Visiting New Zealand was a dream come true. It had been my number 2 destination on my travel bucket list (after Australia) since my teenage years. So, of course, the New Zealand trip was bound to be special. Probably due to the country’s remote location and fame for being naturally beautiful, it is a destination many people wish to visit once in their lifetime but wait for the right moment to squeeze the most out of it. And I agree! With this in mind, I ensured to make this trip unforgettable. Here are my Top 5 experiences in New Zealand.
5. VISITING WAI-O-TAPU GEOTHERMAL PARK IN ROTORUA
There are many geothermal parks in the Taupo-Rotorua area (North Island) with plenty of geysers, sulphur pools and mud craters. They are all great but the Wai-O-Tapu park is particularly interesting. It is the variety of geothermal features, the intense colours and extensive size that makes this park one of the most beautiful and worthy of a paid visit.
If you only have time and budget to visit one park in this volcanic region, then I recommend the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park. Because I am fascinated by volcanic landscapes and activity, I visited many cool spots around the Taupo Volcanic Zone worthy of a separate blog post.
4. DRIVING AROUND SOUTH ISLAND’S NATIONAL PARKS
I had the opportunity to go on a road trip around the South Island for two weeks and absolutely loved it. Seriously, this island is insanely stunning everywhere you look. This is the reason for it being so special; because every inch of the island is naturally charming, well-preserved and peaceful. You can drive for hours and only see a couple of cars or camper vans on the road. This allows you to appreciate Nature without much disruption.
You will see many green farming lands populated by fluffy sheep all throughout the island; extensive forests covering the rolling hills and high alpine landscapes; glaciers; fiords; large lakes with many shades of blue; many flowers and unknown birds; and pretty wild coasts. It is definitely a Nature lover´s paradise! Although I did not have enough time to explore all the National Parks and coastal areas I would have liked to see, it was a great first-time visit and sufficient for me to fall in love with this area of New Zealand. I will write a separate blog post with my favourite scenic drives in the South Island.
3. CRUISING MILFORD SOUND
My second day in New Zealand was one of my favourite ones as I got to cruise Milford Sound for a couple of hours. The boat tour made its way along full-flowing cascades and waterfalls from the almost vertical tall mountain walls and into the Tasman Sea. With the wind blowing strong at the end of the Sound, the fur seals squeaking on the few side rocks and the waterfalls splashing fresh water on my face as the boat approached them close, I could not help but keep a smile on my face al ride long.
But the great experience did not start or finish with he boat tour but with the scenic drive along Milford Road and the plenty of side stops. This drive will definitely show up on my post of favourite scenic drives, so I will leave the details for then. I will only say the scenery deserves as much attention as Milford Sound itself.
2. VISITING NEW ZEALAND MOST ACTIVE MARINE VOLCANO
As already mentioned above, I am completely fascinated by anything related to volcanoes, so I had to include a visit to New Zealand´s most active cone volcano: White Island. This stratovolcano is 48 Km off the East Coast of North Island in the Bay of Plenty, forming a circular island of 2 kilometres in diameter. For what is known, it has been in constant activity since it was discovered by Captain Cook in 1769 with the most recent eruption in September 2016.
The only way to visit this volcano is as part of a guided tour, arriving by helicopter or boat. I went with White Island Tour and was very happy with both the service and expert knowledge provided. But most importantly, I was completely fascinated by all the volcanic activity I felt with my own senses: smelling the sulphur, feeling the steam vents, hearing the mud bubbling near my feet and watching my every footstep on the island.
Standing feet away from the active crater and on top of the less than 1 kilometre deep-magma chamber was mind-blowing and imposing. This was definitely one of my favourite moments in New Zealand!
1. HIKING NEW ZEALAND BEST DAY-HIKE
Hiking the country’s best one-day-hike in the Taupo Volcanic Zone has to be my Top 1 experience in this country. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing had been on my bucket list for quite some time and completing the hike was a fulfilling moment for me.
The trail extends for 19.4 Kilometres over alpine and volcanic territory with plenty of steps and demanding inclines but also many flat and forgiving areas. Though quite long and somewhat strenuous, the scene of Mount. Ngauruhoe, Red Crater and Emerald Lakes are beyond rewarding.
Hiking this crossing should be in your itinerary in New Zealand if you want to experience a stunning natural setting difficult to find elsewhere. However, it is physically demanding and very weather-dependent, hence, I can only recommend it to fit people with enough stamina to walk over alpine terrain for 6-8 hours and in the right day conditions. You will definitely love this hike!