New Zealand Alpine Vacation from Nature to Culture

A 9 day trip to New Zealand 
5 out of 5 stars
3 reviews

Enter the sensational world of New Zealand, where the culture resounds and the landscapes take your breath away. The rolling mountain ranges are seemingly endless. The ocean is incredibly calm. Waterfalls thunder down mountains as geysers explode into the sky. The saw-toothed mountains pierce the sky. The turquoise glacial lakes glisten in the sunlight. The consuming darkness disappears within the bright luminescence of glowworms. Step into the ineffable world of New Zealand and experience its unparalleled delights. 

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch, Mt. Cook, Queenstown, Milford, Waitomo, Franz Josef

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Delightfully Auckland

Arrive in Auckland, the City of Sails, and experience the delights of New Zealand’s largest and most diverse city. Ships sway in the gentle waters of the harbor. Islands linger along the horizon, ranging from fashionable suburbs to uninhabited craters. The skyline towers over the city, including Skytower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. The gentle breeze glides through Queens Street, the pulse of the city’s urban life. The scent of rich coffees and fresh, sweet macaroons floats away from the shops. The street is gilded with fashion that highlights a mixture of European tastes with Polynesian flair. Whether you stroll along the shops and vibrant life of Queens Street or choose to explore the outlying Waiheke Island, where art, wine, nature, and food create a fabulous day of exploration, Auckland is filled with pearls in and out of the city center.  

What’s Included: accommodation

Day 2: A Memorable Glow

Depart from Auckland and watch the sails of the harbor fade into the horizon as you make your way towards Rotorua, New Zealand’s cultural capital. Along the way you will stop in Waikato for a visit to the famous Waitomo Caves. Follow your guide into the darkness. The limestone walls are smooth against your fingers. The sound of rushing water echoes against the walls. When you make it to the subterranean river you will board the dinghy and drift deeper into the cave’s darkness. In the distance you can see a faint glow. The cave walls begin to open up and you see the collection of blue radiating and pushing the obscurity away. You have reached the Glowworm Grotto where the famous light of the glowworms stretch across the expansive cave.

Continue on your way to Rotoura where the culture of the Maori thrives and the tribe is ready to accept you as one of their own. You will delight in a hangi, a traditional Maori feast cooked in a subterranean barbecue. The scent of slow cooked meats is rich in the air, along with the earthy aroma of sweet potatoes and squash. As the food continues to cook you will be introduced to the Maori history and culture. Listen to the robust chant of warriors as they paddled downstream in a traditional canoe. Come nose to nose with the chief of the tribe as you perform a hongi, the greeting of the Maori that signifies a welcoming environment. Experience the deep pulse of the haka, the war chant and dance that has stricken fear in the hearts of rival armies for millennia. The voices tear into the air. The warriors pound their chests. Their eyes bulge out. Their tongue sticks out. As you sit down for dinner the haka carries into the air and you are happy that you experienced the hongi, now knowing what would have been on the other side.

What’s Included: lunch, dinner, accommodation, tour

Day 3: Cultural Joys

Today you will explore the diversity of Rotorua in its culture and its land. The beautiful chants of the previous evening fade as you make your way to Te Puia Thermal Reserve where mud pools bubble, geysers burst, and ponds sizzle. Four Feathers geyser sits among sulfur stained rocks, the limestone smoothed down from the sprouting water and time. The geyser bursts into the air and adds a cloud of hot mist that drifts in the breeze. The locals have incorporated the thermal springs into their everyday lives using the mud pools and the steaming lakes to help shape the way they build and eat. Watch as a woven pouch filled with mussels and prawns is dipped into the sizzling water, steaming the contents until perfectly cooked. The air becomes perfumed with sweet prawns and decadent mussels.

Your journey through Rotorua continues with a joyful visit to the Agrodome Sheep Show, which highlights the European influence on the city and New Zealand itself. The shell-shaped dome gives a reverberation throughout the stadium. The sheep bleat loudly as well-known farmers show their skills, from herding to shearing; they are truly the rock stars of ranchers. After the pure adrenaline rush of the Agrodome you can stroll through Rainbow Springs Nature Reserve, filled with the natural wonders of the area. From the tuatara, the most closely related reptile to dinosaurs, to the kiwi, the flightless, long-beaked bird for which New Zealand is famous. The reserve is filled with the scent of juniper, the call of colorful Keas, and the delightful natural side of the cultural capital.     

What’s Included: tour, accommodation

Day 4: The Not–So-Secret Garden

Today you will fly from the North Island, over the Cook Straight, and land in the charming Garden City of Christchurch. From the cobblestone streets of the city center, to the gentle hum of trolley cars that purr, to the blossoming gardens that decorate the expansive city, Christchurch is filled with delights to explore. For a charming and unique experience, spend the day at the Botanic Gardens. Stroll past the Victorian architecture that decorates the city with brick facades, triangular roofs, and towering spires. The gardens are filled with lush grass, vibrant trees, and vivacious flowers. The red and yellow roses sit before a large cottage-style curator’s house on the banks of the Avon River. The sweet perfume of blossomed flowers surrounds you. The gentle flow of the Avon River lifts into the air. Christchurch feels more like a delightful countryside village than a bustling urban center.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation

Day 5: Alpine Majesty

Today you will exchange the majesty of the gardens for the breathtaking beauty of Mount Cook. As you journey through the Canterbury Plains the vibrant glow of the perfectly perforated fields stretches to the foothills. Sheep graze along the prairies until you come to the glistening water of Lake Tekapo. The lake’s surface shines a reflective blue as the fields of purple lupines wrap around the water. The rolling peaks of the mountain range sits on the far side of the lake. Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd where the smooth stones welcome you into the structure. The large window at the church’s altar opens to the lake and the mountains, spotlighting the ineffable panorama of New Zealand. Take the opportunity to see Mount Cook and the national park with a scenic flight. Soar across the sky, over the snowcapped mountains that reach into the air. The glacial lakes glow in the sunlight beneath you as the golden terrain shimmers. After your flight of fancy along the open space of Lake Tekapo you will continue onto Queenstown where the charm of the alpine city awaits your arrival.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation  

Day 6: A Joyful Sound

Journey into the depths of Fiordland National Park to experience the stunning Milford Sound. Board the Red Boat for a cruise through the waters and around the breathtaking beauty of the famous sound. The solitude of the area is apparent in the seemingly endless tranquility. The silence of the sound slowly dissipates in the reaching thunder of waterfalls. The cool mist of the waterfall lifts into the air emanating the sweet scent of fresh and salt water. Whether rain or shine you can watch the water tumble down the mountainside and crash into the sea below. Dolphins swim along the current of the boat and playfully skip in the wake, the splash covered by the waterfall. Penguins often waddle along the boulders just below the foothills and dive deep into the sea, flying through the water, catching fish, and cooling down. The mountains tower over the ship as glaciers sit along the mountaintops and the water expands to the open ocean.

What’s Included: tour, accommodation

Day 7: Delightful Exploration

Today is yours to explore the wonderful delights of Queenstown. The city sits cozily between the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by the foothills of the Southern Alps. The Remarkables Mountain Range sits across the lake with jagged, snowcapped peaks that interrupt the sky. With so much beauty to explore, and so many options for which to see it all, why not stroll through the city and the region on the Queenstown Wine Trail. Meander along the Gibbston Valley River Trail, the same trail used by early Maori travelers. Wander from cellar door to cellar door tasting the unique and diverse flavors of New Zealand wines and cheeses. Listen to the river glide through the gorge and along the valley floor. Watch the expanse of vineyards come into view and stretch to the horizon. Delight in the lingering flavor of fresh red cherries and baking spices that marinate in the Amisfield Pinot Noir. The fresh air of the countryside is energizing. The rushing river is soothing. The overall flavor of the wines is inspiring. As you make your way back to Queenstown you can be certain that any way you spend your day in or out of the city will always be precious.

What’s Included: accommodation  

Day 8: Enchanting Glacier

Today you will make your way to the small town of Franz Joseph to see the exceptional Franz Joseph Glacier. Travel past the twin lakes of Wanaka and Hawea. The mountains that sprout around the lakes frame the stunning twins that formed from the pooling glacial water and sit separated with around 1000 yards of land set between them. The air is crisp and cool around the lakes. The breeze sweeps off of the lakes and brings the smooth scent of pure water.

Continue on to Franz Joseph where the alpine village feel of the town brings you a charming and welcoming coziness. The glacier sits between two mountains and looks like a flashflood caught in ice. The blue and white glow of the glacier gleams in the sunlight. For an exclusive visit with the glacier you can take a walking tour, or better yet, a helicopter tour around the mountain. Soar over the mountain peaks where the snow sits untouched. The craggy terrain undulates in every direction as the glacier looks as though it is sliding through the cracks of the mountain range. Land along the glacier and feel the crunch of the ice beneath your feet. Wander through the frozen terrain, duck through barrel rolls of ice, and witness the craggy terrain first-hand as the glacier ripples along. The air is cool on your skin as the ice continues to crunch beneath you. The charm of the glacier and of Franz Joseph is never less than enchanting. 

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation

Day 9 – Cheerful Trains and Mountaintops

End your glacial journey of Franz Joseph by boarding the sensational TranzAlpine Train that will wind through the Southern Alps and return you to the sensational city of Christchurch. Whether filled with the ample green of the summer or the blanket snow-white of the winter, you will cross over sunken riverbeds and under mountaintops. The aroma of rich, hot coffee fills the train car as fresh, flaky croissants are served. The golden terrain outside of the window glistens as the train whistles through the mountain pass. Arrive in Christchurch and settle into the comfortable charm of the Garden City. Your last night in New Zealand will bring you all the delicious flavors of the city, the fabulous memories of your adventure, and is sure to do nothing less than delight.

If nine days isn't enough adventure for you, consider adding on to this trip. Read the reviews for New Zealand trips for additional ideas on how to customize and extend your trip.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation



Your custom trip package will include accommodations, transportation within the country, guided tours and activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip.

Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates!