It is sometimes jokingly said that the people of New Zealand are afraid they'll fall off the map one day. And when you look at the classical Europe centered version of the world map, that joke actually makes sense. New Zealand is the island country in the bottom right corner of the map, 2000 kilometers East of Australia.
New Zealand is home to almost 4.4 million people, most of them of European origin. The original settlers came from the Polynesian Islands, less than a thousand years ago. The Maori people, the descendents of the original settlers constitute about 15% of the total population. The people of New Zealand often refer to themselves as "Kiwis", after an endangered species of almost wingless birds native to New Zealand.
Remarkable geographical featuresNew Zealand is a country with many islands, but most of the land mass is made up by the two main islands, conveniently called North Island and South Island. The landscape and the geographic features of New Zealand are very diverse, even to the extent that it's often referred to as "The world in a single country".
The North Island is best known for its volcanic activity, with an permanently active volcano in the Bay of Plenty, the geothermal fields in Rotorua and the active Taupo Volcanic Zone. The volcanic activity has shaped the landscape and in many ways it still is. But there's also a subtropical Bay of Islands in the far north, and gently rolling hills in the west. Most people live on the North Island, and both Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, and the capital Wellington are on it.
The South Island is not quite as volcanic as the North Island, but the landscape is just as diverse, maybe even more so. The island is divided along its length by the Southern Alps, a range of mountains that resemble the European Alps. There are 18 peaks over 3000 meter and it is home to several glaciers. In the south-west part of the island is a landscape similar to Norway's fjords, while in the south-east the land is as flat as the Great Plains of the America.
TravelThe variety of geographical features makes New Zealand an beautiful country to visit for nature loving tourists. It is a popular destination for backpackers, and the country is very hospitable for travelers. Besides the natural features, New Zealand is also known as the world's biggest playground for adults.
If you want adventure there are many possibilities in New Zealand, the birthplace of the bungy jump. Skydiving, glacier hikes, ice climbing, white water rafting, are just a selection from the many possibilities for an adrenaline rush.
Maori influencesThe Maori people are the descendents of the original Polynesian settlers and their influence in New Zealand culture is very visible. The Maori language can be seen everywhere, since most names are shown in both English and Maori. The Maori name for New Zealand for instance is Aotearoa, which can be translated to "the land of the long white cloud".
Maori art and heritage are also well conserved. The fact that the European settlers and the Moari people agreed upon a treaty arranging a peaceful society in the early stages of European settlement, has made this part of history fairly peaceful. That treaty is not without controversy, because it is known that there are two versions in existence.
One of the visible heritages of Maori culture can be seen when the All Blacks, the New Zealand national rugby union team, perform a haka before a game. The haka is a traditional Maori dance, performed by a group of men and can be very provocative.