New Zealand is a country of rare seismic beauty: glacial mountains, fast-flowing rivers, deep, clear lakes, hissing geysers and boiling mud. There are also abundant forest reserves, long, deserted beaches and a variety of fauna, such as the kiwi, endemic to its shores. Any number of vigorous outdoor activities - tramping (hiking), skiing, rafting and, of course, that perennial favourite, bungy jumping - await the adventurous. You can swim with dolphins, gambol with newborn lambs, whalewatch or fish for fattened trout in the many streams. The people, bound in a culture that melds European with Maori ancestry, are resourceful, helpful and overwhelmingly friendly. The extraordinary place names - try Te Awamutu, Whangamomona or Paekakariki for tongue-trippers - are resonant and, with a modicum of practice, easy to pronounce.
Because it's such a compact place, travel within New Zealand - whether by plane, bus, rail, car or bicycle - is affordable and efficient. Accommodation too is cheap and varied. And the culinary promise of venison, fresh seafood, sublime ice cream and award-winning wines should more than whet the appetite.