Green meadows stretched as far as the eye can see, dotted with sheep, draped in a blanket of clear blue skies- my fondest memory of New Zealand was driving along the countryside with these spectacular views. New Zealand is a destination for everybody. If you are an adventurous traveller you can bungee jump into a lake, skydive amidst clouds or zorb down a hillside in the North Island of New Zealand, if you want a relaxed holiday you can absorb the immense natural beauty of the South Island and if you are interested in culture, you can dig into the exotic Maori culture in Rotorua. I visited New Zealand just in the beginning of the winters. The views were spectacular, the weather was pleasant and the experience was unforgettable. Here is a guide to spending a week in the gorgeous New Zealand.
Arriving into New Zealand
The easiest way to get to New Zealand from India is to catch a Singapore Airlines flight from any major airport in India to the Changi Airport, Singapore and then catch either a Singapore Airlines or an Air New Zealand flight into Auckland, New Zealand. Not to worry if you have a layover at the Changi Airport, there’s plenty to do and it is hands down one of the best airports in the world. If you fly via Singapore Airlines, you can avail a $20 transit voucher that you can use to buy stuff at the duty-free shops. There’s a ton of variety and plenty to choose from. You can also catch the Skytrain and head over to another terminal to explore more. There are lovely sightseeing options as well. Check out the Butterfly Garden, the Enchanted Garden, the Cactus Garden or the Sunflower garden or get a massage or catch a movie at this super cool airport. If you have a 7-8 hour layover, I would definitely suggest doing the Free Singapore Tour. You don’t need a visa for this. Which is perfect for travellers in transit! If you want to travel in style, I’d recommend travelling Business Class by Singapore Airlines and flying Business Premier by Air New Zealand. Since both are long haul flights, your body will thank you for the amazing leg space and great comfort the Business Class offers. They also have a range of entertainment on the flight and they pamper you with snacks throughout the journey. The quality of food and service in Business Class is exceptional. They think of every little thing and are always ready to help with a smile!
Visa Process for New Zealand
Getting a New Zealand visa is actually pretty straightforward for an Indian citizen. You can check the requirements here. The visitor visa maybe valid up to 9 months and the easiest way to apply is online.
Top Experiences in New Zealand
Skyjump/ Skywalk in Auckland
If you are keen on adventure sports, you should definitely try the Sky Jump off the Sky Tower in Auckland. The Sky Tower is 220m high and gives a 360 degree panoramic view of the beautiful city of Auckland. The Sky Jump is a controlled jump and is pretty cool because when you jump, you can actually see people walking below you and the cars passing by. This makes the experience extra thrilling. Alternatively, you could do the Skywalk where you get to walk around a 1.2m wide platform, a dizzying 192m high! You are completely harnessed so it’s very safe. They also challenge you to a couple tricks up there which are scary but so fun to do!
Sky Jump: Rs. 10,370
Skywalk: Rs. 6,900
Hobbiton™ Movie Set Tour – The Hobbit Trilogy film set
Visiting this has been an absolute dream of mine and it totally lived up to my expectations. Little coloured doors to the tiny hobbit houses, acres of green meadows, The Green Dragon Inn™ from the Lord of the Rings films- Hobbiton was dreamy and almost unreal in bits. If you plan on visiting Hobbiton™ Movie Set, make sure you book in advance as the spots fill out pretty quick and try and do the Evening Banquet Tour. The Evening Banquet Tour starts at around 3.30pm in the evening so you get to see Hobbiton in daylight, during sunset and right into the night. The tour ends with a spectacular dining experience. The food served is actually the dishes that were eaten by the Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings films. If you are a big LOTR fan, this experience will blow your mind, and even if you’re not, this experience will definitely stick with you.
Hobbiton Banquet Tour: Rs. 8,985
New Zealand is made up of volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. A cool experience to try when in Rotorua is the Mud Spa at Hell’s Gate. You can relax in the mud bath traditionally used by the Maori to cleanse, heal and for overall wellbeing. You can spread the mud all over your body and face, let it dry and gently wash it off. Make sure you keep the mud away from your eyes. The mud bath is followed by a cool shower which helps restore blood circulation before relaxing in the hot sulphur mineral spas. The experience was extremely soothing and relaxing.
Hell’s Gate Mud Spa Experience: Rs. 3,455
Bungee Jump at Taupo
New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world. The quality of adventure sports in New Zealand is exceptional. The equipment is top quality and the views are breathtaking. The bungee jump spot at Taupo is one of the best spots in the world especially because this place was started by A.J. Hackett, the person who first started commercial bungee jump in the world. What I found the most exciting about the jump was that I had the option of touching the lake. And I was suspended upside down in midair for quite some time, which helped me soak in the experience better. The cliffs, the water, the rocks, just a touch away.
Bungee Jump Tour: Rs. 8,306
It seems like New Zealand is full of adventure sports that seem absolutely crazy to a lay person. New Zealand is really the land of nutty but awesome sports. Like who thought of throwing oneself off of a high cliff into a lake? Well, A.J. Hackett did and there it was- the birth of commercial Bungee Jumping. Similarly, two young lads from New Zealand decided to roll down a hill inside a giant inflatable ball. And there it was, the birth of OGO. This site which is the first and the biggest OGO site in the world, has three different tracks. The straight track which is great to begin with as it gently initiates you into this crazy sport, then there is the zig zag track where the ball rolls down zig zag down the hill and then there is the newest and the most mental track which is the Mega track which is a pretty steep roll down the hill. It looks pretty harmless when you look at it from the outside, but when you are inside, its absolute mayhem! You are being thrown about inside this giant ball, soaking in warm water and laughing uncontrollably. I tried standing up, I tried running inside the ball, but no luck, two seconds into the roll I would find myself on my back again. A truly strange and confusing but an awesome experience!!
OGO – Rs. 5,946, for all three tracks
The Te Puia tour was a great insight into the Maori culture. There were geysers surrounding the village – violent bursts of burning steam emerging from within volcanic rocks. Apparently, the temperature is so high that it can cook an entire pig in just two hours. For lunch we had chicken, rice and corn meal box steamed using the volcanic steam coming out of one of the geysers, just like the Maoris did back in the day. We also visited traditional Maori tattoo artists, artisans, sculptors and got to see the elusive Kiwi bird!
Te Puia (Te Rā & Kai Ngāwhā Tour) – Rs. 4,840
Huka Waterfalls Cruise
When we started the cruise, I did not expect the boat to go so close to the water source. We glided across the calm lake, listening to bird calls, spotting them and then there was the glorious reveal of the powerful waterfall. The boat took a turn and there it was, pristine glacial waters streaming down the hill with a brute force. Definitely one of the most powerful and beautiful waterfalls I have seen. I would recommend doing the cruise because it’s a completely different experience watching the waterfalls up close than standing on the bridge over it.
Huka Falls River Cruise – Rs. 1,797
Food in New Zealand
New Zealand has a plethora of restaurants, breweries and cafes and you can find a huge variety of cuisines to suit your tastes and moods. Here were my top favourites from my time there:
The Sugar Club by Peter Gordon
If the idea of dining with a fantastic view excites you, you will love dining at The Sugar Club. Make sure to order the 8 course Tasting Menu which is sure to tempt, tease and satisfy your palette. The seafood on the menu is exceptional, owing to the fact that New Zealand is surrounded by the ocean. It’s one thing to look at the beautiful skyline of Auckland lit up at night from a sky tower. But it’s a whole other thing to do it while tasting some of the most sensational food by world renowned Chef Peter Gordon. It is an absolute riot of flavours, textures and smells. It’s an absolute must do while in Auckland. Make sure to reserve a table well in advance.
A modern ice cream parlour in the heart of Auckland city, New Zealand is a gastronomical paradise. They’ve taken ice cream, something that everybody loves, and completely turned it on its head with whacky flavours like fries with coffee gelato and roti (chapati) ice cream. They love experimenting with flavours and techniques – they even have a 3D printer installed in their kitchen, and want to put New Zealand on the map for ice creams. The Giapo team wants to challenge expectations by changing the very function of ice cream. Ice Cream is not just food, but art, they feel – a wearable accessory; not just sweet, but also savoury; not just ice-cold, but also steaming hot. We had the pleasure of doing a tasting with the Masters themselves and their passion for what they do was infectious to say the least.
Akaroa Fish and Chips
When in New Zealand there are two things you have to try- the mince pies and the fish and chips. I had the good luck of trying the fish and chips in the coastal town of Akaroa. This was right before a lovely cruise we did to spot the Hector’s dolphins (the smallest dolphins in the world).The fish was fresh, crunchy and the fries were to die for. If you want to try the mince pie, I would suggest heading to a small bakery and trying the curry mince pie.
I definitely had an absolutely action-packed week in New Zealand. Every morning I would do something that would pump up my adrenaline – jump off, swing off, roll off places! And that would keep my energy high throughout the day. New Zealand is definitely one of my top favourite countries and evidently there’s no shortage of amazing things to do. Also, New Zealand has some of the most spectacular sunsets. The picture below was taken on a random spot we found while driving towards Christchurch. If this doesn’t inspire you to head to New Zealand, I don’t know what will! 🙂