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18 Photos That Prove New Zealand Is A Country Of Awesome Brutal Beauty

Put this in your pipe Saruman.

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1. “What I saw in New Zealand blew my mind," says travel photographer Johan Lolos.

Aurora Australis above Wanaka | Photographer Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

The Belgian-born photographer has just spent 12 months in New Zealand travelling 25,000km on successive road trips from Northland to Wanaka and back again. Sharing his images on Instagram as he went, Lolos clocked up 200,000 followers, and secured a gig as a social media influencer.

"Not only did I find some pure wilderness I’ve never seen before, but also a true paradise for any outdoors enthusiasts and of course any landscape and travel photographers,” says Lolos.

Let’s be clear, this is not copy from the latest New Zealand tourism campaign. But perhaps Johan Lolos is the next best thing for a country that generates just less than 5% of its GDP from tourism. Here's a few of the places he fell in love with while in New Zealand.

2. Wanaka

Photographer: Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

Lolos says the trip was a career defining experience. “New Zealand changed me forever.”

“It is there that I started my career as a full-time photographer, it is there that I discovered my passion for the outdoors and mountains, and it is there that I lived for 7 months in the most relaxing place on Earth: Wanaka," he says.

OK, so there might be some truth to Lolos’ comment that Wanaka is the most relaxing place on earth. Just look at that night sky.

3. Lake Wanaka

Photographer: Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

Wanaka sits at the base of the Southern Alps, a 500km-long mountain range that splits New Zealand South Island. It’s a renowned winter hotspot with easy access to Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields, but it’s also a summer destination.

The hiking and mountain biking around the area is epic, and once you’re done with all the physical exertion you can cool off with a swim in Lake Wanaka. Then, it might be best to indulge in a local delicacy: a pie from Kai Pai Pies with a glass of pinot noir. It’s wine country too! Enough already, right?


4. Roys Peak

Photographer: Jonah Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

“The best view of New Zealand would be the one from the top of Roys Peak,” says Lolos.

“But [and there’s always a but], the best and most breathtaking place in NZ is Fiordland National Park. I visited both Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound many times and every time I was speechless.”

5. Fiordland

Photographer: Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

Fiordland is tucked into the southwest corner of New Zealand. When the Romantic painter Eugene Von Guerard first showed this view of Milford Sound to the world (followed a few decades later by Lord of the Rings director Sir Peter Jackson) people were like: "Whaaat. There's no way the water can be that clear!"

But it can, and it is. Despite its remoteness Milford Sound is a popular tourist destination attracting around 650,000 visitors a year. Lolos has some advice for those wanting to avoid the crowds:

“Don't be afraid of traveling in the South Island in winter. It's not that cold (a lot warmer than in Europe) and way less crowded. And in my own opinion, much more beautiful.”

7. Tititea / Mount Aspiring

Photographer: Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

Mount Aspiring, or Tititea as it's known in Maori, is one the tallest peaks in New Zealand. It’s a climber’s paradise, but if you’re not satisfied with 3,033 metres you’d better set out for Aoraki Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand.


9. Aoraki Mount Cook

Photographer: Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

Where is everyone? New Zealand may be a tourist destination but even in peak season it’s not exactly crowded, as Lolos discovered driving up to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

With this in mind Lolos has some advice for the locals: “I met so many people from the North Island who have never visited the South Island and vice versa. Guys, you live in one of the most beautiful and most diversified countries in the world so please do yourself a favour and explore it!”


10. Franz Joseph Glacier

Photographer: Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

On the west coast of the South Island, slightly north of Aoraki Mt Cook, is Franz Joseph Glacier, a 12km long ice self that has been descending ever so slowly from the Southern Alps since the 1300s. If you thought Yves Klien had something going on with his blue, check this out for purity.


12. Banks Peninsula

Photographer: Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

If you actually want to follow Lolos’ route, head north to Hokitika and over the Alps via Arthur’s Pass to Canterbury and out past Christchurch to the Banks Peninsula: home to one of the earliest European whaling settlements in New Zealand.

14. Abel Tasman National Park

Photographer: Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

The Abel Tasman National Park is home to inaccessible, stunning beaches. But if you have a boat, you’re in business. It’s common to be the only person on a beach, for hours on end. This could be yours, even if just for one day.

18. Bay of Islands, Northland

Photographer: Johan Lolos / Via Instagram: @lebackpacker

This is it. We’ve come as almost as far as we can go. North of the Bay of Islands is Cape Reinga and then the ocean, for as far as the eye can see.

If you want to follow Johan Lolos on more of his adventures you can find him on Instagram or at