The sheep population dwarfs the human population -- roughly 44 million to 4 million -- in these isolated isles, which draw a little over 2 million visitors per year. Travelers come for the diverse landscape of alpine mountains, rugged cliffs, crystal-clear lakes and black- and white-sand beaches. Exciting festivals, outstanding food and wine and an opportunity for outdoor exploration are enticing for many.
After a tumultuous colonial past, New Zealand is now striving for biculturalism. The Maori language declined for several years after the late 19th century, but school language programs have led to a recent resurgence. Maori identity and traditions are still a significant part of New Zealand, and you will find many signs with Maori words. For a taste of the indigenous culture, visitors can have a meal of hangi, where food is cooked in a natural earth-pit oven. Demonstrations of Maori song, dance, weaving and carving are another way to connect with the culture.
With coastline in every direction (and no more than 80 miles away from any point in the country), natives and visitors alike enjoy the beaches in New Zealand. Adventure-seekers will find some of the best thrills in skydiving, kayaking, rafting, rock climbing and paragliding. Not all activities are for extreme athletes -- biking, hiking and golfing are also popular. And anyone looking for laid-back exploration can enjoy winery tours, museums, art galleries and gardens.