Just when you think of Tahiti, the word ‘paradise’ may appear in mind. Sure, you know about Bora Bora and the beautiful overwater bungalows that makes it so famous, but there’s more to French Polynesia than that.
One of the best ways to spend a Tahitian vacation is to lie back with a tropical cocktail in hand and bask in the sunshine at your resort of choice. However, it doesn’t mean you have to be confined to the beaches the whole duration. Although that’s totally fine you want to, you’d miss out on all the other exciting adventures and things to do.
Marvel at the bizarre yet strikingly familiar moai statues on Easter Island for an insight into an ancient civilization in the Pacific
Explore the rugged cliffs and coastlines of Easter Island on a four-wheel drive tour, embracing the solitude of such a remote land
Sail around the islets of the French Polynesian archipelago, a day in Tahiti bringing you to untouched lagoons and uninhabited beaches
Spend several days lounging on the white sand of Bora Bora, your third island destination and perfect for rest and relaxation
Snorkel coral atolls, kayak or canoe across the lagoons, and take a jeep up the slopes of Mount Otemanu, three activities that inject adventure into your Bora Bora stay
Discover the pristine Cook Islands, staying on Rarotonga, a small volcanic island that has escaped the overdevelopment of tourism for an authentic experience
Touch down on a much larger volcanic island and spend several days in New Zealand, where Maori culture, hobbit holes, and Lord of the Rings filming locations are just a small part of the attraction
Sail the green waters of Lake Taupo and spend your final day on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, widely regarded as the best day hike on the planet
(Day 1): Easter Island – Mystique of the South Pacific
(Day 2): Easter Island – The Bizarre Moai Figures of Rapa Nui
(Day 3): Easter Island to Papeete – Four-Wheel Drive Adventures Across the Volcanic Island and Flight to Tahiti
(Day 4): Papeete – Sailing the French Polynesian Archipelago
(Day 5): Bora Bora – Surreal Serenity on the White Sand of Bora Bora
(Day 6): Bora Bora – Snorkeling Coral Atolls and Paddling Sapphire Lagoons
(Day 7): Bora Bora – A Jeep Up Mount Otemanu and Afternoon on the Beach
(Days 8 – 9): Rarotonga (Cook Islands) – Another Pristine Oasis in the Pacific, Away From the Bustle of Tourism
(Day 10: Auckland – Touching Down in New Zealand
(Day 11): Hobbiton to Rotorua – Past the Hobbit Holes to the Home of the Maori
(Day 12): Rotorua to Lake Taupo – Lord of the Rings Locations and Sailing Green Waters
(Day 13): Lake Taupo – Tongariro Crossing: The World’s Most Spectacular Day Hike
(Day 14): Lake Taupo to Auckland – Departure
Cultural / Cultural Activities / Educational / Historical Sites / Landmarks / Local Food / Leisure / Beaches / Islands / Parks / Photography / Walking Tours / Outdoors & Sports / Hiking / Kayaking / National Park / Reserve / Nature / Outdoor Adventures / Scuba Diving / Snorkeling
Leisure / Beach Vacations / Photography / Tropical Beach Vacation / Relaxation / Romantic / Outdoor Adventures
Leisure / Spectacular Scenery / Unique Accommodations / Luxury Beach Resorts / Unique Luxury Hotels / Lodges
Easter Island (Rapa Nui), Papeete, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, Auckland, Hobbiton, Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park
Easter Island feels lost as crashing waves carve the coastline, the cliffs visibly crumbling back into the ocean. Hills blur into marshlands, yet other parts of the island are dry and desolate. It seems bizarre that the island could sustain life, so rough and rugged as it absorbs the power of nature, but it is an island with a long history that can only really be guessed. While the moai figures are the famous illustration of the island, touch down and the sense of mystique is everywhere you turn. It is something that has you changing the name, calling the island by its indigenous and evocative original, Rapa Nui. Today is relaxed, and after the airport transfer, the day is at your leisure. Turn left from the hotel entrance, and there is a coastal walkway to an untouched beach. Turn right, and there is another.
Forget the stories and forget the guesswork, as it really does not matter how they got there, but it does matter what they say to you. The moai figures feel alive with expression sculpted into the eyes and gestures, words ready to come from their carved lips. They line up like an army of warriors, awaiting those that would dare to attack. And it is quite an army as the statues defy logic yet also appear strangely familiar. Mysterious and magical, these are structures that represent one of the most isolated places on earth. Visit them today and take your time, exploring the various theories with your guide, and then losing yourself in their enigma.
A four-wheel drive tour is the only way to get to grips with this lost island. Solitude abounds as you bounce across the green escarpments and wind along the jagged coastline. There are a few obvious sights, but there is no angle that will not mesmerize. Pacific waves crash below as bird colonies nest on remote cliffs and beaches hide away as if waiting on the edge of the world. On this strange island, it will truly feel like you are 3,500 miles from the mainland, but you will return to the hotel to freshen up before your late evening flight to Tahiti. There is only one weekly flight, and it is at a relatively inconvenient time, but it is a smooth connection, and upon arrival in Tahiti, your five-star hotel is on the beach, just a few minutes from the airport.
Wake up to a very different coastline as indigo and sapphire paint a vibrant picture while the waves lap very gently against the whitened sand. You are now in the Tropics, and the panoramas are like a postcard. A private sailboat whisks you away into an archipelago of islets, the volcanic summits of islands casting a distant backdrop throughout the day. Stop at beaches of romance, where the palms cast shadows across sand so fine it squeaks beneath your feet. Drop anchor in shallow lagoons, and then snorkel above the coral. Dock at a deserted beach for a lunch of barbecued fish, cooked above the sand. This full day of sailing is the iconic introduction to French Polynesia, a journey that encourages pleasure and indulgence and it is unlikely that you will see anyone else for the whole day.
Bora Bora responds to so many preconceptions of the South Pacific as palm trees sway lazily and white sand shimmers and then glares beneath the midday sun. A towering mountain stands guard over the scene, a showcase of how the volcano created both pleasure and power. Your bungalow is built on stilts above a lagoon, so every vista starts with the tropical hues of the water. For so many people, this is the ultimate paradise, an island getaway where there is no need for shoes and little use for marking time. Lie back, relax, re-energize, and wonder how it is possible for all the senses to be so subtly aroused. It is just a one-hour flight from Papeete to Bora Bora, followed by a boat transfer to a part of the island inaccessible by road. Welcome to several days of serenity on another lost island in the Pacific.
Coral atolls rise all around Bora Bora. Some are small and strange, home to an assortment of striped fish. Others extend for miles, with rays lurking close by and pelagic predators waiting to pounce. The marine life is untouched in this remote location, and the snorkeling is exquisite with warm, shallow water allowing you to see a lot of life that would normally be a much deeper depths. Even for beginners and less confident swimmers, Bora Bora is a fabulous place to snorkel. Scuba diving is also a possibility today with various dive sites visited by the resort’s on-site dive school. When the activities in the water are done, the bungalow continues your feeling of utter tranquility.
Wake up late for breakfast delivered to your bungalow by canoe. Savor the views, and then set off towards Mount Otemanu, bouncing along a rutted four-wheel drive trail through the forest. You will be following the green covering of the escarpment, ascending towards the summit of Bora Bora’s poignant mountain. Disembark the vehicle, and it is possible to keep climbing, a steep path getting you close to the summit. From anywhere up here, there are magnificent views. And while you may have seen these views on postcards, it is an entirely different experience when you are alone on the mountain, watching over the beauty of Bora Bora. The afternoon is at your leisure, and like all days during your stay, it’ is possible to go kayaking and canoeing in the lagoon.
The Cook Islands are similar in appearance to French Polynesia, dominated by the vibrant colors of an artist’s palette. Smells and sounds are also similar, piercing the stillness with further exoticism. But the Cook Islands feel much different, and some would say they are like Tahiti in the 1950s, or Hawaii in the 1900s. You will immediately sense that this is an oasis that has not been hindered by the growth of tourism, and you will not be greeted by a guitar singing locally in a hula skirt, nor will you be offered tribal entertainment.
Although it is the largest of the islands, Rarotonga remains rugged and rustic. Perhaps best of all, Rarotonga is on a route between Bora Bora and Auckland, making it a very easy stop on the itinerary. For these couple of days, the program is completely free as there is not that much to do, but that is part of the appeal as this tropical paradise will ensure that you are entirely relaxed and ready for the adventure in New Zealand. Your boutique resort is hidden away, and you will have access to kayaks, along with the use of equipment to snorkel the house reef. Sun loungers dot the sand, and there is an incredible feeling of being in a destination that has yet to be known by the world.
The islands have so far have been tiny pieces of volcanoes that poke above the surface. New Zealand’s North Island has a different history, pushed up from the world’s crust, dotted with dozens of volcanoes. Some rise like perfect cones, others have spurted ash to spawn mystical hills. Still more remain active, odes to the continued drama of nature. It is a short flight to Auckland from Rarotonga, where you will be greeted at the airport and transferred to a hotel on the marina. A private guide tailors the afternoon to your interests, with the most popular option being a boat trip to one of the small islands offshore, where you dine on traditional fish and chips, and sample produces from new-world vineyards and bakeries.
It is the attention to detail that will make Hobbiton so exquisite. Jam jars with red and white checkered covers, old wooden fences, rocking chairs painted vibrant yellow and red, smoke spiraling out of cottage chimneys. The movie set is completely untouched since the time of filming, and you can take a walk around 44 hobbit holes of varying sizes. Take lunch at the Green Dragon Tavern, along with a goblet of craft beer and then continue your drive through New Zealand’s volcanic north, around endless curves and across continuous fields of sheep.
The Maori once ruled the whole of New Zealand, and their largest settlements are found on the North Island. After proudly clinging on to their culture in the 20th century, they are now starting to thrive once more. Rotorua is the cultural heart of their tribe, a small town on a lake that is surrounded by bubbling hot pools and exploding geysers. A Maori guide will take you around the most spectacular of the volcanic pools, timing the tour for the hourly eruption of the geyser with 15 meters of water spurting into the air. Then the rest of the family will greet you traditionally by picking up a single feather from the ground you show that you come in peace. Spend the evening with them, watching the haka war dance and listening to stories told through song and dance. Completing the evening is a lavish meal, which has spent the day steaming underground on hot volcanic stones.
All across New Zealand, you can find locations used in the Lord of the Rings. The area around Lake Taupo contains many of the most iconic, with Mount Doom, actually Mount Ngauruhoe, the backdrop to your next several days. Set off towards the lake on a Lord of the Rings tour and explore close to a dozen locations used in the trilogy. Admire the slopes of Emyn Muil, the city of the Rohan people, a whole world of fiction that stretches through New Zealand’s national parks. Peter Jackson is not the only director using New Zealand for ethereal settings, and the tour will come across various other famous settings from the big screen. Arrive in Lake Taupo, and spend the afternoon on the strangely green waters of Lake Taupo sailing to caves and cliffs that defy the imagination as much as any story about hobbits or elves.
The slopes are steep and stark, zigzagging a path towards the striking cone of Mount Tongariro. It is a challenging ascent as you rise above the lake and watch New Zealand slowly extend below. Crossing old lava fields, you will find pools of a radioactive green hue, their color strange and ineffable. Continuing uphill, you can glimpse snippets of snow before crossing the ridge for a panorama of volcanoes, a world-beater of a view that makes every bead of sweat worth the ascent. There are other places in the world where you can be surrounded by peaks, high in the mountains, but there are only a few where it is possible on a single day hike. Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of New Zealand’s epic walks, widely celebrated as the best single day hike on the planet. It is a challenge going up, but then you descend easily through ferns and forests, completing a final day of adventure.
From Taupo, it is a short flight north to Auckland where you can transfer easily onto your international outbound flight.
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