Why New Zealand should have made Lonely Planet's top countries list

Posted by On 8:57 PM

Why New Zealand should have made Lonely Planet's top countries list

Why New Zealand should have made Lonely Planet's top countries list

OPINION: New Zealand, we were wronged.

There is no way, if proper justice is being served that a list of the best places to visit in 2019 should not include our fair isles. We were the geographical star of Lord of the Rings for Chrissake!

OK, so Lonely Planet's annual lists of the best countries, regions and cities to visit in the forthcoming year tend to focus on up-and-coming destinations and places celebrating significant milestones and hosting major events.

Sri Lanka, Germany, Zimbabwe, Panama, Kyrgyzstan and the other countries that made the top 10 for 2019 fit the bill perfectly, but surely a guaranteed good time gal like New Zealand shouldn't have been disregarded entirely?

How could this not be on your travel bucket list?
123rf.comHow could this not be on your travel bucket list?

* New Zealand dropped from Lonely Planet's top countries list
* Top five best countries for a holiday: places you will never get sick of visiting
* Inside New Zealand's most seductive adults-only hideaway

This sounds like sour grapes, and it is, and I know that non-humble bragging is not the Kiwi way. But in the interests of boosting our collective self-confidence, here are 10 reasons why we should have made the grade.

1. We're good looking

It may be superficial but, in the travel game, looks count for a lot. Who wants to go somewhere ugly on holiday? Or live there for that matter? Plus, New Zealand's not just about conventional ly pretty beaches and green, rolling pastures - although if they're what get you going we have plenty of those.

Overall though, ours is a more rugged, rarer beauty - you won't find mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, geothermal waters, forests and fiords quite like ours anywhere else. And, for added convenience, all within three small(ish) islands.

Certain movie trilogies have made our natural assets world famous, but they've been gobsmacking intrepid travellers since ages ago. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams summed up the rapture our movie star good looks inspire well in his book Last Chance to See, describing Fiordland as "one of the most astounding pieces of land anywhere on God's earth… [O]ne's first impulse standing on a cliff top surveying it all, is simply to burst into spontaneous applause."

Fiordland - pretty enough to make you weep.
REAL JOURNEYS/SUPPLIEDFiordland - pretty enough to make you weep.

2. Our towns are "authentic"

Everyone's looking for authentic travel experiences these days but in too many places that's albeit impossible - they've been altered beyond recognition by gentrification or tourism. Not so in New Zealand's regions. You don't have to drive far to find yourself in a small town where life continues much as it always. This may not always be a positive, but hey, travel is about uncovering a place's "real" nature isn't it? Not sticking to places that have been dolled up for rich new residents or tourists.

Regional New Zealand, then, is a real traveller's dream. In many a small town, you will find locals dressed in traditional attire (t-shi rts, singlets, stubbies and jandals) heading into scruffy (ahem, unmodified) main drags to buy traditional foods (pies, donuts, fish 'n chips, Jaffas…) from traditional eateries (dairies, fish 'n chipperies, Four Squares…). Call us old-fashioned if you like; we prefer to call it staying true to our roots.

Most of our small towns haven't been made over for tourists or wealthy new residents.
HAURAKI HERALD/SUZI HARTMost of our small towns haven't been made over for tourists or wealthy new residents.

3. Our biggest cities aren't concrete jungles

Ok, so a stroll down Queen Street might convince you otherwise. But our cities typically aren't the overcrowded, open space-deprived, energy- and soul-sapping urban cent res that blight other countries (although I hear you, the times are a changin').

Our fair capital has topped Deutsche Bank's list of the world's most liveable cities for two years running - a ranking based on individual purchasing power, safety, healthcare, cost of living, property price to income ratios, traffic commutes, pollution and climate.

Auckland may have been axed from the top 10 on The Economist's latest most liveable city list, but with its ever-expanding array of entertainment, cultural and dining options and beaches and parks galore (an embarrassment of riches really), there are certainly far worse places to live. And only 11 better globally according to the list. Vienna and Melbourne came out on top but do the members of the so-called intelligence unit that compiled the list know how hard it is to beat Wellington on a good day? Perhaps they visited when it was windy or raining (hardly unlikely now is it?).

Wellington has been ranked the most livable city in the world by Deutsche Bank for two years running.
SUPPLIEDWellington has been ranked the most livable city in the world by Deutsche Bank for two years running.

4. We have a one-of-a-kind culture

New Zealand is renowned for being proud of its Māori culture and rightly so. It's unique in the world. Where else can visitors sit down to a traditional hāngī meal, watch a live haka, explore a traditional Māori village and bathe in geothermal waters Māori have used to cook, bathe and wash with for centuries in one day? Sometimes there are glow worms too.

5. We're home to one of the world's best walks

UK-born poet Blanche Baughan once described the Milford Track as the "finest walk in the world", and we're happy to take that. It's more than a century since Baughan's essay on the track was published in the London Spectator, but I find it hard to imagine a walk of greater beauty has sprung up since. Just look at those mountains! Those waterfalls! Those glacier-carved valleys! Those mirror-like lakes! Infinitely Instagrammable, all of it. And we have nine more Great Walks for visitors to enjoy after that. Not just good walks, mind. Great.

Not exactly your average meal for most international visitors.
SUPPLIEDNot exactly your average meal for most international visitors.

6. We're leaders in gender equality (ie enlightened)

Long before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became t he first leader to give birth while in office - inspiring women everywhere - New Zealand was a pioneer on the gender equality front. Kiwi women became the first to win the right to vote in 1893 and have been proving girls can do anything and everything (often all at once) ever since.

Yes, we still have a gender pay gap but it's one of the lowest in the western world and we're working on it. And Kiwis are well known for their determination and hard graft.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, multi-tasker extraordinaire.
DON EMMERT/AFPPrime Minister Jacinda Ardern, multi-tasker extraordinaire.

7. We're home to the Polynesian capital of the world

The Pacific Islands are lovely, but they take time and money to get around and, some times visitors to our lonely part of the world don't have a lot of either.

The logical solution is to pay a visit to Auckland (particularly South Auckland) or, if Auckland academic Damon Salesa is correct, Oamaru. Salesa, associate professor of Pacific studies at the University of Auckland, told RNZ earlier this year that the North Otago town, not our biggest city, has the largest population of Pacific people per capita.

While both are far from tropical paradises, they do at least provide an opportunity to experience Pacific culture, whether at a market, festival, church service or simply strolling the streets.

Visitors can at least get a taste of Pacific culture in NZ.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFFVisitors can at least get a taste of Pacific culture in NZ.

8. And the adventure capital

Queenstown, the self-decreed adventure capital of the world, has been convincing people Kiwis are natural-born daredevils since AJ Hackett began throwing people off Kawarau Bridge for a living in 1988. If you have a burning desire to jump off a bridge yourself - or otherwise dice with danger in the name of adventure sport - Queenstown's your place.

If you want to dice with danger, Queenstown's your place.
BUNGY.CO.NZIf you want to dice with danger, Queenstown's your place.

9. You're guaranteed a good feed

Unlike some cuisines, Kiwi kai mightn't have made Unesco's "intangible cultural heritage" list yet, but no one leaves the country with a bad taste in their mouth.

Whether your tastes run to kaimoana or confectionary, we have something to suit (you can even try them at one time by eating a chocolate fish).

Crayfish isn't just for those who can afford tables in fancy restaurants in NZ.
DEREK FLYNN/STUFFCrayfish isn't just for those who can afford tables in fancy restaurants in NZ.

You don't have to fork out for a table at a fancy restaurant to enjoy the likes of fresh crayfish, oysters and whitebait either - beach- and road-side shacks and market stalls up and down the country dish them up at fair prices.

Those with a sweeter tooth wanting to sample local fare are spoiled for choice: chocolate fish, Jaffas, Crunchie and Moro Bars, Pineapple Lumps (even if the latter are now made in Australia). All things many of us Kiwis take for granted until we move overseas and can't stop thinking about them.

In terms of cafes and restaurants, ours are only getting better and better - thanks to some all that fresh Kiwi produce and some truly talented chefs. And let's not forget the wine. And craft beer.

10. We're humble

Ok, so this article tells a different story, but I'm only acting out New Zealand character now to defend our national honour. Ordinarily, Kiwis are considered to be affable, easy going, she'll be right types not keen on blowing their own trumpets (some say this stems from wanting to avoid conflict, but I'm sure we prefer the humility theory). And we're welcoming and hospitable. A 2015 Immigration New Zealand survey found that a massive 94 per cent of migrants found Kiwis to be "friendly" or "very friendly". And it's the people that often make a destination after all.


Source: Google News New Zealand | Netizen 24 New Zealand

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