“Last, loneliest, loveliest, exquisite, apart,” wrote English novelist Rudyard Kipling when describing Auckland after a visit to New Zealand/Aotearoa in 1891. His observation has been echoed by many who have visited the country in the years since. About the size of the United Kingdom, but with a population of only five million as compared with 66 million in the UK, it’s a country that punches above its own weight.

Let’s talk diversity. New Zealand is like a cleverly wrapped gift that continually reveals surprises. There are heart-stopping thrills for adventure seekers. Ecotourists have national parks, penguin colonies, marine parks (whales, dolphins, sea lions) and forest walkways to explore. The landscape can change from gently charming to towering majesty within an hour’s driving time. You might find yourself surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks and glaciers, you could be deep within a complex subterranean cave system, lost in a lush rainforest, boutique shopping in a buzzy city, or making your way across a stark volcanic valley punctuated by cones rising high above the horizon.  

The strong culinary scene may come as a surprise. New Zealand’s relative isolation has resulted in a food industry that emphasized the hyper-local long before it was ever a fad. NZ produces some of the world’s finest seafood, produce, and award-winning wine, beer, and spirits—not to mention internationally recognized chefs. That’s not to say it’s all fine dining: Nothing beats getting takeaway fish and chips from a beachside food truck, a Kiwi classic.

The country is also becoming world-renowned for its innovative sustainable tourism practices. This commitment goes beyond the Tiaki Promise, a commitment all visitors are asked to make to protect its biodiversity and culture. In a response to concerns about overtourism, the NZ government has vowed to shift to a regenerative tourism model.

And New Zealanders are proud of their origin story. Hardly a hamlet or town exists that doesn’t have its own small but polished history museum. This is in addition to big-city treasure houses, such as Dunedin’s Toito Otago Settlers Museum. Increasingly, there’s also a greater (and much-deserved) emphasis on celebrating Māori history pre-colonization, including that of the seafaring Polynesian explorers who first landed on Aotearoa’s shores approximately 800 years ago. Attractions like Northland’s Manea Footprints of Kupe and apps like Tupapa in Tairāwhiti Gisborne are sharing these important stories.

For a small country, the challenging geography (mountains, rivers, sea crossings), means many miles must be traveled to reach the best attractions. Fortunately, the travel links are easy. National airline Air New Zealand is backed up by smaller regional airlines, the InterCity coach system connects business centers with practically every visitor attraction, and in-between are busy shuttle buses and scenic train lines transporting visitors to popular destinations.

But while the places you visit, the hotels you sleep in, and the adventures you have will shape your experience of Aotearoa (the Māori word for New Zealand, which translates roughly to “the land of the long white cloud”), what you will remember most is the warm and genuine welcome of the people you meet. Kiwis are eager to share their home and their stories—but they’re just excited to hear yours. There’s a Māori proverb that captures this sentiment well, and it’s one you should carry with you on your travels: “Māku e kii atu, he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. What is the most important thing in the world? Well, let me tell you: It is people, it is people, it is people.”

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.