In 2019, over 75,000 readers of The Telegraph newspaper in the UK voted for their favourite travel products, destinations, and airlines, and ultimately named New Zealand as the 'Best Country in the World' for the fourth year running.
What was most interesting were the reasons for which so many adored little old Aotearoa (New Zealand), land of the long white cloud.
Many of the reasons cited regarded the country’s landscapes. And yes, there are loads of beautiful places in the world, but there is something otherworldly about the views in New Zealand—and the destinations to which they lead.
Take Taupo, where New Zealand's largest lake sits on a volcanic plateau surrounded by mountains. Here, you can sail and ski on the same day, with just a 90-minute drive between surf and snow. And then there’s New Plymouth, home to the famous Mt Taranaki and the goblin forest at its base; from there, an hour’s drive is all it takes to reach the black sands of west-coast beaches.
And there's no end to the cinematic views of New Zealand’s South Island. A flight into Queenstown Airport ought to offer a few. Or, instead, you could fly into Christchurch and take in the sights of the Southern Alps before catching the TranzAlpine train to Greymouth, a beautiful locale on the west coast where rainforests meet seascapes and dramatic mountain vistas.
Walking the Milford Track—considered the world’s greatest hike—was high on voters’ lists as well. Of course, New Zealand is abundant with such majestic hiking trails that make up the country’s Great Walks Network, including six on the South Island and three on the North Island.
New Zealand's native parrot, the Kakapo, was another top reason for voters. The bird went viral after trying to mate with a zoologist's head during the filming of a nature documentary. Now, while the Kakapo is the world's largest parrot, it is also critically endangered. The good news, though, is that New Zealand has loads of unique native birds as well as some incredible conservation efforts that are recreating the bush as it was 80 million years ago.
In Wellington, there's Zealandia, which is a 225-hectare sanctuary valley with a unique predator-proof fence. Here, you can see some of New Zealand's rarest birds like the Hihi, Saddleback, and Takahe. You’ll also find New Zealand's living fossil, the Tuatara, preserved since the time of the dinosaurs. There’s also the island sanctuary, Tiritiri Matangi, which can be reached by way of ferry from Auckland.
Lastly, New Zealand’s vibrant and historical culture rounded out the most popular of the voters’ responses. Maori culture in particular is a living, breathing, adapting force that remains an essential fabric of New Zealand’s society.
If you’re looking to learn more and immerse in the culture firsthand, you may want to attend one of the cultural shows on offer in Rotorua. The city is recognised as the cultural centre of Maoridom, where one third of the population is of Maori descent. There are four different options, each with its own point of difference. A standout destination is the Te Puia Village in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, home to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. But you don't have to get your Maori cultural experience in a package, as genuine cultural connections can happen in everyday exchanges.
Totally Tarawera offers water taxi services on Lake Tarawera, as well as glamping at Te Rata Bay. Co-owner Karen Walmsley just happens to be descended from famous guide, Sophia Hinerangi of the 19th century Pink and White Terraces, and enjoys sharing the stories of her ancestral lands. Back in the big smoke of Auckland, you can also take an award-winning day tour through a Maori lens with Time Unlimited Tours.
With so much to see and do in the beautiful country of New Zealand, you might want to think about renting a car so you can get around with ease. At VroomVroomVroom, we compare great rental cars at competitive rates, so what are you waiting for? !