The Maori, New Zealand’s original settlers, believe the fresh morning dew that covers the plush green grass and rolling hills is actually the tears of Rangi, the sky. The Maori named this magical place Aotearoa—the Land of the Long White Cloud—a name both romantic and true. New Zealand is a country of rare beauty, with the towering Alps in the south that pierce the clouds, stunning bays in the north that embrace the sea, and nothing but exhilarating beauty in between.
The first country to greet the sun each morning, New Zealand is made up of the North and South Island, with a combined land area not much larger than California. But don’t let the size fool you, for options abound, whether you desire to scuba dive in one of the world’s top sites, walk high along a glacier, taste world-class wines, or spend Christmas on the beach.
The northern tip of the island is subtropical with deeply carved bays adorning the coastline like bites taken out of a cookie. Lake Taupo, a deep, heart-shaped lake that anchors the island’s center, beats, according to Maori legend, pulsing with hot waters; while the Bay of Islands, a 144-island park framed by isolated beaches, is a playground for whales, dolphins, and penguins.
Wellington, nestled between a stunning harbor and volcanic hills at the southern tip of the island, is both New Zealand’s capital and cultural center, made up of four quarters that each offer a unique mix of tastes and sounds. Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is barely a city at all. It’s more aptly described as half urban, half marine, surrounded by sparkling water in every direction and 50 nearby islands, much to the delight of the amphibious locals.
Beginning in the sun-drenched northern region of Marlborough, the Southern Alps stretch south over 370 miles, thrusting snow-capped peaks 3,700 feet into the air and weaving a path of glaciers and ice-bound slopes. The island’s west coast is a scenic treasure trove, full of lush rainforests, tumbling mountain streams, and glacial lakes sparkling as if full of sapphires.
Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island, is proud of its English heritage, stately homes, and world-famous gardens. Travelers use this colorful and energetic city as a springboard to the wonders of South Island, meandering along the deserted highways down to Fjordland National Park and the Otago Peninsula.
Throughout New Zealand, the greatest sight is neither environmental nor architectural, but rather salutational. Whenever two Maori greet one another, they press their noses together and exchange the breath of life. The same happens when you visit New Zealand — you bring your face, your entire being, right up against the land and exchange breaths, giving a piece of yourself and taking a piece with you.
North Island or South, snow-topped mountains or sand-covered beaches, whatever part of New Zealand you experience will become a part of you. Let your life fuse with the best of New Zealand.