WE HAVE become so accustomed to living in the city nowadays that we might sometimes stop to think twice before planning a trip out into nature. To be surrounded by the beauty of untainted land is only a dream to some who see nothing past the concrete and glass walls we call home. From time to time we need a break, a spiritual retreat to take in the fresh air and spread our wings. There is one such place, beyond the artificial lights and away from the suffocating blanket of fine dust, where there lies a rich culture and history as vibrant as the aurora borealis and where gentle breeze brushes through fields of grassy green. There, you can witness the magnificent, ancient structures that carry stories of many lifetimes ago. Words are not enough to truly capture the bewitching qualities of New Zealand, whose land is as peaceful and beautiful as its nickname, the Land of the Long White Cloud. With only so much time in your hands to explore all of its vast scenery, here are just a few of the places you must absolutely visit when on a quick holiday.
Embark on the white clouds
New Zealand is composed of two islands in the southwestern region of the Pacific Ocean. Its history begins with the arrival of the Polynesians, who developed the local Maori culture. Legend has it that when the first Polynesians sailed towards the islands, the first sign of land was the vast white clouds that hovered over it. With this in mind, New Zealand is also called Aotearoa, the Maori translation of “the Land of the Long White Cloud.”
Sometimes, it feels as if New Zealand is living in its own world due to its isolation from the rest. It contains breath-taking geographical features, such as caves and lakes, where people can partake in bungee-jumping, kayaking, and other fun activities. Summer in New Zealand occurs during Korea’s winter, making it the perfect getaway for those who find it difficult to cope with the cold. While the temperature may sometimes rise as high as 40℃, the sights are definitely worth braving the heat.
Trek through the Shire at Hobbiton
The first stop is none other than the set of The Lord of the Rings. Though it is only a tour through the Shire, the hometown for hobbits, it is one of the most immersive experiences you will ever have. The tour starts with a bus ride that takes you down to the set where you are greeted with a short introductory video clip from the director, Peter Jackson. He explains that movie props are almost always temporary, but he is glad that Hobbiton is preserved and hopes that tourists are able to appreciate what New Zealand has to offer.
The set is surrounded by a field of trees and flowers beautifully intertwined with the man-made hobbit holes. There are 44 small Hobbit houses in total that spread across 8 acres of well-maintained land and each house stands out by its distinctly colored round doors.
Some hobbit holes are notably much smaller than others. The tour guide explains the use of scale and perspective and how it was used in the movies. To show how small the hobbits are compared to other species, characters such as Gandalf often stood by the smaller-sized hobbit houses to naturally make them seem bigger on camera. The tour guide is extremely knowledgeable in all that has to do with Tolkien and the franchise, so do not hesitate to ask any questions. End with a visit to the Green Dragon Inn, where you will receive complementary beer, ranging from sweet apple cider to ginger ale. Each place you walk past will seem nostalgic and homely, and you will most definitely get the urge to scream, “I’m going on an adventure!” while waving your trusty ticket in the air.
Delve into the nature spots of Rotorua
Cleanse your soul at Te Puia, a geothermal valley and park at the edge of Rotorua Island, which is a sanctuary for both endangered animals and tampered nature. The island was once off-limits due to its use for alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers but has since expanded to host more cultural and heritage-based tourism. The area allows you to reconnect with the environment and admire all that the Earth provides for us.
Begin your trek with an optional lunch buffet that offers traditional Maori food. As you go deeper into the park, you will encounter mud pools that bubble in the ground. They have been labelled “the cherished ones of Koko,” Koko referring to a famous Maori chief, and sometimes also known as “frog pool” as the bubbling mud mimics the sound of leaping frogs. Tourists can also choose to take part in cultural shows, where they will be able to experience live cooking and Maori dance performances.
However, Te Puia’s main attraction is the Pohutu Geyser, the biggest geyser in the Southern hemisphere. “Pohutu” means “constantly splashing” in Maori, which is well-fitting as water shoots up to 30 m in the air. The vapor from the nearby geysers will help refresh your face and make you feel warm and relaxed. You will definitely be hit with a gush of water as well, but each drop will feel purifying. Each section of the park is devoted to preserving a habitat that is threatened to be lost, and its fragility will most definitely give you the urge to become more aware of your surroundings from now on.
Discover the magic inside the Waitomo Caves
The Waitomo Glowworm Cave may be one of the most beautiful places in the world. Owned by a local Maori tribe, this cave contains a sight that can never be forgotten once witnessed. As soon as you step in, you cannot help but stop to gawk at the large jagged rocks hanging from the ceiling. Known as stalactites, these kinds of rocks are formed from droplets of rain containing all kinds of minerals. The water that continues to drip down later forms upward rising buildups called stalagmites. Most of the rocks are limestone, which absorb echoes, so choirs often hold events inside the caves to sing Christmas carols for three nights.
The best part of the experience is a boat ride to see the glowworms, bioluminescent animals that emit light from their tails. The Maori call them titiwai, which is appropriately translated as “lights reflecting off the water” or “a starry night.” Further down the cave where everything is pitch black, thousands of them hang from the ceiling in clusters, perfectly replicating a starry night, and you immediately become spell-bound and almost breathless by the glowworms’ piercing blue lights.
Unfortunately, photography is prohibited because the lights can tamper with the glowworms’ bioluminescence. But do not be disheartened. There are some sights whose beauty cannot be captured by camera and must be experienced first-hand to truly understand its value.