New Year, New Zealand

2015 Vacation to New Zealand

Question: What's a closer flight—Italy, Australia, or New Zealand? Answer: New Zealand! You're just an overnight flight away from waking up in Middle-earth, minus the Orcs. With so much diversity in one country, every day is a different journey in New Zealand.

Size Matters: New Zealand's compact size lets you do a lot in a day—like experience glaciers, rain forests, beaches, wineries, and thermal hot springs! Queenstown (aka the Adventure Capital of the World) is one of several smart base camps, set on the shores of turquoise Lake Wakatipu and backed by the Remarkables mountain range. From hiking, jetboating, and rafting to golf courses, scenic flights, and trendy restaurants, this little resort town offers it all.

Hobbiton Hop: It's one of the most enchanting pieces of Middle-earth: Hobbiton, aka The Shire, is a magical village on rolling farmland you can tour daily, where 44 Hobbit-holes are exact replicas of how they appeared in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. And just one hour from Hobbiton, the Waitomo Caves fascinate—a labyrinth of underground rivers and subterranean caves lit up by millions of glow worms that look like a galaxy of stars. Take a boat ride, go black-water rafting, or even zip-line through the darkness!

Eighth Wonder of the World: Dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World, Milford Sound (pictured) was carved by glaciers, with fiord cliffs rising right out of its pristine, dark waters, waterfalls cascading in all directions, and mountain peaks lording high in the sky. Explore it by kayak, on a day cruise, or by helicopter. For those really looking to get deep into this wilderness, embark on the Milford Track, a four-day, hut-to-hut hike through rain forests, alpine meadows, and up to the stunning (1,904-foot!) Sutherland Falls.

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