New Zealand tourism & Vacations – New Zealand trip – Visit New Zealand – New Zealand Culture
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New Zealand is a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty: jagged mountains, rolling pasture land, steep fiords, pristine trout-filled lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, and active volcanic zones. These islands are one of Earth's most peculiar bioregions, inhabited by flightless birds seen nowhere else such as a nocturnal, burrowing parrot called the kakapo and kiwi. Kiwi are not only one of the national symbols – the others being the silver fern leaf and koru – but also the name New Zealanders usually call themselves.

These islands are sparsely populated, particularly away from the North Island, but easily accessible. There are sparklingly modern visitor facilities, and transport networks are well developed with Airports throughout the country and well maintained highways. New Zealand often adds an adventure twist to nature: it's the original home of jet-boating through shallow gorges, and bungy jumping off anything high enough to give a thrill.

Māori culture continues to play an important part in everyday life and government and corporate symbolism with abundant opportunities for visitors to understand and experience both the history and present day forms of Māori life.

See in New Zealand
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Mountains, lakes and glaciers

It can be said that in New Zealand it's the countryside that's magnificent, and perhaps no more so than the Southern Alps of the South Island. In the Mackenzie Country, the snow-capped jagged peaks rising above turquoise lakes have provided the inspiration for many a postcard. Tucked in behind is the country's highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook. The lakes and mountains continue south, becoming a stunning backdrop for the towns of Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenorchy.

Another region where mountain meets water with striking effect is Fiordland National Park where steep, densely forested mountains rise from the sea. The most accessible, and possibly most beautiful spot, is Milford Sound. The road in is spectacular and the view even more so when you arrive.

Glaciers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an island in the South Pacific, but New Zealand has several. The most notable are the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in Westland National Park. These glaciers are unique in how close they get to sea level and are sustained by the enormous amount of precipitation that falls on New Zealand's west coast.
Volcanoes and geysers

New Zealand is a geological hotspot and has many dormant and active volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. The best place to start is Rotorua, where the smell of sulphur lets you know you're close to the action. The surrounding countryside has many parks with geysers and hot springs, and Mount Tarawera, the site of one of New Zealand's more famous eruptions, lies a short drive away.

South of Rotorua is Taupo and Lake Taupo, which was formed in a massive volcanic explosion thousands of years ago. Beyond Lake Taupo is Tongariro National Park, dominated by its three volcanoes, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapheu. All three mountains are still active (Ruapehu last erupted in 2007) and Ruapehu has a crater lake that can be viewed with a bit of hiking. Ngauruhoe is famous for filling in as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

North of Rotorua is Whakatane, with tours to White Island, a volcanic island just off the coast. The island is truly a different world with its smoke plume, green crater lake and the pohutukawa trees clinging to a fragile existence on the volcanic rock.
Flora and fauna

Being so remote, New Zealand has very unique plants and animals. One of the most impressive is the kauri tree, one of the biggest species of tree in the world. Few of these giants are left (a result of overlogging), but a visit to the Waipoua Forest in Northland will afford a glimpse.

The beaches of the South Island, particularly The Catlins and the Otago Peninsula, are good places to see marine animals such as penguins, seals and sea lions in their natural habitat. The Otago Peninsula is also noted for its albatross colony.

Unfortunately, many of New Zealand's most unique animals are endangered and can only really be seen in captivity. This includes the kiwi, a common national symbol, the flightless takahe and the tuatara (a small lizard-like reptile believed to have existed at the time of the dinosaurs).

New Zealand's National Parks are maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and various local governments. Access is usually free but may be restricted in some parks during some parts of the year due to weather (avalanche risk) or farming (lambing season). It is best to check with local tourist information centres for up to date information on park access.
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