The Hobbiton set is the country’s best-known attraction today with close to half a million visitors a year, but there is of course a wealth of film locations far beyond ‘the Shire’. You can always discover New Zealand's dramatic film locations (over 150 were used during filming) for yourself, starting with this handy guide, or you can head to this remote country on a tour.
We've rounded up a few of the many operators running Tolkien tours of New Zealand in 2017, each for a different type of travellers. One thing they all seem to have in common is the desire to meld real life with fantasy worlds while exploring one of the world's most beautiful countries.
Be a Middle-earth explorer
You can follow in the footsteps of Frodo and Bilbo with Round the World Experts (roundtheworldexperts.co.uk) on a 17-day tour of all things Lord of the Rings. As well as the obligatory visit to Hobbiton, the tour takes you to Wellington to go behind the scenes at the interactive Weta Cave workshops, learning how Lord of the Rings was brought to life with props, costumes, models and special effects. Next it's on to filming locations in the South Island, with highlights including exploring Aoraki (Mount Cook), New Zealand’s highest mountain peak, discovering Queenstown, and experiencing the silence of Middle-earth on an overnight Milford Sound cruise
Wander windswept beaches
Get more Gandalf-like on stunning New Zealand beaches © Akhil Suhas Photography/ Instagram @akhilsuhas
A 21-day tour with Discover the World (discover-the-world.co.uk) takes diehard fans through Lord of the Rings film locations with the national carrier, Air New Zealand (airnewzealand.com). The itinerary starts with a visit to Hobbiton in the rolling hills of Matamata, then hits all the visual splendour of the films, including the stunning beaches at the top of the South Island as well as the dramatic mountains and fjords of the Fiordland & Southland. There are several guided location tours included, as well as an overnight cruise on the spectacular Doubtful Sound.
Join the fellowship
Silverfern (silverfernholidays.com) does a 16-day journey travelling through New Zealand’s magnificent landscapes from Auckland down to Queenstown. The tour includes film locations across the country, with a few surprises like dinner at the Green Dragon Inn in Hobbiton; and a hike to Pinnacle Ridge in the heights of Mount Ruapehu, which stands in for Mordor.
Lord it up on a luxury tour
Luxury travel outfit Zicasso (zicasso.com) covers similar territory but includes a private, after-hours tour of the Weta Cave as well as off-road adventures in a 4WD to Middle-earth film locations. A visit to the North Island is never complete without touring the steaming mud pools and erupting geysers at Rotorua's Wai-O-Tapu and Waimangu for more Lord of the Rings style photo opportunities. This guided tour then heads to the South Island to jet-boat past mountains and waterfalls on the glacier-fed Arrow River near Wanaka. Finally, take a helicopter ride over the Fox and Franz Josef and and pretend your flying over Caradhras, one of the three Mountains of Moria.
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