What Are the Most Beautiful Landscapes?
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- 1The Youngest Country on Earth.
- 2New Zealand Countryside and Vineyards.
- 3Forests From The Lord of the Rings.
- 4Mountains Still Reaching for the Sky.
- 5Volcanoes From the Ring of Fire.
- 6The Purest Water in the World.
- 7From the Fjords up to the Tasman Sea.
- 8Sand Beaches of Every Color.
- 9The Most Beautiful Country on Earth?
The Youngest Country on Earth.
The Gondwana which 550 million years ago was a supercontinent merging both Africa and Australia was divided into parts. Some fragments were swallowed by the sea for hundreds of millions of years.
In reality, New Zealand belongs to the huge underwater continent called Zealandia.
Thirty million years ago, because of the overlapping of tectonic plates, a part of the earth emerged from the ocean.
New Zealand as we know it today eventually emerged from ocean five million years ago.
From a geological point of view, this is the youngest country on earth and the last to have been discovered by man.
Early explorers struggled to survive in the midst of a fauna and a flora unique on Earth. The two New Zealand's main islands have an unparalleled variety of landscapes: forests, fjords, deserts, volcanoes, plains, mountains, glaciers...
The most beautiful timelapse filmed in New Zealand.
I'll give you an overview of each of these landscapes, and you will be able to judge if the country's reputation is well deserved or not.
However, I must warn you that there's a good chance that reading this article makes you want to organize a stay in New Zealand!
New Zealand Countryside and Vineyards.
It was mainly British settlers who have deforested a great part of the country to create pastures. But Maori had preceded them using fire rather than a lumberjack ax.
Since 1970 and the birth of an environmental conscience in the population, the government has created 14 national parks for the pleasure of the hikers and put an end to the deforestation. But deforested areas are not less beautiful!
The discovery of the New Zealand countryside is a delight to the eyes.
An impression reinforced if you come from Australia where the climate is so dry.
Because it is located in the axis of the Roaring Forties, New Zealand is often watered by rain. So much that the color of the grass is at the limit of fluorescence when the sun shines. Plains and valleys are far from monotonous, because volcanic activity has sculpted the relief. Add 30 million sheep serving as lawn mowers, and you will feel like walking on an infinite golf course.
Being a cattle rancher is a profession with a future in this country, but there is an alternative way to make a fortune by exploiting the earth resources. The volcanic soil has the particularity of being very fertile and the New Zealanders had the foresight to plant vines that give wines among the best in the world.
The vineyards of New Zealand produce the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world.
Most vineyards are located on the North Island but the finest are on the South Island in the regions of Marlborough and Otago. The Rippon Vineyard on the shores of Lake Wanaka offers wine tastings in front of a breathtaking panorama (perhaps one of the most beautiful in the country).
Forests From The Lord of the Rings.
The forest still covers a large part of the two islands. More than 600 species of trees and plants have been identified, including a wide variety of ferns. It's easy to understand why the New Zealanders have chosen the fern as the national emblem.
For every fan of The Lord of the Rings, the New Zealand's forests may seem "déjà vu". Many forest sequences were filmed near Wellington and in the Fiordland region.
The presence of palm trees also contributes to the exotic image of the country. Yet they should not exist at such a low latitude. This is a perfect example of the microclimates that vary completely from one region to another.
The Pohutukawa gives red flowers at Christmas, but another tree species steals the limelight and fascinates visitors. The Kauris are sacred trees with a huge trunk, and they can live more than a thousand years! A Maori guide will lead you to them in the ancestral forest of Waipoua.
All forests are not endemic, and some have been planted by man. The Giant Coastal Redwoods from California is well adapted to the climate of the Rotorua region. Today, these well-maintained areas are ideal to go cycling without any risk of getting lost.
However, do not wander off the path when exploring the rainforests of the South Island. The foam even covers tree trunks and it is necessary to be as strong as Bear Grylls (the adventurer from Man VS Wild TV Show) to have any chance to survive in such a wild environment.
Mountains Still Reaching for the Sky.
The Alps of the South Island are covered with eternal snow. They were created during two million years (which is extremely fast at the geological level) due to a tectonic movement still at work (the mountains continue to gain a few millimeters each year despite the erosion).
There are more than 200 peaks of about 2300 meters high and twenty others at more than 3,000 meters of altitude. The heavy snowfalls generate glaciers that descend into the valleys through the forest to reach the level of the sea.
The Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph are the most popular and the most accessible. A mountain guide will lead you through the dangerous crevices up to the blue ice caves. Once inside, you'll feel like being under the sea.
In the region of Central Otago, Cardrona and Treble Cone allow you to ski in a dream location, enjoying the view over lake Wanaka. The ski season covers a large part of the year and some slopes of mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand, are used as training ground by high-level skiers.
The east coast is known for the Kaikoura Sea Range. Mountains join the ocean where the whales swim all the year round, making it a truly unique place for photographers.
Some mountains are sacred in the Maori tradition. Their access is forbidden and taking pictures of them as well. This is the case for many volcanoes of the North Island.
Volcanoes From the Ring of Fire.
The North Island's mountains are actually powerful volcanoes from the Pacific Ring of Fire. In fact, some are still active but can be explored like White Island off the Bay of plenty.
The presence of volcanoes is explained by the shock between Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates. The underground frictions generate considerable heat that rises up to the surface.
That's why the North Island is characterized by a spectacular geothermal activity. Boiling mud ponds, geysers and sulfur pools are at the origin of a major tourism industry with Spa centers having flourished everywhere.
Further on the North Island, the Tongariro Crossing track leads to the emerald lakes. The proximity to Mount Ruapehu which last erupted in 2012 did not discourage visitors. The solidified lava landscape was used as a natural setting for the Mordor scenes in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings.
Extraordinary timelapse of the Tongariro volcanoes.
Most volcanoes of New Zealand are long extinct. Fortunately, because the entire Auckland City is built on a constellation of small volcanoes. Some were still active during the past centuries. Once extinct, Mounts Eden and One Tree Hill were converted into public parks and offer magnificent views of the city.
The Purest Water in the World.
All volcanoes are not giving birth to mountains. The most powerful volcanoes can dig a caldera into the ground. This is how the huge Lake Taupo was born following an eruption so powerful that it was even perceived in China!
Lake Taupo feeds the Waikato River which gives birth to an extraordinary fall. The flow of the mighty Huka Falls is so powerful that it could fill an Olympic swimming pools in few second! With such a high oxygen concentration, the water colour appears turquoise.
The country also holds the record for the purest water spring of the world: The Blue Lake Springs offers perfect visibility at 80 meters deep! Many seabed like those at the Poor Knight Islands and the underwater wrecks like the Rainbow Warrior have made New Zealand one of the most beautiful diving spots in the world.
If many lakes have already been mapped, some are still waiting for you to be baptized. According to the composition of the soil, water appears blue, green or turquoise, and when the weather is fine, the surface of Lake Matheson turns into a mirror!
The splendid reflection of the Mount Cook over Lake Pukaki's surface is another wonder figuring in most souvenir albums. But the best of the South Island is yet to come.
From the Fjords up to the Tasman Sea.
Glaciers have carved valleys into the rock down to the sea, giving birth to the majestic fjords of the Fiordland. At the southwest of New Zealand, the majestic Milford Sound was regarded as the eighth wonder of the world by Rudyard Kipling.
The rain that falls on alternate days in this region gives birth to hundreds of waterfalls. Some are among the highest in the world. The rain feed the dark waters of the fjords where dolphins swim among the gorgeous white coral.
Some travellers prefer visiting the Fiordland by following the Milford Track. This three-day hike is considered as the most beautiful in the world for more than a century. One discovers landscapes that seem to have been carved for giants.
Even wilder, the Doubtful Sound is a difficult access fjord. The daily excursion can be exhausting, but offers a breath-taking panorama. The silence, broken only by birdsong, gives the impression to be back to the epoch of dinosaurs.
Sand Beaches of Every Color.
New Zealand has fifteen thousand kilometers of beaches stretching as far as the eye can see. Some were turned into popular resorts, but nature takes its course progressively as soon as you move down south.
The beaches of the east coast are covered with white sand. The calm sea is perfect for swimming in the company of dolphins. In contrast, the volcanic black sand of Piha (the beach of Jane Campion's Piano movie) is typical of the beaches on the west coast.
Visitors particularly love the small coves and the turquoise lagoons to explore by kayak in the Abel Tasman National Park.
The sand rich in iron oxide appears orange and no hotel spoils the landscape.
Even more original, the 90-mile beach that leads to the Cape Reinga can be explored by car. A few kilometers away, the giant dunes of Te Paki attract the sand surfers.
The Most Beautiful Country on Earth?
Trip Advisor has made (again) New Zealand its best tourist destination of the year. But the trilogy Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit had already contributed significantly to reveal its incredible scenery to the public.
Some people claim that New Zealand “is like Canada, but eve, better”. An amusing statement, but very subjective after all. There are, of course, some similarities between the two countries, but the volcanic terrain of New Zealand is much more contrasted.
The peculiarity of the country is to offer an incredible diversity of landscapes gathered on the same territory. The lovers of nature and outdoor activities (such as mountain bike) consider New Zealand as a true paradise.
Is it, however, the most beautiful country in the world? One can argue about this point of view, but just because people are discussing the question is already a real proof of quality. The country is always at the top of the opinion polls, and visitor satisfaction rate is incredibly high with a 9.5 / 10 score.
New Zealand is at the top of the ranking of the most welcoming countries in the world.
To extend the subject Kiwipal offers detailed articles on every outdoor activities. You just have to make your selection to build your very own customized itinerary!
Questions & Answers.
What can I do for you? With such a profusion of landscapes, there is no need to argue, you must visit New Zealand! Ask me all your questions on the subject, I'd be glad to help.
- All topics ... 20 answers in total
- Landscape Types 7 answers
- Geology 5 answers
- Volcanoes 4 answers
- Parks & Wilderness 4 answers
- How to visit the shooting locations of the Hobbit?
Film locations are scattered throughout the country, sometimes in isolated areas. But other famous sites are easily accessible. The village of Hobbiton is less than an hour's drive from Waitomo.Hobbiton guided tour
- What types of landscapes can be observed?
New Zealand possesses a wide variety of landscapes. It is for this reason that the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit were filmed in this country. Valleys, mountains, glaciers, deserts, plains, forests, fiords, volcanoes ... are easily accessible and often a few kilometers apart.
- Does New Zealand look like Australia?
New Zealand is green from the sky while Australia appears yellowed by drought. That is enough to answer the question.
- Does New Zealand look like Canada?
This is a remark that often comes up, but seems to be shared only by a minority of travelers. The mountains offer different reliefs, and the variety of landscapes is much higher in New Zealand.
- Are there vineyards to visit?
New Zealand is renowned for the quality of its Sauvignon Blanc, probably the best in the world. You will often have the opportunity to admire vineyards on the two islands of the country.
- Is the sky bluer than in Europe?
The Bay of Islands has the second highest measured intensity in the world. Another reason for not forgetting to equip your camera with a polarizing filter.
- Are there really millions of sheep?
I continue to read on the Internet that the country has 70 million sheep... But this figure dates back to the 1970s and no longer reflects reality. It is estimated that sheep are about 30 million, which remains considerable for a country of 4.5 million humans.
- What colors are the beaches?
To the west, the beaches have black volcanic sand. On the other side, the beaches on the east coast have a fine white sand. Finally, the beaches of Abel Tasman offer an orange sand rich in iron oxide.
- Why is it the youngest country in the world?
Geologically, New Zealand is indeed the youngest country in the world. This reputation is also linked to the fact that the islands of the country were the last to be discovered by Man.
- What is the highest mountain in New Zealand?
Visible in the Lord of the Rings, Mount Aoraki / Cook is the highest peak in the country (3724 meters).
- Why is the relief so marked?
The encounter between two tectonic plates continues to grow the mountains. Add to this a strong geothermal activity and you have the explanation of such a spectacular relief.
- Should we be afraid of earthquakes?
New Zealand experiences many earthquakes every year. Most earthquakes are too weak to be felt by the population. Those that are perceptible remain brief and do not cause any damage. Paradoxically, this is more an original experience that even amuses some travelers... Severe earthquakes (such as the Christchurch one of 2011) are extremely rare.
- Why are there volcanoes in New Zealand?
New Zealand is at the end of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
- Are the volcanoes in activity?
Some volcanoes such as Tongariro and White Island are still active.
- Can we climb a volcano?
The famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike takes place partly on the flanks of a volcano. More spectacular, the visit of White Island takes place in the midst of the sulfur vapors and requires to wear a gas mask to approach the central crater.
- Should we fear volcanic eruptions?
If one can never be categorical, chances are that the next eruption of Tongariro will not take place for at least a century. As for White Island, the chances of eruption are real and the activity of the volcano is followed on a day-to-day basis.
Parks & Wilderness
- Where are the national parks?
The national parks are scattered throughout the country. They occupy about 14% of the total area, which is considerable.
- Why is the fern the emblem of the country?
There are several hundred varieties of ferns, the most famous being the silver fern. It is quite natural that the New Zealanders use it as a symbol.
- Where can we see pohutukawas?
This species of tree adapts very easily, which explains its presence all over the country. The Coromandel Peninsula is known for its coastal road bordered of pohutukawas.
- Are there still forests of kauris?
The large forests of kauris have almost all disappeared because of deforestation. There is a forest in the north of the country (Waipoua) where some trees are estimated to be a thousand years old.
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