New Zealand Virtual Tour: No-Visa Journey in the Land of Hobbits, Narnia and PM Jacinda

Traveling will never be the same again as we know it. In a post-pandemic world, middle seats on planes will be empty and wearing a mask is must.

With the economically and socially punishing lockdowns and quarantines far from over, and with the world still at the mercy of scientists pushing the boundaries of Science, on a race to find a cure against the novel coronavirus disease, only God knows when it is really safe to get out and about. 

Local tourists spots will finally get its well deserved attention as we wait for international travel to normalize again and the countries lift their border restrictions and ban on tourists. Until then, let’s find some comfort through virtual tours of the places we love most.

Easily top of my list is New Zealand (or Aotearoa as the Maoris call it), which many governments and leaders look to with envy, after the country’s successful fight against the deadly virus under the leadership of the Prime Minister Jacinda Arden.

While here in Manila the name of the game is “to each his/her own,” with the authorities still catching up with with thousands of testing backlogs and validation almost three months into the emergency, New Zealand has brilliantly and creatively brought to the table solutions that led to the early easing of restrictions only four weeks into the lockdown early May—immediate imposition of strict quarantine and compulsary lockdown; subsidies to businesses, employees and even freelancers; provision of tablets and WiFi connection to school children; and public-transport discounts to adults and tertiary students.

Of course it’s of no use comparing apples to oranges when, primarily, this country some 11 hours away from Manila, with just slightly smaller land mass than the Philippines, has a population of about 5 million only! Imagine half of the population of Metro Manila scattered in all of the Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

It’s not surprising that when you divide the overall resources to the total population you get to see more the glaring disparity. New Zealand’s GDP per capita is estimated at more than P2 million compared to ours with roughly P156,000—did the Math and we get only around 8 percent of the Kiwi’s annual average.

So before we all pack up and leave, which we can’t do at the moment because NAIA is still close for international travel indefinitely even under the General Community Quarantine, let us fuel your wanderlust with the marvelous sights of New Zealand.

Our journey begins through the Middle Earth with first stop in The Shire.

Lord of the Rings Army, unite. In this lush village of Hobbiton you get to visit the homes of Frodo Baggins and all of the Hobbit gang.

At the end of the guided tour, you can choose between Ginger or Cider Beer at the The Green Dragon Inn.

Tracing the journey of the Ring will lead you of course to Mount Doom, located in the Tongariro National Park.

On the Southern tip of North Island, in Wellington, you’ll find the Weta Workshop where all the magic happens.

Here you’ll find the lord of all Rings. You can even buy one.

After a journey to Middle Earth, let’s go back to the city center and enjoy the chill cosmopolitan vibe of Auckland.

You’ll figure you often see this Sky Tower during New Year celebrations on TV. New Zealand is the first to celebrate everything as they get the first dibs of sunrise.

If you’re tired of the city vibe, you won’t run out of green and open spaces to relax and meditate or to catch fresh air.

Mt. Wellington, Auckland
Mt. Wellington, Auckland
Mt. Eden, Auckland
Mt. Eden, Auckland

From Auckland, let’s go back to Wellington, the political capital of New Zealand.

In windy Welly, you get a free pass even during weekends to visit and explore the NZ Parliament Buildings. This one below is called the Beehive or the Executive Wing.

Welly is a coastal city and one of the most walkable cities in the world.

If you want more of the ocean and chill, the stunning coastline of Kapiti is just a train ride away from Wellington’s Central Terminal.

Further down in the South Island, just above Antartica, is the resort town of Queenstown where everything is simply beautiful and charming.

With the snowy caps of Queenstown on the background, many lovebirds have tied the knot in this quaint town of 16,000, including, as you know it, Anne Curtis and Erwan Heussaff. My friends below, Catherine and Paul, also did last year.

Someday soon we’ll all get a chance to visit New Zealand and explore its wonders. For now let’s all stay strong and remain vigilant as we make it through this health crisis.

[Entry 309, The SubSelfie Blog]

About the Author

Toni Tiemsin  is the Editor-in-Chief of He leads the Corporate Media Influence team of Ogilvy Philippines. Previously, he was Media and Communications Officer of international NGO Save the Children, after his more than five-year stint in GMA News and Public Affairs, where he last served as Executive News Producer.

He has over 15 years experience in news media, advocacy and development communication, and brand and corporate communications. Journalism 2009, UP Diliman. Read more of his articles here. For more photos of his trips, check out his Instagram.


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