Few films have triggered as much tourism to a single nation as much as The Lord of the Rings. To capture the physicality and realism of the fantasy story, New Zealand director Peter Jackson used his own backyard as the backdrop to Middle Earth. The result was mystifying, displaying the untouched and otherworldly beauty of this island nation.
Since then, tourists and Tolkien fanatics have made pilgrimages to get just a small taste of what the real Middle Earth might feel like. It has certainly boosted tourism sales in the small island nation and has opened the world's eyes to the majestic beauty it has to offer. Are you planning a trip with a fellowship soon? If so, here are 10 must-see filming locations you'll need to include on your itinerary.
10 Paradise, Otago, NZ
This spot earned its name for a reason. With some of the most picturesque landscapes to be found in New Zealand, Paradise is a sight to behold. This lush valley is caved in by tall mountain peaks, giving the horizon a dramatic edge. It feels perfectly fitted for The Lord of the Rings.
In the films, the areas around Paradise were used for multiple sequences. When Gandalf rides into Isengard in The Fellowship of the Ring, the mountains and valley were used as a backdrop. Other local forested areas were used for sequences in Amon Hen and Lothlórien.
9 Mt. Ngauruhoe, North Island, NZ
Ever wanted to visit Mount Doom? It might not be the most welcoming sights in Middle Earth, but it's certainly one of the most memorable. Mount Doom and Mordor required a lot more CGI enhancements than most of the landscapes, due to the massive constantly explosive volcano at its center.
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But, that didn't get in the way of Peter Jackson's commitment to realism. Mt. Ngauruhoe and the surrounding area was used for multiple shots of Frodo and Sam traversing Mordor. The rocky and barren vistas were perfect placeholders and starting points for the Mordor shots.
8 Twizel, Canterbury, NZ
So much of The Lord of the Rings involved either running, hiking, riding horses, or battling in big open fields. In fact, it's one of the more defining traits of the horse riding peoples of Rohan. Twizel in Canterbury fit perfectly for these sequences.
The large open plains of the area, as well as a few of their solitary hills and peaks, were just what the filming team needed for the landscapes of Rohan. Apart from being the land of the horse riders, Twizel also stood in for aspects of Gondor, and the final battle of Pelennor Fields.
7 Port Waikato, North Island, NZ
In The Fellowship of the Ring, the band of hobbits is left stranded by Aragorn atop a lonely peak. The site of long-forgotten ruins, Weathertop remained a safe vantage point from the dark riders. It's one of the most memorable sequences in the series and an immediately identifiable location.
Luckily, although the ruins on top were fabricated both on set and in CGI, the real-life hill can be found in Port Waikato on the North Island. Though located on private land, you can still spot the hill from a distance.
6 Kawarau Gorge, Queenstown, NZ
The crystal teal waters of the Kawarau Gorge are a must-see, even if you're not a Lord of the Rings fan. In the films, Kawarau Gorge played the backdrop of the Anduin River and the location of the Pillars of the Kings, the gargantuan statues guarding the gateway at the near Amon Hen.
While the statues were added in post, the actual river and surrounding area are as authentic as you can get. Just a short drive outside Queenstown, the river is home to a suspension bridge, trails, and river rafting.
5 The Putangirua Pinnacles, Wellington, NZ
Though only a small moment in the films, the Putangirua Pinnacles are one of the most striking landscapes of the series. Facing the daunting final battle of Pelennor Fields, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas travel to the kingdom of the dead, away in the White mountains.
These pinnacles were used as the Path of the Dead which leads the way to their kingdom. They are a striking geological site that gives off the perfect eerie vibe. Not too far off from Wellington, the Pinnacles are one of the most unique Lord of the Rings sites to see.
4 Snowdon Forest, Te Anau Downs, NZ
One of the most fantastical creatures of Tolkien's world are the Ents, living trees who traverse along the glens of Fangorn Forest. In the films, Pippin and Merry are rescued by the Ent Treebeard, who assists them in their fight against Saruman. Few aren't fans of the behemoths, loving their eco-friendly message and simple demeanor.
But, did you know you can visit their home in real life? Snowdon Forest was used for many of the sequences in Fangorn, thanks to its lush green sights. Explore along hiking trails and more, taking in the beauty of this lush forest.
3 Mt. Sunday, Canterbury, NZ
While the fields of Twizel might capture the landscapes of Rohan, its the region's Mt. Sunday that is the quintessential spot to visit if these riders are your favorite. Mt. Sunday was used as the home of Edoras, the capital of the kingdom of Rohan. This rocky peak had the entire city built on top of hit.
While the buildings are absent, it is still an incredibly dramatic spot to visit. Surrounded by snowcapped peaks and dusty plain, its no wonder such a cinematic spot was chosen for a fictional kingdom.
2 Weta Workshop, Wellington NZ
Though it's not necessarily a filming location, the Weta Cave is a must-see stop for any fans of The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Entry to the Weta Cave is free and gives fans access to a world of behind the scenes artifacts from the films. It features a small museum, props, and a behind the scenes film that plays every half hour.
Inside you can also book tours to visit the actual production studio or prop workshops. Here you can pay to see even further behind the scenes, or learn some of the tools of the trade when it comes to makeup and prop building.
1 Hobbiton™ Movie Set, Matamata, NZ
No other spot is more essential for a fan of The Lord of the Rings than this. The Hobbiton Movie Set was restored after the filming of The Hobbit for fans to come and visit. Located in Matamata, these are the real sets and locations that brought Hobbiton and the Shire to life.
Walk in the footsteps of Gandalf, Bilbo, and Frodo and frolic through the footpaths and hills of this fantasy landscape. It is one of the most immersive stops for fans of the films, movie lovers, and fantasy nuts.