New Zealand, 'Land of the Long White Cloud', is a small,
sparsely populated country consisting of two major islands, North
and South Island, and a scattering of smaller ones. Despite its
small size it is crammed with magnificent natural beauty and has an
incredible amount to offer; the only complaint travellers have is
that they haven't allowed enough time in the country. Fresh air,
breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities are the main
attractions of New Zealand, with a tremendously friendly, honest
and helpful population, colloquially nicknamed after their
country's distinct symbol, the unusual but amiable flightless kiwi
The two islands have surprisingly different characters. The
North Island has dramatic volcanic landscapes and highly active
thermal areas, long stretches of beautiful beaches and excellent
sailing, ancient indigenous forests and a strong Maori cultural
influence. The South Island has a slower pace of life dominated by
a magnificent spine of mountains, the snow-covered Southern Alps,
and the spectacular scenery of the southern waterways of the fjord
lands, with glaciers, deep lakes and verdant forests.
The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 was New Zealand's
founding document, an attempt to settle disputes between the
European settlers and the Maoris, conceding the country to British
rule while guaranteeing the Maori people possession of their land
and cultural identity. Today, integration has been replaced by a
policy of upholding two different cultures alongside each other.
Their shared love of sport, most notably the revered national sport
of rugby union, and their enthusiasm for adventure and the outdoors
is the unifying factor among the whole population.
New Zealand offers a huge variety of action-packed and laid back
activities, from bungee jumping to skiing, swimming with dolphins,
scenic flights and boat cruises on the fjords, as well as several
world famous walking trails with unrivalled scenery. Alternatively
visitors can immerse themselves in culture at the museums and
galleries of the country's main cities - Auckland and the capital
Wellington in the North, and Christchurch in the south.
New Zealand is an easy and compact place in which to travel and
its spectacularly dramatic landscape alone, famous for its setting
for the 'The Lord of the Rings' film trilogy, makes the long trip
to these southern islands more than worthwhile.