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How much time should I spend in New Zealand?

It’s always tricky to figure out how much time to spend in a new country. New Zealand isn’t a huge country, but it can still take some time to navigate. A week is really only enough time to explore one of the country’s two main islands but in three weeks you’ll see nearly all of the country’s best sights and can take your time. In our opinion, the best New Zealand itinerary will be around ten days. In ten days you can get really into the parts of the country that appeal to you, whether that means hiking, hunting for sets from the Lord of the Rings, or going all-in on adventure sports.

1 week in New Zealand

Queenstown is a stunning resort town in the south-west of New Zealand.
Whether you want to discover epic film locations or explore the best wineries, there's so much to do in Queensland

New Zealand itineraries for a single week may be a little cramped, but you’ll still get to see a lot of the country’s best sights. For just a week, it’s best to choose one island and explore it. Our New Zealand travel itinerary involves a week on the South Island, home to some truly stunning natural scenes and a mecca for outdoorsy travelers.

Start your trip in Christchurch. From there you can climb the Sugarloaf at Sugarloaf Scenic Reserve. You can choose from several different trails and difficulties which will reward you with some gorgeous views. Road trip to the stunning turquoise shores of Lake Tekapo before heading to the nearby Mount Cook National Park where you will find glaciers, mountain scenes, and even icebergs floating in Hooker Lake.

Drive to Queenstown with a stop-off in Wanaka if you’re in the mood for some beautiful hiking trails that will take you up above the clouds. Spend the last few days of your trip in Queenstown, where you can participate in all kinds of adventure activities from skydiving to bungee jumping. Make sure to leave a day to enjoy a cruise around Milford Sound before you pack up and head home.

10 days in New Zealand

Wellington is the capital and the 2nd most populous area of New Zealand.
Ride the Wellington cable car and enjoy the cityscape and the scenic hills surrounding it
Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand.
Tongariro National Park holds dual World Heritage status because of its exquisite features and cultural significance

If you’re more interested in checking out the North Island, this New Zealand trip itinerary is for you! Start your trip in Auckland with a walking tour of this pedestrian-friendly city. Enjoy a day trip to Waitakere Ranges. From rugged shores to vibrant waterfalls, this area is a real highlight. If you’re a surfer, be sure to stop at Piha Beach!

Rent a car and head to Rotorua, but be sure to stop at the otherworldly Waitomo Glowworm Caves on your way and, if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you can also visit Hobbiton, the movie set used for the Shire. Once you reach Rotorua, you’ll want to set up there for a few days while you visit the many incredible natural wonders nearby, from geothermal geysers to redwood forests!

Stop off at Waimangu Volcanic Valley for some interesting sights on your way to Taupo, from which you can do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike, often called the best hike on the North Island. The rugged landscape looks like something from a different planet. 

Take a day off to relax in Taupo before heading to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city and your final destination. But don’t worry, there’s plenty to keep you occupied!

For our selected itinerary recommendations, check out our 10 days in New Zealand guide.

2 weeks in New Zealand

A must-visit, Champagne Pool is a prominent geothermal area in New Zealand.
The Champagne Pool is a fizzy natural hot spring in New Zealand that should definitely be added to every New Zealand itinerary

From Auckland to Queenstown, two-week New Zealand itineraries can cover a lot of ground. You can make your way from the top of the North Island, starting in Auckland and follow a similar trail to the ten-day itinerary above. On your way out of Auckland, visit the Coromandel Peninsula where you can explore Cathedral Cove and dig your own jacuzzi in the sand at Hot Water Beach.

Spend a day in Rotorua with a stopover in a Maori village to get to know New Zealand’s traditional culture before heading to Wellington. After a day in town, hop on a ferry to the South Island and enjoy some local wine or go for a swim with dolphins.

Head South to Franz Josef Glacier, where you can take a helicopter ride to undisturbed ice or kayak in the mirror-like Lake Mapourika. After a day in these stunning mountains, your next stop is Queenstown for two days of all the adventure activities you can handle, with some time for a relaxing cruise in Doubtful Sound.

Spend one of the last nights on your New Zealand vacation itinerary in a mountain chalet near Mount Cook, home to the world’s largest buttercup flower in addition to the stunning alpine views, before finishing your trip in Christchurch. 

3 weeks in New Zealand

Mt Ruapehu, an active volcano in New Zealand is a top hiking destination.
Mount Ruapehu is a famous skiing destination during winter and a top hiking spot during summer

Three-week New Zealand itineraries really allow you to see it all. You can do a similar itinerary to the two week trip above, leaving time to linger in the places you love, or add on additional destinations here or there. Hike around Punakaiki as you travel between Franz Josef and Christchurch or spend a few days hiking around Mt Ruapehu and tackle the aforementioned Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Visit New Zealand’s mild-weathered “winterless north” and hop on a ship in the Bay of Islands. 

An itinerary of this length gives you plenty of time to explore both islands in depth. Whether you want to learn about New Zealand’s Maori history and colonial period, immerse yourself in non-stop nature, or get your adrenaline pumping with adventure sports (or all of the above!), you can certainly find the time to fit it in.

Planning a trip to New Zealand?

If you like any of these itineraries or would like to create your own, connect with our travel expert in New Zealand to plan the best New Zealand itinerary for your upcoming vacation. If you’d like to  explore New Zealand in a group, you can also check out our New Zealand tours page

New Zealand Tours
Published by Lisa Hopp, updated on September 19, 2023

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