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UNESCO World Heritage Sites

New Zealand’s UNESCO Sites: An Idyllic World

Visit New Zealand when you want to see the world with fresh eyes. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the country has been honored for both its natural and cultural heritage—both offer you the chance to feel your spirits soar. Walk on a glacier, discover the Māori culture, explore a thermal wonderland, go caving, and open yourself up to the possibility of river adventures. When you visit New Zealand, you’ll be impressed by everything that makes the country a UNESCO beauty.

Tongariro National Park

Emerald lakes on Tongariro Crossing track

The oldest National Park in New Zealand and situated on the north island, Tongariro was acknowledged by UNESCO for its cultural and natural values. In the center of the park, you’ll find atmospheric volcanic regions. The presence of numerous Māori religious sites within the park are a testament to the power of the landscape. Many of the mountainous summits are considered sacred, or tapu. There are plenty of towns, all with Māori names, also inside the park. Explore!

For adventure lovers, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered to be one of the world’s best one-day hikes. You might also consider cycling through ancient forests, skiing across an active volcano, or snowboarding. At the end of the day, relax in a restaurant with a glass of local wine and food. For wildlife lovers there are 56 species of birds, including kiwis and falcons, as well as red deer. Did you see The Lord of the Rings film trilogy? Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro were two of its stars!

Te Wähipounamu / Southwest New Zealand

Milford Sound in Te Wähipounamu

The dramatic landforms created by climate and geology over time on the south island, along with the unique plants and animal life in a pristine state, are the exceptional characteristics of Te Wähipounamu. The park’s landscape was shaped by eons of glaciers that became fjords, mind-boggling cliffs, crystalline lakes, and roaring waterfalls. Some of the trees here are 800 years old, and the only alpine parrot in the world, the kea, lives here as does a rare flightless bird, the takahe.

The Great Alpine Fault, one of the few tectonic plates with land boundaries, created the Southern Alps—they reach a height of 12,000 feet just 20 miles from the sea. This mountainous wilderness has 15 fjords. There are 13 marine terraces with forests, raised 3,000 feet above the Waitutu coastline over a period of one million years. Glaciers tumble into temperate rainforests and wild-looking rock formations reach into the Tasman coastline. The least changed of New Zealand’s natural ecosystems, this is a surreal showroom into the evolution of Earth, plants, and animals.

New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands

Southern Royal Albatross in flight over New Zealand waters Southern Royal Albatross in flight over New Zealand waters

These islands, known as NZSAI, include five island groups and the marine area around them. This is one of New Zealand’s remote areas and has some of the world’s most undisturbed islands. NZSAI is a living laboratory for studying genetics and adaptation. The sheer number of diverse life forms is astonishing; there are unique plants, birds, marine mammals, fish, and algae.

What is perhaps the most distinctive nature of these islands is the abundance of seabirds that spend most of their time, except when they are nesting, over the ocean and away from land; the albatross, petrels, and skuas are examples of these seabirds. As a matter of fact, 126 bird species, including 40 different types of these seabirds, breed nowhere else in the world. It’s also home to rare and endangered ducks, sea lions, right whales, and ancient vegetation in this marriage of land and sea.

When you visit New Zealand, you’ll be overwhelmed by majestic mountains, pristine coastlines, and the heartfelt Māori culture that are all part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is the sort of vacation that creates a lifetime of memories for singles, families, or couples. Experience life, brand new!

When you’re ready for an adventure of the natural world and cultural, New Zealand may be the destination of your dreams. Let your Destination Expert know what you’d like to do in this UNESCO paradise.