungy jumps; and there’s caving, zorbing, transalpine hiking, paragliding, and so much more. If it can be done outdoors, it can be done in New Zealand.

Here are some prices for activities to help you budget and plan, with prices varying depending on where you go and length of the experience:

  • Bungy jumping – 165-275 NZD
  • White-water rafting – 135-225 NZD
  • Zorbing – 40-85 NZD
  • Skydiving – 300-600 NZD
  • Paragliding – 100-200 NZD
  • Ziplining – 100-150 NZD

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, don’t miss the Nevis Bungy Jump — it’s the highest in the country!  

4. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Hikers crossing the martian terrain of the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand

However, even if you aren’t a strong hiker (and I am not), the Tongariro Crossing is easily completed in a day (it usually takes between 6-8 hours). Trekking through this otherworldly, red-colored environment of volcanoes and sulfur was the highlight of my whole time in New Zealand.

Be sure to bring water, sunscreen, a hat, toilet paper, and a sweater or jacket (the weather can change rapidly).  

5. Learn About Maori culture

A traditional Maori cultural dance show in New Zealand

Rotorua is usually the best city to see Maori cultural shows , though there are other noteworthy sites around the country, including the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Tane Mahuta in Bay of Islands and the Te Papa museum in Wellington .

Shows usually last around 2.5-3 hours and include a tour of a traditional village, performances, and a meal. Tickets range from 150-250 NZD.

6. Don’t Miss Wellington

A view overlooking the city of Wellington, New Zealand in the summer

It has a popping nightlife, tons of art galleries, great food, fantastic cafés, a beautiful harbor (that is best seen from Mount Victoria, which overlooks the entire city), and is easily walkable. Be sure to hit some of the world-class and award-winning museums like the Museum of Wellington and Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum.  

7. Check Out the Glow Worms

Magical view of the Waitomo glow worm cave

I found the three-hour trip long enough, but if you like to abseil, you should consider the five-hour version. This experience is one of my most lasting memories of my trip .

Tickets cost around 150 NZD for the three-hour rafting trip and 260 NZD for the five-hour trip. If you just want to walk around the caves and see the glowworms, tickets cost around 55 NZD.  

8. Hang Out in Queenstown

The city of Queenstown, New Zealand surrounded by mountains and nature

The city has such a feisty and outdoorsy energy to it. Even though it has become hugely popular and filled with people, I cannot express my love of Queenstown enough. It’s surrounded by beautiful peaks, has narrow streets and pedestrian lanes filled with shops and restaurants, a spectacular lake, tons of trails and parks, and Queenstown Hill watching over the city like a benevolent overlord.

This is one of the best spots in the country to do an extreme sport (bungy, skydive, shotover jet, etc), take a wine tour, or just chill out on a nearby beach.  

9. Visit Hobbiton

A Hobbit home in Hobbiton, New Zeland from the Lord of the Rings set

To see Hobbiton (located about two hours from Auckland or one hour from Rotorua), you’ll have to take a tour. The Classic Tour lasts around 2 hours and cost 89 NZD for adults. There are also several other experiential tours you can take here, including a Second Breakfast or Banquet Tour (both of which involve hobbit-inspired meals and drinks).  

10. Explore Fiordland

A view of the fjord from a seaplane in New Zealand

This region is home to the majestic Milford and Doubtful Sounds, the Milford and Keppler Tracks, and lots of camping and hiking opportunities. If you want to experience New Zealand’s nature away from the crowds, come here.  

11. Discover Stewart Island

A view of Stewart Island in New Zealand

Come here to see dolphins and do some single-day or multiday treks. If you aren’t into hiking, you don’t need more than a day or two here, unless you really want some peace and quiet, in which case, stay forever.  

12. Chill Out in Christchurch

A streetcar in downtown Christchurch, New Zealand in the summer

If you’ll be there for a few days, be sure to check out the free Canterbury Museum, which has a detailed replica of the city during the Victorian era; and Quake City, an interactive museum dedicated to the 2010-11 earthquakes. Don’t miss riding the gondola into the nearby hills for a sweeping view of the city as well!  

13. Drink Copious Amounts of Wine

Drinking wine with friends at a picnic table in New Zealand

There are lots of biking trails around the wine regions as well, so you can drink and cycle around (which is better than drinking and driving!). It’s also much cheaper than paying for a guided tour (which costs around 100-250 NZD depending on the region and tour length). The Gibbston River Trail, an 11-kilometer (6.8-mile) walking and biking path near Queenstown crosses through a number of vineyards and is a fun way to explore and sample some of the area’s best vintages.

If it’s not clear from this list, I love New Zealand. It’s one of my favorite countries in the world and I never get tired of going back.

And, while these may be my 13 favorite things to see and do in New Zealand, this list only scratches the surface. There’s also the Bay of Islands and Raglan for surfing, the Coromandel and Dunedin for beer, Wanaka and Mt. Cook for hiking, Hammer Springs for hot springs, and, well, you get the idea. There’s a lot here. You’re never going to be bored, especially if you love the outdoors.

There’s a reason travelers never have anything bad to say about this country!

Book Your Trip to New Zealand: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

If you’re looking for more places to stay, here is a complete list of my favorite hostels in New Zealand .

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
  • Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want More Information on New Zealand? Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on New Zealand for even more planning tips!

Got a comment on this article? Join the conversation on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter and share your thoughts!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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Experience the haka , a ceremonial Māori dance made world famous by the All Blacks rugby team as their pre-game ritual. Beyond the public sporting display, New Zealand celebrates its  Māori culture in daily life and there are numerous places to experience it.

View, appreciate and learn about the traditional Māori arts preserved at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (Te Puia).

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Feel Earth's power in New Zealand, where you can witness erupting geysers, bubbling mud pools and steaming hot springs on your doorstep. To experience the geothermal wonders , head to the Volcanic Zone, including Rotorua , Bay of Plenty and Ruapehu.

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Why travel to New Zealand?

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Beach views from the Abel Tasman forest - Why visit New Zealand?

There are many reasons why New Zealand is such a popular travel spot right now, here's a quick and handy guide to help you answer the question "why travel to New Zealand?"

Did you know that Lonely Planet recently voted New Zealand as one of its top five countries in the world to visit? The Land of the Long White Cloud is currently one of the hottest travel destinations in the world, why is New Zealand travel on everyone’s travel bucket list?

New Zealand has a dazzling wealth of breathtaking scenery, friendly and fun-loving people, plenty of things to see and do, mouthwatering food and wine and a vibe that is unlike anywhere else in the world.

Plus, it is safe and easy to travel, making it accessible to everyone even if you don’t have a lot of travel experience. New Zealand has everything you could wish for in a destination and it’s delightfully easy to get around.

Top reasons to visit New Zealand

We could list hundreds of reasons why you will love visiting New Zealand - there’s just so much to enjoy here. However, let’s take a look at the five main reasons why Aotearoa New Zealand makes a fantastic travel destination.

  • The scenery
  • There's so much to do
  • The food and wine are amazing

#1 reason to visit New Zealand - the unreal scenery

New Zealand is a stunning natural playground.

When you see the beautiful scenes in Tourism New Zealand videos of Milford Sound or Abel Tasman National Park, the vibrant hues of the landscape almost jump off the screen.

Or, perhaps you watched Frodo and friends go from the adorable rolling green hills of the Shire to larger-than-life landscapes of majestic mountains and wondered if the vistas were too beautiful to be real.

The good news is that Middle Earth (aka New Zealand) is just as stunning as it looks in the films. There are beautiful places all over this world, but the landscapes in New Zealand are a cut above. Few places in the world can compare with what you will see here.

Diversity of natural environments

One of the amazing things about this country is how such a huge diversity of landscapes can be packed into such a small area.

It’s hard to believe that towering snow capped mountains with ancient glaciers can exist on one part of New Zealand, while volcanic sand beaches and tropical rainforests exist on the other.

For example, you could take a drive from Lake Wanaka to Glacier Country and in one day you will see arid high country, massive lakes, lush rainforests, glacial valleys, beaches and glaciers again.

The landscapes in New Zealand are unlike anything you have seen before. For example, when you see the bubbling geothermal pools in Rotorua you will be amazed at how this super-hot spring water can come up out of the depths of the earth, creating steaming, sulphurous craters.

Amazing night skies

New Zealand is also one of the best places in the world for stargazing, due to the lack of light pollution. When you look up at the night sky from the International Dark Sky Reserve at Tekapo and Mount Cook you will see a dazzling canopy of sparkling points of light and the dusty sweep of the Milky Way.

Protected natural landscapes

All of this spectacular nature is very well maintained. One third of the landmass of New Zealand is protected conservation area, which means that the national parks are pristine and unspoiled. Plus, with a small population of only 5 million people, the cities and infrastructure in New Zealand don’t encroach on the environment and there are a lot of wide open, wild spaces to explore.

Fun fact about New Zealand

Did you know that people make up only 5% of the population of New Zealand? The rest are animals. (Don't believe us? Verify that fact and 68 others here)

That means that New Zealand is a great place to spot wildlife, including penguins, seals, whales and dolphins.

The most famous animal of all is the kiwi, an adorable little flightless bird that has become the national symbol of New Zealand. 

Why visit New Zealand? Scenery like this at the Tasman Glacier Lake in Mt Cook National Park

#2 reason to visit New Zealand - the Kiwi people

Another one of the amazing aspects of traveling New Zealand is how wonderful the people are. Many travellers say this is what makes New Zealand special.

New Zealanders, or “kiwis” as we are known, are laid back, friendly and always up for an adventure.

Kiwis will stop for a chat, help you with directions and they will want to know how long you are visiting, where you will be going, where you are from, etc.

They love the outdoors and are passionate about showing visitors the best their beautiful country has to offer.

In general, the people in New Zealand are open to meeting new friends, have a great sense of humour and don’t take themselves too seriously. Even if you're visiting overseas, make the effort to drop into a community centre or event and you'll be treated like an old friend.

Warning - the Kiwi sense of humour is dry!

New Zealand humour is wonderfully silly and fun. For example, take a look at this hilarious Air New Zealand safety video. 

When you are spending time with your Kiwi friends, the mood will often be light and the jokes will be free flowing. Kiwis love to laugh and playfully tease each other in a very entertaining way.

If you're visiting from the UK or Australia, you'll find our wit quite similar. If you're visiting from North America you may be initially surprised by some of the deadpan lines coming out from Kiwis' mouths. An easy rule of thumb, if you're not sure if someone is joking or not, they probably are.

The Māori in New Zealand

Meeting the Māori people of New Zealand is something that you will never forget.

Māori culture is wonderfully kind and welcoming and hospitality towards visitor plays a very important part. Manaakitanga is a Māori word that translates roughly to hospitality and it is a traditional value that is considered to be incredibly important. The Māori people believe that it is very important to welcome visitors and make them feel at home when they come to visit.

Māori also have a concept called Kaitiakitanga which describes a deep kinship between humans and the natural word.

They see themselves as guardians of the land they live on and they believe that taking responsibility to preserve the environment is very important.

Today all New Zealanders play a part in restoring Māori culture and the natural environment, taking great care to ensure that New Zealand stays green, clean and beautiful for future generations to enjoy.

Find out more about the unique Māori culture you can experience on our tours here.

#3 reason to visit New Zealand - there's so much to do

When it comes to things to see and do in New Zealand, you will be spoiled for choice.

New Zealand isn’t just beautiful to look at - it is an endless playground of fun activities and adventures.

There’s a huge choice of unique and exciting activities all over the country so you are sure to find something that excites you.

Adventure Activities

If you are into adrenaline-pumping activities, consider taking the Dart River Jetboat from Queenstown to zoom across the water while surrounded by towering peaks.

If you really want to go beyond your comfort zone, why not try bungy jumping in Queenstown?

New Zealand is also famous for being one of the best destinations in the world for sky-diving. There are jump opportunities all across the country, including at Abel Tasman National Park, Franz Josef Glacier and Queenstown.

Or perhaps you can try zorbing, which is rolling down a hill in an enormous clear inflatable ball. You could sweep overtop of beautiful Milford Sound on a scenic flight. The Glacier Landing on Franz Josef allows you to feel the chill of a real, ancient glacier under your feet.

Walking & Hiking

If you love to hike, you might want to tackle the Tongariro Crossing. It is considered to be the best day hike in all of new Zealand and it played the part of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings films. This surreal, sulphur-smelling, volcanic landscape of colored sand and jagged rock might make you feel like you are walking on another planet.

There's also the famous Milford & Routeburn Tracks too, from day walks to multi-day adventures.

Another one of the most amazing things you can do in New Zealand is visit glow worm caves, which are subterranean caves filled with phosphorescent glow worms that shimmer like stars.

Read our beginner's guide to walking in New Zealand here.

Food, Wine & Art

If you want to do something a little more laid back, how about sipping a perfect glass of Sauvignon Blanc at a vineyard in beautiful Marlborough on the South Island?

You could even take a cycling tour through the vineyards, stopping off at each winery to enjoy a tasting.

Or, you could spend the day enjoying the cultural offerings of New Zealand’s vibrant cities like Wellington and Auckland - packed with art galleries, museums, quirky boutiques, shops, cafes and restaurants.

Here are a few more of our favourite activities in New Zealand

  • Go fishing in the Bay of Islands and see if you can make an epic catch.
  • Follow the tracks of the historic Otago Rail Trail.
  • Soak in the hot pools at the luxurious spas of Rotorua.
  • Take a scenic cruise through the waters of Doubtful or Milford Sound and enjoy marvelling at their stunning birdlife and marine wildlife.
  • Stand in the spot where the treaty of Waitangi was signed and learn about New Zealand’s history.
  • Take a tour of the Lord of the Rings filming locations and learn how the landscape was transformed into Middle Earth.
  • Take the challenging hike to Arthur’s Pass and enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the Southern Alps.
  • Go on a thrilling whitewater rafting trip on the mighty Shotover River in Queenstown.
  • Sandboarding in Northland, it's like riding a body board down a sand dune.

Sandboarding in the Hokianga Harbour

#4 reason to visit New Zealand - the food and wine are amazing

Speaking of winery tours, another reason to visit New Zealand is that the food and wine are superb.

There are so many yummy things to enjoy during your visit. When you start researching before traveling to New Zealand, the food might not be the first thing that you think of. However, when you discover what a great culinary scene New Zealand has, it will be a pleasant surprise.

Fresh New Zealand seafood

One of the most iconic culinary treats in New Zealand are Greenshell Mussels, which are 30% larger than the typical blue mussels you might be used to and are wonderfully flavoursome.

After all, New Zealand is one of the best destinations in the world for seafood - the coastline is teeming with fresh fish including hapuka, snapper and John Dory.

If you are a seafood lover you will be able to get your fill of oysters from the Hokianga, Snapper from the Bay of Islands, Greenshell Mussels from Marlborough, Crayfish from Kaikoura, Fiordland Blue Cod and much more.

Take a look at the best food and wine we love when we travel around New Zealand - guaranteed to make your mouth water.

Fresh seasonal produce

But New Zealand cuisine isn’t just about delicious treats from the ocean. There’s plenty more to enjoy. The food here is driven by local ingredients and changes with the seasons, as this island nation has a primarily agricultural economy.

There are a lot of different influences on the cuisine here, including Pacific Rim, Mediterranean and British. Throughout history other influences have included Southeast Asian, East Asian and Māori culture.

In the summertime you will have the wonderful opportunity to dine outside, as barbeques are a huge part of the Kiwi culture. There’s a lot of variety in what kiwis will throw on the barbie, including lamb, venison, lobster, shellfish and fresh fish.

Another New Zealand culinary classic is Fish n’ Chips, which you should absolutely try during your visit. (Due to the kiwi accent, the locals refer to it as “Fush n’ Chups.”)

Award winning New Zealand wines

You won’t struggle to find a superb wine to pair with your meal - New Zealand produces some high quality bottles.

Although winemaking is still relatively new in New Zealand, winemakers are already producing wines that receive praise from international experts.

The four main wine-producing areas of the country include Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Auckland.

Read more in this article about the best wineries to visit in New Zealand.

Traditional Māori dining - the hāngi

One of the most quintessential New Zealand culinary experiences you can enjoy during your trip is a traditional Māori hāngi .

This meal is cooked underground - the food is placed into a deep hole filled with red hot stones and covered in leaves. The meat (usually chicken, pork and lamb) along with potatoes, kumara (sweet potato) and other vegetables is left to cook buried beneath the earth for several hours.

When it is finally removed from the earth, the slow-steamed, smoky flavour is unlike anything else you have ever tasted. A hāngi is an important social event that lasts for hours and involves musical performances, dances and lots of fun and conversation.

Here are a few more New Zealand foods that you should try during your visit

  • Cookie Time Original Chocolate Chunk Cookies, a local favorite.
  • Lamingtons - a sponge cake coated in chocolate or raspberry and sprinkled with shaved coconut.
  • Afghans - chocolate cookies with cornflakes mixed in, coated with chocolate icing with half a walnut on top.
  • Marmite - a standard item in any New Zealand pantry, it is a yeast extract that is combined with a few different herbs and spices. Try it spread on toast with a little bit of butter.
  • Tuatua - try this New Zealand shellfish, a delicacy that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
  • Mince and Cheese Pie - tuck into this juicy, mouthwatering pastry with a flaky crust and a meaty, cheesy filling.

Relaxing in the sun after a Marlborough Winery Lunch

#5 reason to visit New Zealand - Kiwi magic

What do we mean by the “Kiwi Magic”? It’s hard to explain but once you're here you'll know what we're talking about, it's the unique atmosphere and vibe in New Zealand that is different than anywhere else in the world.

You might assume that New Zealand is the same as other English speaking countries such as Canada, the UK, the USA and Australia.

Yes, it does have some similarities but it’s actually quite distinct. For example, New Zealand feels different than Australia, as the ties to Polynesia are much closer and our Māori culture is much more visible in everyday life.

Take it easy in New Zealand

Being in New Zealand just feels different. Things move a little slower here, which is a good thing.

You’re more likely to end up chatting with the locals, as people are pretty laid back and not in a hurry.

New Zealanders don’t “live to work” but rather “work to live” and they aren’t workaholics. They are generally passionate about their careers, but they understand the importance of a good work/life balance and they take time to enjoy the great outdoors and spend time with their family as well.

You feel safe here, there’s no need to be constantly on your guard. You’re unlikely to experience crime in New Zealand and safety is not an issue.

Plus, when you are walking or hiking in the wilderness it’s nice to know that nothing much can get you. You don’t have to worry about snakes, spiders, bears, crocodiles or any other wild creatures.

When you relax into this safe, friendly environment you will be able to enjoy a trip that is free from the stressful aspects of travel, allowing you to focus more on the amazing environment around you.

You will notice the laid back atmosphere as soon as you arrive at the airport. While going through airport security and customs in other countries can be extremely stressful, in New Zealand it’s quite a pleasant experience. You'll find out for yourself when you arrive.

You might even say that, although it is a country of 5 million people, New Zealand still has the atmosphere of a small, friendly town. Spending time with others and building a strong community is valued here and when you visit you will feel welcome and accepted.

Outdoor games in Marlborough

You're going to love New Zealand

These are just a few of the reasons why New Zealand should be on top on your list of places to travel to.

It’s like nowhere else in the world and once you discover what it has to offer, you will fall in love and never want to leave. We're not the only ones who think so, read Lonely Planet's article on why regenerative tourism will make New Zealand one of the best places to visit post Covid-19.

MoaTrek, proudly showing visitors around New Zealand since 1971

At MoaTrek, we're proud Kiwis and have been proudly showing guests our favourite holiday spots on our small group tours since the 1970s.

You’ll get to meet Kiwis, visit them in their homes and learn about the culture in a fun and casual way. There's plenty of flexibility to do your own thing and explore the aspects of New Zealand that interest you the most.

You’ll get to enjoy the best of New Zealand’s scenery and activities while dining on delicious local food and wine along the way, all in the expert care of your Kiwi Guide.

To find out more about visiting New Zealand and to learn about small group tours, please feel free to contact us today.

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  1. Why You Should Travel to New Zealand and What to Do From Food

    Why You Should Travel to New Zealand and What to Do From Food to Art - Bloomberg A man shoots the sunset at Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand. PHOTOGRAPH:...

  2. New Zealand as a Travel Destination

    New Zealand as a Travel Destination Cite This Essay Download When it comes to natural beauty New Zealand is one of the most stunning countries in the hole world. Personally, I have never visited the country, but I always dreamed of it because it seems to be a very magnificent and unrealistic place to visit.

  3. Why travel to New Zealand?

    Liam Naden Updated on 10/03/19 New Zealand wasn't chosen as the location for filming The Lord of the Rings for nothing. It's undoubtedly one of the most spectacular places on earth. Situated southeast of Australia, it may seem like a long way to travel, but your visit will be one of the most memorable trips of your lifetime. 01 of 10