When you think about New Zealand there are a few things coming into your mind: Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, sheeps, a country at the end of the world?!
Truth is, this country has plenty of surprises ready to amaze anyone. From the snow-topped mountains, amazingly beautiful lakes surrounded by lupines, mud pools and active volcanoes to the majestic geysers across major destinations, New Zealand will make every landscape look like a postcard.
Last weekend I finally got to visit this beautiful country with my boyfriend Damien. We started in Auckland, then rented a car and drove towards Hamilton, a small charming city, where we spent the night. We left in the morning for Tongariro National Park, Lake Taupo and Rotorua Lake where we stayed at a wonderful resort with a lake-view. At our next destination, Tauranga City, we hiked on a peak called Mount Maunganui which gave us a stunning view over the white sand surf beach that stretches as far as the eye can see.
First things first, Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand. The most popular area for going out is Viaduct Harbour and no wonder why. The place is packed with restaurants, bars and coffee-shops as well as some attractions like New Zealand Maritime Museum. I have to say it’s rather an expensive city, especially for hotels(expect to pay more than 250 NZD= 170 € per night). A meal out with drinks for two can cost minimum 50 NZD, a glass of the local wine costing around 9 NZD.
The most recognized landmark in Auckland is Sky Tower, used for both communications and tourism. It is 328 meters tall, making it the tallest freestanding structure in Southern Hemisphere and the 25th tallest tower in the world.
What I noticed(couldn’t miss it) is that the city is growing fast, there are construction sites everywhere you go. Auckland has overtaken Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide to become the 16th most expensive location in Asia Pacific for expatriates.
The best part about Auckland is that you can discover most of the places just by wandering the streets, thing that I did for most of the photos shown.
Time passed fast and we found ourselves on the road to Hamilton, a city known for its gardens, cafes and nightlife. We checked in at Ballinor Motor Inn, a beautiful place with good service and reasonable price(100 NZD per night). We then headed to the city center to have dinner and we discovered the best Mexican restaurant we’ve been so far. Mexico Was a great experience, the whole place is full of Mexican art and the atmosphere is fantastic, not to mention the food which was delicious. Prices are good, we paid around 50 NZD for the food and sangria.
The morning arrived and we found ourselves on to the next adventure, heading towards Tongariro National Park, the oldest national park in New Zealand. You can guess that the roads were absolutely stunning, never-ending green hills surrounded by cows and sheeps let free to explore, then passing through some particular rainforest. I got the chance of seeing herds of deers in the wild twice, thing that never happened before.
Mt Ruapehu is an active stratovolcano, being the highest point on the North Island(Tahurangi Peak 2,797 m).
Ruapehu has two commercial ski fields, Whakapapa, the one in my photos, being the largest one in New Zealand.
Fun fact: Some scenes of the fictional Mordor and Mount Doom in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy were filmed on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu.
Leaving this magnificent place behind made me nostalgic, but not for too long because we were heading towards another spectacular place: Mount Ngauruhoe, an active stratovolcano that first erupted about 2,500 years ago.
Ngauruhoe erupted 45 times in the 20th century, most recently in 1974 and it was used as a stand-in for the fictional Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, achieving worldwide exposure.
Our schedule was limited therefore we didn’t have time for any hiking, but this is definitely a must-do for future times.