Lonely Planet (UK) - - Best Travel 2019 -

Head to New Zealand dur­ing its colder months (May to Septem­ber) to skip the crowds and peak prices, and ex­pe­ri­ence undis­turbed nat­u­ral scener y and dy­namic Maori¯ cul­ture. Book your dream trip now – es­pe­cially if you’re an All Blacks fan – and spend the next few months look­ing for­ward to snow y fiords, placid cities and peace­ful land­marks, as well as a cor­nu­copia of win­ter out­door ac tiv­i­ties across sky, land and wa­ter


New Zea land ’s Maori ¯ name is Aotearoa, which means ‘ land of the long white cloud ’ and is be­lieved to ref­er­ence the countr y’s abun­dant day­light. When the sun does go dow n, you’ l l find your­self un­der some of the clear­est, dark­est sk ies in the world, es­pe­cia l ly in w in­ter. Go stargazing on the South Is­land and there’s a good chance you’ l l catch a glimpse of the Aurora Aus­tra lis – the North­ern Lights’ lesser-k now n but equa l ly en­chant­ing south­ern cousin. T he Maori ¯ New Year is a lso ob­ser ved around this time, hera lded by the r ise of Matar i k i (the Pleiades star clus­ter) in May, and June’s new moon. T he com­mu­nit y comes to­gether for three days of re­mem­brance, mu­sic, tree plant­ing and k ite fly ing. In re­cent years, Matar i k i light d is­plays against cu ltura l bui ld ings have be­come trad ition, too.


Hir ing a camper van g ives you fu l l free­dom to ex plore New Zealand ’s mam­moth na­tional parks and laid-back cities at your ow n pace. Plus, the wel l-main­tained roads are of­ten flanked by dra­matic natura l land­scapes, ma k ing for a scenic drive. Just make sure your mo­torhome is wel l insu lated, and keep a cou­ple of hot-wa­ter bot­tles on hand. Get­ting around by bus or train is just as easy. You might want to catch an A l l Blacks game – the w in­ter months are your best bet for see­ing the na­tiona l rugby team play on home turf – or, if v isit­ing in Aug ust, stop off at the Wel ling­ton on a Plate food fes­tiva l for some loca l del­i­ca­cies. T he capita l ’s prom­i­nent craft beer scene is a lso worth check ing out, w ith plent y of home­grow n brews to sam­ple.


T here’s no need to don head-to-toe neo­prene to en­joy a rev ita lis­ing sw im in w intr y New Zea land. When Ro­toura’s hot spr ings aren’t teem­ing w ith tour ists, it’s even eas­ier to see why the Maor ¯ i re­vere them so much. With those tempt­ing ther­mal pools and a thriv ing Maori ¯ com­mu­nit y, Ro­toura is a hot spot for ex per ienc­ing cu ltura l per­for mances, trad itiona l hang ¯ i (steam-cooked ban­quets) and a rela xing warm bath. Whale-watch­ing is an­other New Zealand ha l lmark that’s best en­joyed in w in­ter. A lthough sperm wha les stick around the K ai koura coast a l l year round, other species such as the hump­back , pi lot, blue and souther n r ight stop by the squid-r ich wa­ters in the colder months. June to Au­gust is the best time to see them in ac­tion, w ith a back­drop of snow-cov­ered moun­tains as an added bonus.

Main im­age: snowy Mount Cook, New Zealand’s high­est moun­tain. Inset, from left: stargazing at Lake Tekapo’s Church of the Good Shep­herd; road to Ao­raki with Mount Cook in the back­ground; whale-watch­ing on the Kaik­oura coast 5P EJTDPWFS B CFU UFS XBZ UP áZ UP /FX ;FBMBOE WJTJU CFU UFS XBZ UPáZ DP VL

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