If you’ve ever wondered what the end of the world looks like, and whether it might be a beautiful place or a scary one, then take a trip down to Fiordland. This south-western corner of New Zealand is home to some of the most hostile and breathtakingly stunning landscapes on the planet.
They say a picture can speak a thousand words. This has never been truer than when you take a look at some of the snaps of Fiordland in the South Island of New Zealand. This place is surreal in the breadth and scale of beauty you can find in its landscapes. It’s genuinely astonishing. In his book, Last Chance to See, the late Douglas Adams – the literary wizard who gifted the world The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – says:
He was absolutely spot on there. It’s so dramatic and so captivating that it almost beggars belief that it’s not somehow been knocked up as a tourist attraction. The 14 fiords that give this area of the West Coast its name – a fiord is defined as a u-shaped glacier-carved valley which has been flooded by the sea – have been 100,000 years in the making. On the sides of the fiords, the incessant and patient waterfalls send their accumulated rainwater out to sea.
The list of things to do in Fiordland is long and varied, but it’s safe to say that if you want to really get the most out of this wondrous corner of New Zealand then it’s best to go without a time limit. Not having to rush around to see everything makes such a difference in this wild and untamed land. And due to its secluded and basically untouched state, things take a little longer to do and get to. The celebrity features here, the facets that are most well-known are Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, the Kepler Track and the Routeburn Track.
It’s indisputably one of the world’s last great wilderness areas in New Zealand, and is home to a prolific and remarkable mix of flora and fauna. Some of the more famous creatures that can be seen out here are the kea, bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and penguins.
Two-thirds of Fiordland National Park are covered by virgin beech and podocarp forest. These are trees that have stood unmolested for 200 years or more. A 500-kilometre network of walking tracks allows visitors to explore the primeval world of mountain peaks, alpine lakes and moss-carpeted valleys.
In case you were still in need of convincing, the above quote comes from the visionary film-maker James Cameron. Advocates on dramatic scenery don’t come much more successful than the man who envisioned and brought to life Avatar – the floating mountains of which are imbued with a certain Fiordland flavour.
This is the deepest fiord in this land of fiords. At 421 metres, it is a haven for wildlife of all sorts. If you’re cruising around this body of water keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, who love to play and hunt here.
The Kepler Track
This is a fantastic trek to take if you want to get a feel for this area. It’s a circular route and takes about four days to complete, meaning you get a real taste of the outdoors. By the end of it you might just feel like you want to stay out there. Turning off your cellphone – although don’t leave it behind, just in case of emergencies – and just being in the present and enjoying the moment, is a therapy that only nature can provide.
This fiord’s cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, mountain peaks scrape the sky and waterfalls cascade downwards from as high as 1,000 metres. When it rains in Milford Sound, and it often does, those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect. This part of the world is maybe the only place where rain is welcomed, and adds to the beauty.
The Routeburn Track
Rudyard Kipling described Fiordland as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, and after walking the 32km over three days on the Routeburn Track, you’ll be in total agreement with him. This track acts as the link between Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park, and is chock-full of soaring mountain peaks, huge valleys, waterfalls and jewel-like lakes.
Without sounding like an advertisement for the New Zealand Tourism Board, this genuinely is one of the most incredible places in New Zealand.
If long treks in untouched native forest, scenic helicopter rides over mountains, wildlife watching on the deck of an eco-cruise ship, kayaking along silent fiords and little rivers, waterfalls and mountainous vistas are your cup of tea then this really is the next destination you should be heading for.
You will be blown away by the sheer grandeur and irrepressible majesty of Fiordland, and leave with a slightly different perspective on life in general.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.