Is New Zealand Becoming the Walking Capital of the World?

Few walking destinations can equal the majestic landscapes of New Zealand. In 2019 the number of overseas visitors to the country increased to 213,500 per year. Many tourists are inspired to visit the country because of its awe-inspiring walks, and it is fast becoming known as one of the great walking capitals of the World. From its vast tropical northern reaches, to its wild deep south, New Zealand offers a vast array of hikes all brimming with natural beauty.

New Zealand’s most famous walk, the Milford Track, has been pulling in hikers for more than 150 years. Located in the heart of Fiordland, it runs from Lake Te Anau through to Milford Sound via the Mackinnon Pass. On the 54km walk you retrace the steps of New Zealand’s early explorers, as you experience ancient rainforests, blue-green rivers and beautiful waterfalls. One of the great benefits of the Milford Track is that all the hikers move in one direction. So you can take the time to get to know your fellow hikers, or you can spend time in the solitude of nature. The Milford Track walk is continuing to increase in popularity, with the peak season being during the warmer months, between October and April. Around 8,000 walkers take on this route each year.

Located in the central South Island, the Routeburn Track is another ultimate New Zealand alpine adventure worth considering. Just like the Milford Track, it is well maintained, which makes it appealing to hikers. The trail is 32km in total, which traverses both Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park in the Southern Alps of the country. With astounding mountain peaks, huge valleys, waterfalls and crystal-clear lakes, it’s truly one of the great walks of New Zealand. The highest point of the hike takes the walker to 1,255 metres above sea level – so the views are simply breathtaking. Booking is mandatory for the hiking season between October until the end of April.

The Kepler Track is another awe-inspiring track that has mass appeal to international walkers. Visitors to Fiordland National Park walk the Kepler Track because of its tremendous natural beauty and its incredible views of Lake Te Anau, Lake Manapouri, The Murchison Mountains, and The Jackson Peaks. The track runs on a 60-kilometre loop, which will take you through alpine tussock grasslands and beech forests, as you hike via ridgelines, which offer some of New Zealand’s most incredible vistas.

View from The Kepler Track, Fiordland, New Zealand.

The achievement of soaring such tracks as the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler has become prestigious in recent years. The demand for each hike is growing substantially each season and shows no sign of abating. 14% of all visitors to New Zealand cite walking and hiking as a factor influencing their choice of destination. And with 73% of New Zealand’s tourists participating in walking and hiking, the appeal of the country’s countryside is evident. With hundreds of walks and hikes across the country to suit all ranges of abilities, including guided options, New Zealand’s walks are popular with hikers the world over. Its unique flora, faun and wildlife, coupled with its diversity of walking landscapes and friendly locals, make New Zealand stand out as one of the great walking capitals of the World.

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