A few weeks ago we were wandering through the green and cheerful land of Hobbiton (The Shire) and its antithesis, the dark and gloomy Mordor, so in this article we’ll discover other iconic locations of the Middle Earth in the magical land of New Zealand.
Both Matamata (The Shire) and Tongariro National Park (Mordor) are located in the North Island, but for me, it is the South Island the one that has the top tourist attractions.
Peter Jackson recorrió ambas islas de su tierra natal buscando las imágenes que su imaginación proyectaba cuando devoraba ávidamente los libros de Tolkien que cautivarían para siempre su mente. Encontró su inspiración donde tantos otros viajeros la pudimos sentir.
The Misty Mountains
The North West mountain range of the Middle Earth is based on the real-life Southern Alps in New Zealand. This mountain range in the South Island offers magnificent views both in winter, with its snowy peaks, and in summer, when one can get lost in the impenetrable forests stretching between the lakes.
Misty Mountains, South Alps
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The Fellowship of the Ring took this path when they had to go through the dangerous Moria mines, at the heart of the mountain. These scenes were filmed near Glenorchy, a few kilometres away from one of the world capitals of sports adventure, Queenstown.
Close to Glenorchy there is a trekking route not be missed by anyone travelling to New Zealand: the Routeburn Track. It’s easy to make it without a guide as you can follow the marks painted in the trees and rocks along the trail. We got lost in the dense, thick forests, the rivers, the hills and the bush fields for three days in one of the major adventures of our trip.
Misty Mountains, South Alps
The Fellowship of the Ring also ventured into Routeburn but they weren’t so lucky, as they were attacked by the Uruk Hai sent by Saruman, and Boromir died while defending Merry and Pippin after succumbing to the power of the One Ring.
Going down the lonely roads of the middle of the South island of New Zealand we got to a tourist information centre close to a beautiful lake. The winter sun reflected on the crystal clear surface of Ruataniwha Lake next to the mountains and grass. We were in the surroundings of the small town of Twizel and here we took the deviation leading to the famous Cook Mount (Aoraki in Maori lanauge) the highest peak in the country, 3,724 m high.
I was gazing out of window of our van and when I recognised the flatlands covered by brown bushes and surrounded by the majestic snowy mountains. I was sure – those had to be Pelennor Fields. I immediately took out my LOTR location guidebook and my guess was confirmed.
Pelennor Fields, Twizel
These lands had beheld one of the most epic battles of the Lord of the Rings. Sauron’s army spread over the field like a black stream to take down the resistance of the white city of Gondor. Minas Tirith was able to withstand the attack thanks to a heroic spirit and the last minute help of the Riders of Rohan, Aragorn and the Army of the Dead he called upon.
Over time, the grass has grown again from the flames of the battlefields and the path to Mount Cook was able to charm travellers again. It is best to go in the passenger seat as you follow the roads of this country, because you won’t want to take your eyes off the spectacular views.
Lothlórien and the Gladden Fields
High elven Celeborn and Galadriel rambled together through the forests around Wakatipu Lake, in the surroundings of Queenstown. They kept one of the power rings given to the elven and that is why the beauty of the Lothlórien woods was preserved, opposite to the gloomy decline of the Middle Earth.
I was able to go through it both in winter and summer. Queenstown is a vibrant city full of life all year around. Young people come from all corners of the country, Australia and even further countries on the lookout for adrenaline-pumping activities.
In winter you can enjoy the ski resorts and its nightlife. Summer attracts a wealth of people interested in “–ing ending” activities: Rafting, cannoning or bungee jumping from one of the highest bridges on earth, the jetboat and sky diving –jumping down from an airplane while it is flying– among many more.
The rural farm of Fernside in the North Island, less than an hour away from Wellington, through the scenic path of Rimutaka Road was also used to film some scenes of the homes of the powerful grey elven.
The Dead Marshes and the Pillars of the Kings
I think Frodo and Sam wouldn’t have been so scared only if they had known that the marshes where they thought they were seeing the corpses of the dead from a battle raged ages ago actually led to the wonderful fjords of Milford Sound. Well… or maybe not. We have to admit that having those dead eyes staring right to you is scary, no matter what comes next.
The scenes were filmed in the surroundings of Te Anau, where there is one of the most advisable hiking paths of New Zealand. Walking there in winter is almost impossible, so I would encourage you to do it in spring or summer. As much as it is popular, it is still not overcrowded and you’ll be able to enjoy a dramatic nature in a pure state.
The computer-designed Pillars of the Kings in Gondor were combined with images of Shotover river close to Queenstown, ideal to enjoy rafting.
When Aragorn takes the hobbits out of the Inn of the Prancing Pony in Bree after being exposed to Nazgul, he takes them through Chetwood forest up to Whethertop, where Frodo was wounded by the knife of the Nazgul King.
These scenes were filmed in Takaka Hill, covered by a sheet of green trees a few kilometres away from the real gem of the area. Abel Tasman National Park.
This coastline park located in the North edge of the South Island, offers an endless trekking offer –shorter and longer routes– through well marked paths that run along a perfect mix of green cliffs ending in virgin beaches and forests packed with local birds.
Kayak is the option I would recommend to navigate the coastline at your own pace. If own one, spend a few days on the route, you’ll be able to sleep in places of otherworldly beauty. If not, renting one will cost you 25-30 New Zealand dollars per day. We were rowing for a full day in summer, in complete solitude and we had so much fun!
Parque Nacional Abel Tasman
Well, with these two posts about the Middle Earth in New Zealand you are ready to follow Tolkien around a world full of elven, men, dwarfs and hobbits teaming to fight against Sauron forces. And remember, if you find a plain golden ring, with no apparent inscriptions… Think twice before picking it up.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them, in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie…
Oh, and remember as well that you can’t pay with golden coins like in the Middle Earth. Now only New Zealand Dollars will be accepted, and you can get them at Global Exchange.[cta id=’22516′]