Must-See Monday: 7 Reasons to See the Southern AlpsThis is another guest post by Tripper Joya. As someone who lived and traveled around New Zealand for nearly a year, she has seen some spectacular things. Read on to discover the majestic beauty down under and check out her other posts from her experiences around the world.
You've heard of The Alps. You know, they're alive with the sound of music and all that. But have you heard of the Southern Alps? And we're not talking twangy accents and a partiality towards grits. The Southern Alps are on the South Island of New Zealand - and they're spectacular.
Running 450 kilometers north to south, these mountains make up the backbone of the island. The highest points have snow on them year round, the mightiest of which, Mount Cook, is the highest point in the country at 12,316 feet.
I spent a year roaming around these mountains, camping, hiking, exploring and living among them, learning from their beauty and vastness in ways that I carry with me still.
Here are 7 reasons why these mountains are a Must-See for your bucket list:
1. They have actual magic.
With moss-covered rocks and almost two hundred types of ferns adorning these lush forests, one cannot help but begin to see fairies amongst the greenery. Much of Lord of the Rings was filmed in and around these mountains, for those more for the magical creatures of the blood-thirsty variety. If Thumbelina and Frodo don't do it for you, just standing on top of - or even underneath - one of these mystical crags is enough to make you a believer in whatever might move you.
2. The hiking
. Not only is the natural setting absolutely stellar, but the accessibility is unbeatable. New Zealand's Department of Conservation maintains its 3,085.171 hectares of National Park with tender care, utilizing an ingenious "hut system" for its so-called Great Walks and other hiking areas. For multi-day hikes, huts are established a day's walk apart, each equipped with a stove, wood supply, sink and toilet facility, as well as a varying number of bunks, making trails from two to six days available even to the most novice of trekkers.
3. The views.
The South Island of New Zealand is rather long and narrow, surrounded by the Tasman Sea to the west and the South Pacific to the east - and these mountains run right between. Every turn or switchback reveals a new and seemingly more stunning vista of sea, cliff, river and mount sure to take your breath away.
4. Milford Sound.
At the bottom of the mountain range, in Fiordland National Park, mighty peak meets sea. In perhaps the most photographed spot in the country one can take a cruise through this breath-taking fjord, forged thousands of years ago by glaciers. Today, colossal cliffs rise straight up from the water, which winds its way out through the hallway of rock to the Tasman Sea creating one of the most visually stunning scenes these mountains have to offer.
5. The sheep.
They're just so charming! But in addition, these Alps are host to a variety of animals that more than make up for the lacking human population. Among them the Kia, the world's only alpine parrot, keen to steal your lunch and break your camera, the national bird, the Kiwi, an illusive, wingless creature of the night, and millions of possums, the country's favorite pest (affectionately known as "squash-'ems" for their popular propensity for becoming roadkill).
6. The snow.
Pick your poison - whether it's board, ski, heli-ski, cross-country, snow mobile, sled, glacier hiking or even if you prefer to sit comfortably in the warm cabin of an airplane, this place has epic snow. The only downside of riding in the Southern Alps is you might be a little more likely to wipe out while you're looking at the view.
7. The serenity.
No better place to gain some perspective on the important things in life than when alone in the quiet of the mountains. With only 4 million inhabitants, New Zealand is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. These mountains are a stunning way to enjoy the complete solitude of natural surrounds.