Te Ika-a-Maui

New Zealand is divided into two main islands. The South Island tends to steal much of the attention since it´s green landscapes and dramatic mountains are what we see pictured in tourist brochures. But that doesn´t mean the North Island, or Te Ika-a-Maui, is any less intriguing. This island holds most of New Zealand´s population, sandy beaches with blue-green waters, warmer weather and vibrant cities such as Auckland and Wellington. 

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If you don´t have all the time in the world and you need to pick a select few places to visit, the route between Auckland and Wellington is a way to see a big part of what this island has to offer. You can do this by bus and train, or you can rent a car and do it at your own pace. The drive is approximately 8-9 hours, but you´ll end up spending a lot more time taking in the scenery. 

If you´re on an international flight you will most likely land in Auckland, the City of Sails. The waterside location makes this city perfect for pursuing all sorts of water activities. 

When you´ve spent some time here, start your journey and make your first stop in the Waikato region for some spectacular hiking. This is a good place to post some enviable selfies. Go to the town of Matamata for a visit to Hobbiton, the Lord of the Rings Hobbit holes built on location.

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At the heart of the island, and on your route, is Rotorua. 90 % of the Maoris live on the North Island and in Rotorua you´ll get a taste of their culture. Have a traditional hangi dinner and see a performance of the traditional haka while you´re here. You can paddle Lake Rotorua in a beautifully carved canoe, or get a Maori tattoo if you dare. This is the main hub for the Maori culture. 

Rotorua is also in one of the most concentrated geothermal areas in the world. So don´t leave before seeing the spouting geysers and bowling mud, or without soaking in one of the natural hot springs. 

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Next up is Tongariro National Park. This is a chance to hike across active volcanos. If you don´t have room for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in your schedule, you should make room. It is a 7 hour hike and is often referred to as one of the best hikes in the world. For you Lord of the Rings fans, you´ll be walking into Mordor and up Mt. Doom. 

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Last stop is the capitol of Wellington and around here LOTR fans will find many more locations. You´ll get a feel of the city from a ride on the historic Wellington Cable Car or an overview from the top of Mt. Victoria. This is the world´s windiest city, so you should plan your activities accordingly. Or just enjoy a cup of locally roasted, award winning coffee on one of the many coffee joints.

Gunn Anita Sæther