New Zealand Holiday
Thanks to the thousands of marauding orcs swarming across its countryside in the recent Lord of the Rings film trilogy, New Zealand and its landscape has once again caught the eye of many a traveller and adventurous holidaymaker.
Lying on the South Pacific Ocean, roughly 1,000 miles from the nearest large landmass of Australia, it is not hard to see why director Peter Jackson picked the country as the backdrop to his epic 'other world' series.
The New Zealand landscape is a cacophony of sights, shapes and colours; with its scenic snowcapped mountains, rolling green pastures, clear lakes and hissing geysers evoking a blend of foreign South Pacific awe with an almost European familiarity.
Despite the great Polynesian navigator Kupe first finding his way to the islands around 1000AD, it was Captain Cook's arrival 769 years later that radically changed the country's history. By 1840, the Polynesian Maori conceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria, and the British organised the first colonial settlement.
New Zealanders, or Kiwis, themselves are now a mix of white European, Maori and other south-east Asian ancestry, and share much in common with their Australian neighbours. Speaking English and enjoying their weather and lifestyle, Kiwis are perfectly happy to welcome visitors to their shores and help them engage in any number vigorous 'extreme' outdoor activities.
As for every calm and tranquil space there is on the island from abundant forests to long, deserted beaches, there is, somewhere, an extreme activity to complement it.
New Zealanders seem to have taken it upon themselves to teach the world how to enjoy themselves dangerously, with skiing, rafting, Zorbing (throwing yourself down a hill inside a giant inflatable ball) and, of course, bungy jumping, all highlights of any trip to the country.
As a collection of islands, watersports and activities also feature high on the Kiwi list, with abundant chances for the daring traveller to try their hand at waterskiing and surfing on the alarmingly long, empty beaches, or swim with dolphins and watch whales further out to sea.
The country is geographically split in two, with the north island containing the country's two biggest cities: Auckland, and the capital, Wellington, and the south with more of the beautiful untamed landscape.
Perhaps the country's largest urban area, Auckland boasts 1.3 million of the country's four million-strong population, and prides itself on being the centre of commerce and industry, as well as culture.
Dominated by volcanic hills and twin harbours dotted with boats, the 'City of Sails' is possibly New Zealand's most vibrant, bustling multicultural city.
The capital city of Wellington is positioned between a picturesque harbour and wooded green hills, hosting the cultural, administrative and political centre of the country.
The seaside city also boasts great nightlife and shopping, with a downtown area "to match New York".
New Zealand's south island is home of the country's outstanding glacial mountains and lakes, with Lake Taupo in the volcanic heartland of the island rich in Maori tradition.
Christchurch is the south's largest city, with a welcoming population of around 300,000, all assuring you you're in the most attractive city in New Zealand. Christchurch's many public and private gardens, which complement the meandering Avon river that treads through the city, prove they are not wrong.
New Zealand's weather never has a truly bad season, meaning there are things to do and see all year round.
Although the warmer months are from November to April, ski resort towns are obviously busier during the winter months.
The country is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the high-profile film 'advertising' it has recently received, though travellers visiting outside hectic peak times will easily avoid any rush of holidaymakers and enjoy New Zealand's natural beauty.
Who knows, you may even see a Hobbit…