I went to New Zealand for a whole month a long, long time ago with the company ISV. I won't blog in detail as the trip is so far in the past, however, it was honestly the best month of my life. I would thoroughly recommend using this company if your new to travelling but want to open your eyes to the world, equally, if you fancy New Zealand on your own and need an itinerary, ours was so incredible I feel rude not sharing.
I was told about ISV during a Geography lecture at Leeds Uni and immediately went home to the boy to book! We chose New Zealand completely at random and had no idea what to expect from the experience. What I can say though is ever since I hopped on that plane I have had the travel bug and just cannot get enough of exploring the world.
We flew from London Heathrow to New Zealand with Cathay Pacific with a four night stop in Hong Kong on the way and in one go on the way back. We chose to spend two nights in Auckland before meeting our ISV group as the tour didn't cover this city. We were actually very naughty here and didn't make the most of our time as we were so unexpectedly jet lagged, however, we did dine at the amazing Orbit 360, which I would definitely recommend for a treat meal.
The first two weeks in New Zealand were spent in a remote cabin with no heating (during their winter time) planting trees on a conservation project with a couple of day trips around the area including a stay with a traditional Maori tribe. There was no alcohol in the cabin and our only entertainment was ourselves. This was an incredible detox from University and an amazing bonding experience where the group genuinely became friends for life. It was great to give something back to the country that provided us with so much and was way more fun than we had initially anticipated.
The second two weeks were spent on our adventure tour. We flew from Auckland down to Queens Town and stayed for three nights. Whilst in the city make sure you grab yourself a Fergburger and don't order sides, the burger is more than filling enough. A stay in the area is also the ideal time to challenge yourself as I did with a bungee at one of the worlds highest sites The Nevis. Book through AJ Hackett at least the night before your intended jump. Don't miss the hilariously fun Shotover Jet and treat yourself to dinner with a view at the Stratosfare Restaurant located at the top of the gondola. Make sure you party the night away at The World Bar, which is full of like minded travelers and serves cocktails in teapots. We also took a horseback tour of the Lord of the Rings sites, which was simply magical. Finally take a day's skiing if you have time.
Next take a coach or drive yourself up to Franz Joseph Glacier and take a hike like we did, which is simply an incredible experience. Make sure you eat breakfast in advance and also take plenty of snacks as you will get hungry. You will be given a warm suit and all of the gear and the guides here are fantastic. You will need two nights in the area to complete a hike so be aware when booking accommodation. Options are also limited so during busy season it's probably best to reserve in advance.
From here we hopped back on the bus and headed to Nelson. This is the ideal opportunity to take a sky dive over the absolutely stunning Abel Tasman National Park. We used the company http://www.skydive.co.nz/ who will also arrange a photo and video pack of your experience. Whilst here also take a kayak or as we did a quad bike ride through the park and have a ride on the world's longest zipline, the Skywire where you can keep in contact with "control" via a radio and must release yourself for the return journey!
Next up was a ferry ride from the South Island to the North Island, which did make me feel a little sea sick but provided some incredible views. Whilst in the capital Wellington do check out the Te Papa Museum as it's well worth a visit. Aside from a bar crawl and taking advantage of the vast array of eateries here we didn't manage anything else during our one night stay! We were soon on the road again to River Valley where we stayed at the lodge complete with board games. The bar will stay open late into the night and the staff taught us some hilarious drinking games. This is the best area in the country for white water rafting and whilst remote it's beautiful and worth the detour.
After one night in the wilderness we drove down to Rotorua. You can also white water raft here but instead we took advantage of a tour and soak in the hot springs. It was great to relax, especially as the night life here is brilliant so be sure to re charge before hitting the town. Next up was Waitomo for the last two nights of our stay. Make sure you visit the glow worm caves and take a Black Water Rafting Adventure. This was the best thing we did during our entire trip. You will be dressed in a wet suit and split into small groups before abseiling down into the cave one by one. Next up is a zip-line in the dark surrounded by the lit up glow worms before a little hot tea and a snack. You will then jump into the freezing water and glide down the underground river by torchlight. There will be swimming under water, climbing up waterfalls, sliding down waterfalls, some mid way tea and dancing to keep warm and some hiking over fast moving water. The trip is amazing and something I have never experienced anything like before. It's exhausting but so much fun and I don't think anyone should come to New Zealand without trying this.
New Zealand is an incredible country with so much to offer, I hope one day we can make it back and experience everything we missed from dolphin and whale watching to the Fjord's and other cities. For a taste of this place I cannot recommend our itinerary highly enough. You will have a fantastic time and will really challenge yourself in ways you couldn't previously imagine. Go and experience the youngest country on earth as soon as possible.