My Journey through Middle Earth (8 pictures)
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited, the landscapes are incredible and the culture is a breath of fresh air. There is no other place in the world that can bring to life the magic of Middle Earth like New Zealand can. Ever since reading the books and seeing them recreated on the big screen, New Zealand was one of the places that I knew I wanted to visit some day. That chance came this past October when my family and I decided to take two weeks to go explore as much of the country as possible. My ultimate goal was to see as many sites from the Lord of the Rings movies as possible. There are many locations, so choosing which to visit became difficult. New Zealand's tourism economy has skyrocketed due to these films so it was very easy to find tours that took you to these locations and were designed specifically for Lord of the Rings fans. It has been said, and proven since I tried it, that everyone you talk to in New Zealand was either a part of the making of the films, or knows someone that was involved. It was an amazing journey, and an experience that I will never forget.
1. Welcome to Hobbiton
Matamata, 2 hours southeast of Auckland
My journey began in Hobbiton, just like in the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. The Alexander Sheep Farm near the city of Matamata is the perfect setting for Hobbit homes. The rolling hills, leafy trees and deep green grass made this hillside a fairy tale village. Standing among what remained of the Hobbit holes, I felt I had arrived in Middle Earth.
2. The Gardens of Isengard
My next stop was Wellington, where many scenes from the movie were filmed. Gandalf and Saruman the White walked through the Gardens of Isengard -- actually this Wellington public park -- discussing what to do when they discovered the ring and its powers had resurfaced. During my visit, the park was alive with vivid colors and fragrant scents from the trees and flowers decorating the landscape .
3. The River Kingdom
At the close of The Fellowship of the Ring, the Fellowship traveled down the great river Anduin, located in Queenstown. The river, which was depicted in arial shots in the movie, had the most spectacular blue water I have ever seen. The large stone Kings of Gondor, the Argonath, which were carved out of the rock on either side at the river's narrowest point is what you can visualize in this shot. It's also one of the most beautiful locations for bungee jumping, an original New Zealand sport.
4. Isildur's Fall
Another site I visited in Queenstown was the set for the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring, which featured Isildur traveling home from battle. After cutting the ring from Sauron's hand, he is ambushed and killed, letting the ring fall into the river. The trail in that scene is located just behind a residential housing area and is used as a running track by local Kiwi's. The way the trees all seem to bend and roll over the path creates a tunnel effect around Isildur and his men as they returned home.
5. The Golden Hall
The site for Edoras, home of the Golden Hall in the book, is actually called Mount Sunday. The small hill rises out of the plains and is surrounded by gorgeous mountain ranges. The location could not be more perfect, because the way Edoras is described in The Two Towers is exactly what you see upon arriving at Mt. Sunday. By far, my favorite experience of the trip was standing atop of this hill surrounded by breathtaking views from every angle.
6. The Final Battle
The final destination in my journey through Middle Earth was Pelennor Fields, where the last battle in Return of the King was filmed. Eowyn defeats the Witch King on these plains, helping the armies of Gondor to claim victory over the armies of Sauron.