Karolina Werner DuBois, For The Baltimore Sun
April 28, 2009
Distance from Baltimore: About a 22-hour flight (with stops)
Why it's hot: "The Hobbit" movie was filmed in this South Pacific nation, know for its vibrant green landscape. (The film is so popular here that Air New Zealand recently unveiled a Hobbit-themed plane in Auckland.) The two-island nation offers a vast array of attractions. On the North Island alone you'll find snow-capped mountains, national parks full of hiking trails and roaring white-water, thermal pools to soak in, wildlife found nowhere else on Earth and enchanting Maori culture.
Don't miss: Rotorua, above. Geothermal activity and Maori culture draw visitors to the Rotorua area, where roughly 35 percent of the 70,000 residents are native people. A variety of places offer Maori performances and the traditional hangi meal, cooked in underground pits by geothermal heat. The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is just south and features a bubbling mud pool.
Information: Go to newzealand.com.