If you're looking for a country that offers volcanoes, glaciers, fjords, geothermal pools, and black sand beaches, we've got just the place for you. You probably didn't even realize you were looking for all that in your life, but New Zealand is the place that you're going to get it.
When you fly halfway around the world, things are bound to be different, but you may not have realized just how different the nature of New Zealand is.
Waiotapu is an active geothermal area south of Rotorua that's home to a number of geothermal pools, including the Champagne Pool, a terrestrial hot spring that was formed almost 1000 years ago. The water of the hot spring sits around 74 degrees Celcius and is named after the bubbling effect from the carbon dioxide in the spring.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
One of the most popular day hikes in the country is the tramping track through Tongariro National Park, where you'll come across emerald green and blue lakes like this one.
Franz Josef Glacier
For incredible views of sparkling ice formations and incredible mountains, the Franz Josef Glacier (or it's sibling, Fox Glacier) will have you living out your very own Expedition Everest while in New Zealand.
That Wanaka Tree
Sitting in the center of Lake Wanaka with the Southern Alps as its background, it's hard not to feel transported when you're looking at the sole Wanaka tree that sits in the middle of the lake, known as "That Wanaka Tree."
New Zealand's Slope Point makes you feel like you've stepped into a scene from a Dr. Seuss book thanks to the bent trees. You're not falling over, though: the trees are bent because the point of the island is located so far south that they experience extremely heavy winds every day.
The Milford Sound fjord on New Zealand's South Island is known for its towering peaks, rainforests, and waterfalls, as well as the wildlife it's home to, such as fur seals and penguins. Taking a ferry ride through the fjord will have you feeling like you've stepped straight into Jurassic Park, too.
Scattered along the edge of Koekohe Beach, you'll find unusually large and spherical boulders of varying sizes among the crashing waves that have been formed over approximately 4 million years.
Due to the high iron content in the sand at Piha Beach (thanks to its volcanic origin), if you're planning on paying a visit to Piha, you'll quickly realize that it's no ordinary beach—it's a black sand beach. Since it's black, the sand gets hotter much faster than an ordinary beach, so make sure you bring some footwear with you!
The largest of the three parallel alpine lakes in the Mackenzie Basin, if you're looking for beautiful blue waters, Lake Pukaki is what you're searching for. The lake is glacial-fed, which gives it that distinct color, and you're welcome to take a dip in it (though it may be a little chilly).
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
You can't go to New Zealand's North Island without paying a visit to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. A must-see experience, you'll feel like you've been transported into the night sky on a starry evening or like you jumped into some sort of fairy fantasy land.
If you're going to be visiting the Coromandel Peninsula while in New Zealand, Cathedral Cove is another must-see spot. Getting there at sunrise or sunset will leave you feeling like you're sitting in your own little private piece of the world.
The Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes walk (now that's a mouthful) is a walk through the limestone pancake-shaped rock formations and surge pools of Punakaiki that will give you great views, a chance to spot some wildlife, and the feeling that someone must've worked hard to stack all those pancakes up.
Easily missed while on your way to the pancake rocks of Punakaiki, the Punakaiki Cavern is worth paying a visit to if you're interested in glowworms and stalactites (who isn't?)—just make sure you bring a flashlight!
Not only are the incredibly blue waters of Lake Tekapo impressive, but if you go to the lake during peak lupin season (November–December), you'll see them in bloom all along the water's edge, making it even more beautiful.
Yes, this electric green lake is supposed to be that color, thanks to the sulfur in the Devil's Bath at Waiotapu. The lime green mud will burn your skin off, so save your spa treatments for another time, but have your camera ready.
Lady Knox Geyser
Another attraction located in Waiotapu's thermal area is the Lady Knox geyser, which is induced to erupt daily at 10:15 a.m. by dropping a surfactant into the opening vent of the geyser.
Wairēinga / Bridal Veil Falls
A 10-minute hike along the Pakoka River on the North Island will find you looking at the incredible sight that is Bridal Veils. The plunge waterfall is 180 feet tall, cascading over a cliff that was formed by volcanic activity.
The northwesternmost tip of the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand, Cape Reinga is often referred to as the "edge of the world," and is considered the separation point of the Tasman Sea & the Pacific Ocean.
According to Maori mythology, Cape Reinga is where spirits of the dead travel to leap off the Earth and into the afterlife.
Blue Pools at Haast Pass
A part of the Mount Aspiring National Park, the Blue Pools are easy to add to your trip through the South Island of New Zealand, right off the highway at Haast Pass. If you're there during the right season, you're likely to see hundreds of trout living in the clear blue waters.
While it's not a naturally occurring attraction in New Zealand, if you're looking to be transported to another world, why not pay a visit to Middle Earth to round out your trip?