New Zealand is one of the most isolated countries in the world, but it's also one of the most popular tourist destinations among jetsetters. No surprise; after all, The Land of The Long White Cloud is so diverse that it sets the perfect scene for any holiday, catering to travellers with different inclinations.
From the peaks of the Southern Alps, to the coastal communities of Nelson, to the cosmopolitan beat of Auckland and the cool vibes of Wellington, the country's vastly different landscapes offer tranquillity and adventure, fun and relaxation, all at once.
For these Asian Instagram stars, New Zealand has become a place that holds a special place in their hearts. After all, who understands the importance of capturing the perfect picture more than this group of influential travellers? Here are some places you cannot miss when you're planning a kiwi holiday, according to them.
1. WELLINGTON - BOOK YOURSELF A SEAL COLONY TOUR
Xenia Tan recommends the Seal Colony Tour at Wellington, which involves an exploration of the serene and rocky terrain of the coast and visiting a colony of wild New Zealand fur seals, where you can get up close and personal with the adorable animals. "I had a seal photobomb me - my life is complete. It was seriously an out of the world experience for someone who grew up in a concrete jungle," she says. You can book a half-day tour with Wellington Nature Tours, which will also involve travelling past some of Wellington's most famous icons.
2. MALBOROUGH - GO ON AN ECO-ADVENTURE
Nature lovers will not want to miss the Malborough region at the northeastern tip of the South Island that is known for its scenic sights, coastal waterways and wine valleys. "Paddling down the most beautiful river in New Zealand, and ending it with a good cup of warm coffee and way too many gingerbread cookies - a definite must do," says Xenia. Book a Hobbit Kayak Tour with Pelorus Eco Adventures, where you not only get to drift down the crystal-clear Pelorus river paddling your own canoe and learn about the history of the area, you'd also get to explore the locations used for the filming of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and pass the same waterfall as Bilbo and his friends. Get involved in this amazing Middle-earth location.
3. QUEENSTOWN - SOAK IN AN ONSEN
Staying fit and rewarding yourself after go hand in hand. Fitness entrepreneur and body-positive advocate Cheryl Tay recommends a relaxing soak at Onsen Hot Pools, the only dedicated hot pool complex in Queenstown. The gorgeous boutique spa is located high on a cliffside overlooking the magnificent Shotover River canyon, so you get breathtaking views of the alpine scenery while indulging in the idyllic cedar-lined pool. "After a solid day of sightseeing, there was no better way to relax than with a soak at the Onsen Hot Pools, complete with a stunning view," she says.
4. CHRISTCHURCH - GO FOR THE CHRISTCHURCH REBUILD TOUR
Christchurch was devastated by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, but the vibrant heritage town has been undergoing extensive rebuilding efforts to restore it to its former flory. Cheryl says going on a bike tour is top of her list. "One of the best ways to explore the city is to cycle, so you can reach places that cars cannot," she says. The Rebuild Tour will also take you to landmarks around the city, where you get to learn about the innovative efforts by the community to reconstruct the city and more. It allowed her to understand the city in its post-earthquake stake, and how there's so much potential to it, she adds. You can book a tour from Christchurch Bike Tours. Besides the Rebuild Tour, they also have a Farmers' Market Bike Tour and a Gourmet Bike Tour, as well as walking tours.
5. AUCKLAND - PAY A VISIT TO GIAPO
Giapo is an ice cream parlour boasting handmade ice cream, gelato and sorbet that boast a creative and adventurous flair. You can hold your chosen flavours in innovative ways, such as in a Wearable Cone, a Selfie Cone and a Yorkshire Pudding lined with milk chocolate. Hardcore fans say this place serves the best ice cream in Auckland; nay, in New Zealand. David Guison agrees, adding that a stopover here is a must. "Our visit at Giapo Kitchen was definitely one of the highlights of my New Zealand trip. The ice creams were not only out of this world, they were delicious too! We also got to meet the brains behind Giapo which made me appreciate it even more." What's interesting about this place is you can sign yourself up for a kitchen tour, a master class, or even a Chef's Table session where you'd be hosted by Giapo himself. One for the travel bucket list.
6. WAIKTO - TOUR THE ZEALONG TEA ESTATE
The Zealong Tea Estate is the only commercial tea plantation in New Zealand and is an idyllic and serene site producing 100 per cent organic award-winning tea. Take a tour around its grounds to learn more about tea growing, and have a meal at The Tea House, with dishes that are either infused with tea or specially designed to complement the brew. "This was a pleasant surprise because New Zealand is not really known for its tea. But I managed to learn so much about how tea is properly served, where it originated, the process of sun drying, withering, sorting, packaging and of course ending it with some high tea," says David.
7. TAKE A RIDE ON THE TRANZALPINE TRAIN
Slow it down with a ride on the TranzAlpine, which will not only allow you to take a breather and have a leisurely cuppa onboard, but will also offer you majestic views that are too magnificent to miss. You'll get to take in the sights of epic vistas, stunning mountains and see the vast Canterbury Plains as you travel between Christchurch and Greymouth. There's a reason why it's often described as New Zealand's most scenic train rides. "Breathing in the fresh air, looking at magnificent views from the top of mountains, and enjoying incredible surroundings even while commuting, still feels like a dream," says Anggey Anggraini. Head here to book a seat.
8. CHRISTCHURCH-CANTERBURY - SPEND A DAY OR TWO AT AORAKI/MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK
As we've already seen, New Zealand is not lacking in picturesque backdrops for the 'gram. But make sure the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is at the top of your list. Home to the highest mountains and the longest glaciers in New Zealand, it boasts spectacular views of pristine and untouched landscapes, towering peaks, icy glaciers and snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky. "I've travelled to many places, but New Zealand has left an indelible mark in my heart. I am continually amazed every time I visit," says Anggey. You can stay at a number of accommodations such as hotels, motels and lodges at the Aoraki/Mount Cook alpine village.
9. WEST COAST - VISIT THE GLOWWORM CAVES
"Travelling to New Zealand has been on my bucket list for ages, and I was beyond excited to finally be able to visit the country with my three closest friends," said Wahyu Mahendra. "All four of us love travelling and while each of us have our own likes and dislikes, deciding where to go in New Zealand was easy since every place is worth visiting and within easy reach." His favourite spot, however, was the Glowworm Caves. "With the magical glow-worms lighting up the dark cave, it looked like a fairy tale." Sign up with Underworld Adventures where you get to meander through an ancient cave network and marvel at the thousands of magical glowworms which are unique to New Zealand. Mother Nature at its finest.
10. CHRISTCHURCH-CANTERBURY - EXPLORE KAIKOURA
A coastal town on the South Island of New Zealand, Kaikoura is known for its abundant wildlife and its sperm whale population, and is another spot everyone should visit, says Wahyu. "You'll get to hang out with seals and eat seafood alongside beautiful beaches during sunset." Go for its marine tours where you get to encounter dolphins or whales, or explore its varied majestic landscapes from rugged coastlines to mountain ranges on a two-wheeler. For something even more adventurous, take a helicopter tour which will give a unique perspective as you soar above the resident sperm whales, dusky dolphins and fur seals.
This article was first published in Her World.