New Zealand

New Zealand, with the largest Polynesian population of any nation in the world, is also an island country with a culture firmly attuned to its Pacific past. And, perhaps above all New Zealand is a nation where everyone is tied to the land by a deep respect for how generous nature has been to them. New Zealanders know their land is among the most beautiful and varied the world can offer and they're waiting to share it with all who journey to see it.

Rotorua, The Northern Island

A thousand years ago Polynesians first arrived in a land they named Aotearoa, "the land of the long white cloud." It was a place unlike any they had ever seen, vast in comparison to the other islands they'd settled, with towering snow-capped mountain ranges, raging icy rivers, rolling hills, long stretches of sandy coastline and thousands of miles of forests in which grew trees taller than any they had known before. These Polynesian immigrants, the Maoris, were the first people awed by New Zealand's powerful beauty, but they were by no means the last - today the natural wonders of New Zealand continue to delight and astonish all those who arrive on the country's shores.

New Zealand is a land of startling contrast. Hear a wild, rousing war chant performed by modern-day Maoris. Bask in a thermal pool heated by a nearby volcano. Shoot the rapids in racing mountain rivers. When they began arriving just under two centuries ago, European immigrants - marveling at the splendor they found - labeled New Zealand "God's Own" country.

AUCKLAND, ROTORUA AND THE NORTHERN ISLAND

Rotorua Geyser

More temperate and tropical than its neighbor to the south, New Zealand’s North Island is home to the majority of the nation’s Maoris, the country’s largest city, a temperamental volcanic region, stunning waterfalls, pristine lakes and miles of beaches.

Auckland is blessed with two harbors, 102 beaches within an hour’s drive, 23 offshore islands and a lovely climate, boutique hotels and great restaurants.  On the way to Rotorua discover Waitomo’s caves and see the “glow-worm grotto”, where millions of tiny worms create a galaxy of light in subterranean caverns. Drive through densely forested hills and arrive in Rotorua, the heartland of New Zealand’s Maoris, set in one of the world’s most active thermal areas.

While in Rotorua visit a Maori Thermal Reserve to see bubbling mud pools and spouting geysers; the Maori Arts Institute and the Agrodome, where you can see sheepdogs perform.

THE SOUTH ISLAND

The South Island is home to as many marvels as the North, including spectacular mountain ranges, racing rivers and Milford Sound, which Rudyard Kipling called “the eighth wonder of the world”.

Christchurch is known as “The Garden City”. It is New Zealand’s second largest city. In February 2011 Christchurch suffered two devastating earthquakes that destroyed most of the city’s Central Business District and many of the beautiful heritage buildings. Today Christchurch is busy rebuilding and showing a creative spirit that is getting the attention of the world.

There are interesting excursions such as the Tranzalpine Train to the Southern Alps and a visit to Kaikoura, a fishing town about 2 hours north of Christchurch where whales can be watched year around.

Queenstown, is a town born of a gold rush in the 1860s where visitors can fly to the top of a 10,000-foot mountain and ski down a pristine snow field. Plunge off a bridge and plummet earthward until - boing! - they're snapped back by "bungee cords" around their ankles.

The Rees Hotel

Cast a line into salmon-filled river waters at the base of a mountain range. Take a boat over dark, still waters in a breathtaking fjord. Whip through narrow gorges and shallow rivers in an exhilarating jet-boat ride. Hike along foot trails past cascading waterfalls and fields of wildflowers and visit world-famous Milford Sound, which houses one of the planet’s most spectacular fjords.