New Zealand is a magic word for those who love wild landscapes, solitude, and adventure. Since the turn of the millennium at the latest, the Pacific state is known to all Middle-Earth fans as the home of hobbits, dwarves and elves. My four-week journey took me to the most famous locations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Granted, I am a fan. I wanted to climb the steep paths at Mount Ngauruhoe because Frodo and Sam did it. I looked up respectfully to the Putangirua Pinnacles that mark the entrance to the paths of the dead. And I looked at the snow-covered Southern Alps and imagined one beacon after another being set on fire.
My travel companion did not know what to do with hobbits, elves, and dwarves at all, but I was nonetheless able to convince her of my planned route – with a simple theory: the filmmakers certainly chose the most beautiful spots in the country for their masterpiece.
The four quarters of the Shire lie in the green hilly landscape southwest of the small town of Matamata. The working farm is one of the most popular film locations today. A guided tour brought us directly to the original scenery – an absolute must for every fan.
Location of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Trilogy on New Zealand's North Island
from Svenja Rödig,
After the shooting of the Lord of the Rings, many parts of the film sets were dismantled. Thanks to the great public interest and the beginning preparations for the shooting of the Hobbit trilogy, we were able to admire some beautifully designed Hobbit caves on the Bagshot Row in 2010 and enjoyed the view from Bag End over the Party Field.
– The Land of Shadow –
Despite Boromir's urgent warning to “not simply walk into Mordor“, we did exactly that. The Tongariro National Park extends around the active volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu in the center of the North Island. We set out on one of New Zealand's most famous hikes – the Tongariro Crossing – to explore the inhospitable and colorful landscape up close.
We mastered the ascent to the Red Crater and marveled at the unique view of the Emerald Lakes, which lie like turquoise blue gems in the grey rock. Then the weather changed within a few minutes. We watched dark thunderclouds drifting around the summit of Mount Doom – and because it was impossible to feel safe from Sauron's anger at this sight, we started our way back.
In the film, it looks massive: the rocky landscape at the entrance to the Path of the Dead. In reality, the Putangirua Pinnacles are very hidden on the south coast of the North Island – but this doesn’t make them any less impressive.
Landscape of thousands of rock needles in the south of New Zealand's North Island
from Svenja Rödig,
We went on a small hike, which led us from the campground partly along, partly through a rocky stream bed to the pinnacles. We reached the stone needles at dusk and could only wonder at how the dwindling light made the rocky landscape come to life.
– The King of the Golden Hall –
The setting for King Theoden’s Throne Hall is in the Canterbury region in the center of the South Island. The rocky summit of Mount Sunday is only about 150 m above the wide plain, yet it offers a gigantic view.
Small but striking summit in New Zealand's Southern Alps
from Svenja Rödig,
A bit of luck is needed to find the right way to the lonely valley – although the connection is probably much better today than it was about 10 years ago. We found a long gravel road and two battered metal signs that took us to Rohan's untouched world.
Road through Mackenzie Country, in the background the snow-covered Southern Alps
Mountain giants and billions of stars: New Zealand away from hobbits and dwarves
The special thing about New Zealand is without question its natural wealth and the fact that the landscape can change completely within half an hour by car: from rainforest to white sandy beach, from idyllic green pastures to a red-black volcanic landscape.
Anyone who asks me about my favorite place will have to prepare for a longer report. But one of my big favorites is clearly the Mackenzie Country.
Where the golden Tussock grass stands out from the turquoise blue lakes Tekapo and Pukaki. There, where the view falls on the snow-covered Southern Alps, which rise at their highest point over 3700 m into the sky. There, where you only have to close your eyes to see the riders of Rohan galloping across the plain.
There, where the nights are sometimes so cold that you can't even sleep. But you don't have to – because whoever sleeps misses the absolute darkness and peace – and the most impressive starry sky I've ever seen in my entire life.