One of the most iconic fantasy stories ever published has got to be the Lord of the Rings, written by the prolific J.R.R. Tolkien. We watched his world come alive from page to screen as a slew of films were made to give breath to the Middle-Earth.
When you visit New Zealand, looking out at its diverse landscapes, it’s quite difficult to see where the country ends and Middle-Earth begins. It’s this imagery that inspired both the book and films to go on a pilgrimage in honour of one of the world’s best fantasy narratives.
Let’s start where the story begins and ends – in the humble village of The Shire. Hobbiton is located in Matamata, Waikato, North Island and is one of the few locations that was built specifically to be used for the film. Here, you can start dawdling around the village where the Hobbits go about their day. Tick off the Frodo and company’s favorite hangout places like the Green Dragon, Bag End, and the Party Tree.
Upon meeting Aragorn, then known as Strider, in the village of Bree, the Hobbits needed to escape to Chetwood Forest as the Black Riders started to arrive. Start to recall the adrenaline that you must’ve felt just watching that scene – then imagine running in that forest, keeping your heads down.
Well, you don’t need to imagine any longer! Chetwood Forest is set on the marble outcrops of Takaka Hill. Begin your trek at Abel Tasman National Park which would take around 3 hours to finish.
Known as the site of the Anduin River, the Kawarau Gorge is where the Fellowship rowed down to and saw the great monument of Gondor, called The Gates of Argonath or The Pillars of Kings. Unfortunately, the statues were added in post-production, but you can very much visit the Anduin River by dropping by the gorge.
Visitors can start their trail at the Kawarau Bungy Jump Bridge in Queenstown, South Island.
At the Aorangi Forest Park, you can see jutting out of the ranges the ancient eroded pillars of the Putangirua Pinnacles. In Return of the King, this rugged terrain is the site of the Dimholt Road which Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli took as they seek out the Paths of the Dead.
Just an hour’s drive from Martinborough, you can hike the Putangirua Pinnacles in under 4 hours.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Located deep in the heart of New Zealand’s Dual Heritage and is one of the nine Great Walks of New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the Tongariro National Park is considered to be one of the best one-day walks in the world.
A path with a stratovolcano, water-filled craters and desolate landscapes, it’s no wonder why Mt. Ngauruhoe of the crossing was chosen to be Mordor’s Mount Doom, the home of the Dark Lord Sauron. It will take an estimated 8 hours to finish hiking, but an added 3 hours is needed if hikers want to traverse the mountain’s summit.
Bilbo said, “The Road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, if I can.” The appeal of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books doesn’t just stem from an amazing worldbuilding work from the author, but that it inspires people to “take the hidden paths.” The book’s adaptation to film has definitely opened a lot of us to an adventure and now’s the chance to heed its call by going on an LOTR inspired trip to New Zealand.