The Maori name for New Zealand, “Aotearoa,” translates into the phrase “Land of the Long White Cloud.” This conjures up images of sunny days, brilliant blue reflections off a lake and a handful of mountain peaks poking through that long white cloud. Three phenomena easily taken for granted in the breathtaking city of Queenstown.

For our mid-semester break, two friends and I decided to do a whirlwind tour of the South Island, including a four-night stay in the famous tourist destination – Queenstown. What we saw in those few days is unmistakably the best of nature that New Zealand has to offer. Even the view from our hostel balcony was incredible!

Queenstown Hostel view

If I’m going to be completely honest, I can’t do much in terms of describing the beauty of Queenstown in simple words. I can take a stab by saying that Queenstown is nothing short of beautiful; the combination of snow-capped mountains with lakes a color blue like you’ve never seen before literally takes your breath away. Visually explaining the wonder of Queenstown might be easier, but the only way to do it justice would be to take you all there with me and relive my Queenstown adventure. For now, I hope a photo recap will suffice:

Day 1: Luging down a snow-capped mountain and strolling around Lake Wakatipu. The sunshine made the water sparkle.

Queenstown Day 1

Day 2: Horseback riding along the Dart River. And for you Lord of the Rings fans, those are in fact the Misty Mountains in the background!

Queenstown Day 2

Queenstown Day 2-2

Day 3: Hiking in the valleys of Glenorchy and eating lunch on (yes, on) a waterfall. Was the 5 hour round trip in the mountains worth it? Absolutely.

Queenstown Day 3

Queenstown Day 3-2

Queenstown (or “The Land of the Long Low Whistle” as I have affectionately dubbed it) is a place that every traveler should have on his or her bucket list. There are one million and one activities for people of all ages and skill levels. My friends and I chose on the side of relaxed wonderment for our trip, but there are plenty of skiing, hang-gliding, bungy jumping and skydiving options for those people who are more adventure-prone. Here’s an idea: maybe the adrenaline junkies can call it Land of the High-Pitched Scream?

Madison Dockter is a student at Drake University and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Madison is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Palmerston North,  New Zealand.