New Zealand’s Great Walks wind through jaw dropping landscapes

With its hedonistic mix of pristine landscapes, lush green pastures, vast expanses of untouched beach, snow capped mountains and subtropical foliage; New Zealand is an incredible mix of visual diversity. Throw wildlife into this mix of natural beauty – think seals basking in the sun, whales majestically cutting through the ocean and an abundance of fearless native birds, and you have a pretty good idea of why travellers consider New Zealand something of a Holy Grail. It has long been a coveted destination for tramping enthusiasts, and its appeal has only increased with the emergence of New Zealand as the home of award-winning vineyards and restaurants. This is not just the top must-do destination for committed trampers, but also for the wine and food aficionado, and the heady mix of experiencing all of these elements together is the reason New Zealand has transformed into the absolute bucket list destination.

Having walked, tramped and hiked with the best of them (well the best of the non-hardcore contingent, that is) I have to confess that choosing which route to take is a minefield – a bit like selecting from a gourmet menu, there are no wrong choices, but you don’t want to have food envy when someone else’s dinner is served. With its plethora of phenomenal walks and tracks to choose from, it can be hard, if not impossible to whittle down one single route that allows you to experience the best of everything in a finite amount of time, which is why we at New Zealand Walking Tours seek to maximise your time and minimise your agonising. And, let me add it’s not just your agonising but also your agony that we want to cut back on – in days gone by, I’ve roughed it; I’ve schlepped up mountains with a tent on my back and raw pasta in my bag. Great, well done me. NEVER AGAIN. Now I want to enjoy the scenery without worrying whether I’ll actually cry if I have to eat another protein bar. So what we at NZ Walking Tours have done is pick the best of the best hiking experiences; broken them down into manageable day walks, and ensured that each day ends with a slap-up meal, a wine to make your toes tingle and a bed that, after a day on the track, feels as soft as a cloud.

So, to give you some idea of what’s on your platter, the walks and hikes within New Zealand include three large UNESCO world heritage sites – Tongariro National Park, Te Wahipounamu and the Subantarctic Islands – as well as nine Great Walks across the North and South Islands, plus many one day options. Tip-top planning has enabled us to incorporate a number of the World Heritage Walking Tours into our itineraries. Whilst it goes without saying that every one of the tramps or hikes offers up its own unique experience, those that come under the banner of ‘World Heritage’ do so because they have been tagged as outstanding in their natural heritage, and are thus protected by the world heritage convention.

Often in the shadow of the South Island, I think most would agree that when it comes to the North, she’s a show stopper in her own right. One of my favourite areas has to be Tongariro National Park in the North Island of New Zealand; I think what I love is that it has something to offer all year round. This isn’t just the country’s oldest national park, but also a dual World Heritage Site (for both outstanding natural features and cultural importance to local Maori). So it’s no surprise that this Park is featured in two separate tours – both the Timeless North and Pristine New Zealand include this area. Home to the majestic Mountains Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, the vistas are quite literally the stuff that Lord of the Rings is made of. Now brace yourself, because this eerie volcanic terrain leaves you feeling as though you have seen landscapes reminiscent of those from the dawn of time. There’s no denying it’s spectacular, but lets face it, it’s so easy to miss so much – which is where those clever Kiwi guides come in and earn their keep – under their expert eyes hidden lakes, native flora, fauna and wildlife are all revealed. And of course the beauty of these trips is that the euphoria doesn’t stop when the hike ends. As the day closes the doors of Chateau Tongariro will be flung open to you. This is one of those hotels that stays with you long after you have left – you want a toboggan to mess around with in the snow; they will give you one. You want to watch a movie? They will put one on in the Cinema. You want a glass of wine while listening to a pianist play on the Grand Piano. You’ve got it. Take me back is all I can say….

Now let’s not pretend that the South Island is the poor cousin. She is, frankly, gob smackingly stunning. Te Wahipounamu wows with its wild, dramatic landscapes – and Fiordland National Park offers the opportunity to experience a vastly different type of hiking adventure from those of the North Island. Spectacular sights ensure that this area is considered by many to be the walking capital of the world. So, no surprise that the Great Walks of the Routeburn and Milford Track are included by us within the Pristine New Zealand, Elegant South and Beautiful South packages. The ‘great wilderness’ of Fiordland attracts explorers keen to discover the mystical beauty described by the celebrated British writer Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth natural wonder of the world.’ Of the fourteen fiords in the National Park, Milford Sound is the most famous, and the lure of its surrounding alpine landscapes really is hard to resist. There is simply so much to digest, that unless you have a six month sabbatical, it’s a case of being organized and leaving it to the pros – we will take you by boat, by air and by foot – incorporating not just walks, but also a helicopter ride and a cruise through Milford Sound. The mesmerising combination of mountains, rainforest, thundering waterfalls and crystal clear waters, will leave you absolutely gasping for a glass of the local award- winning vino, and your wish will be your hosts’ command.

We like to think that every base has been covered – breathtaking natural beauty, and good old-fashioned manmade home comforts – and this delicious combination leaves our travellers not weary, but invigorated, and genuinely delighted with their experiences.

jeanne costello
22:31 15 Feb 18
Our New Zealand Walking Tour was absolutely fantastic and our best tour ever. Our guides were extremely knowledgeable and fun and took complete care of us, including making some wonderful picnic lunches and an amazing Christmas dinner. The places we visited were highlights on the South Island and we were able to hike, do a couple of boat tours, visit other interesting sites, and stay in some great places. This tour was the perfect combination of activities and I can't recommend it highly enough. A once in a lifetime adventure!read more
Roxanne Theriault
05:27 02 Nov 17
Amazing company, everything is top notch and they take care of you from start to finish! Always friendly, helpful, personable and professional - what kiwi hospitality is so famous for! You won't regret going on a walking tour with these folks and you'll definitely be planning your next trip, once you're back home! Highly recommend!read more
Miriam Houliston
05:19 02 Nov 17
Paul McDonald
21:13 30 Oct 17
I wanted to find a guiding company based in in New Zealand, with local guides. When I found out that New Zealand Walking Tours is part of the Active Adventures family, I was super confident to go ahead and arrange my trip. Exploring the Abel Tasman National Park by day and Awaroa Lodge by night was a massive highlight! I'll be back for more
Will Appelman
21:07 30 Oct 17
My wife and I are avid hikers, and New Zealand Walking Tours gave us the chance to explore a wide variety of New Zealand’s hiking trails – including amazing sections of the 9 Great Walks, and be rewarded with accommodations that are a step ahead of the competition, delicious locally sourced food and a tipple of New Zealand's finest local wine! But on our free day in Queenstown we met loads of local ‘Kiwis’ who hadn’t even heard of some of the trails we hiked along the way – it actually made us feel like the locals! In the same time it would have taken us to hike the Milford Track from start to finish (like we planned) we hiked an amazing section of the famous track, while also taking a boat cruise on Milford Sound and getting flown by helicopter from Milford Sound to the most incredible and isolated luxury lodge in the Hollyford. We then jet boated out across a lake before a beautiful walk back to civilisation on the Hollyford Track. Before our trip, Fiona worked out exactly the perfect trip to suit what we were looking for, and Lynette was an amazing help getting us ready to depart - making sure we packed everything we need, and not so much of what we didn't need. Highly recommended!read more
Joe Sutheran
20:52 30 Oct 17
I had a great time in New Zealand with my parents, travelling with New Zealand Walking Tours. I know my parents were so happy they found this company, the activity level was spot on for them, and accommodations, food etc was never less than outstanding. I didn't have much to do with the company pre-trip, but I know my parents were extremely impressed with the communications, and preparation advice from the team behind the scenes. What I can say is that when it came to the trip itself, the guides were just a joy to be around, extremely enthusiastic, interested in their guests, and very knowledgeable. Being a bit younger than much of the group, I was a little apprehensive that I might not enjoy it, but I don't know what I was worried about! Spending time getting to know the others on the trip, as well as the guides, was a delight - but what meant the most to me was spending time with my parents without the burden of the 'real world' on any of us, just enjoying the moment and each other's company. Thank you New Zealand Walking Tours for showing us the best of your stunningly beautiful country, and giving all three of us happy memories we'll never more
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