There are many people out there who could never allow themselves to get into The Lord Of The Rings films because they thought it might be a betrayal to the original books by J.R.R. Tolkien. While I will admit that the films are significantly different than the books, I have to also admit that these films are exceptional and presumably that is why readers have their way here. It's hard not to be at least a little bit of a fan of LOTR.
Assuming that everyone having a glance at this article must be a fan to some extent, I'm going to let everyone in on some wicked places that any LOTR fan should love to go to. Sure, every one of these places happens to be in New Zealand so it's not exactly the cheapest or shortest journey to get there but it's not near as much cost or travel as the Fellowship had to endure. So at least there is that!
From the slopes of Mount Doom to the edges of Rivendell, and from Fangorn Forest to the mountain village of Edoras where sits the Golden Hall; the seat of power for Rohan, this article will take readers on a real-life journey through the places of Middle Earth that can be enjoyed in or out of the films. Just save those dollars and pack those bags and get ready to go on an adventure!
25 Whakapapa Ski Field - Emyn Muil
Believe it or not, this is actually a ski field. Obviously, this was done off-season. Or the crew just did what they were well known for and cleared all the snow away with hoses and heaters. Either way, this desolate location was where Frodo and Sam captured Gollum, who had been hunting them. The same location was used when Gollum leads the two Hobbits to Emyn Muil. And beyond that even still, this was a location for several Mordor scenes, including the epic scene where Isildur cuts the ring from Sauron's finger.
24 Weta Cave & Workshop
To be completely fair here, this isn't a location that was used in the filming of LOTR but it was one of the major creative locations where so many designs, gadgets, models and props came from. Weta Workshop is probably one of the coolest film workshops ever. Imagine being able to stroll through and see all of the costumes, prosthetics, props and special effects plans all around. This would probably be one of the coolest parts of any LOTR fan's adventures.
23 Waiau River - The Anduin River
Oh, the great Anduin River. The mighty Anduin is the river that the Fellowship (minus Gandalf) paddles down from Lothlorien, past the Argonath, and straight through to the falls and the climax of the first film. This particular track of the Waiau River was used to collect some aerial shots of the mighty Anduin to show the beautiful river and country surrounding the Fellowship on their perilous journey. Surely any LOTR fan could just look at this photo and picture the Fellowship paddling along here. Reminds me of home.
22 Twizel - Pelennor Fields
This location is one of the largest Gondor locations around. In fact, this is pretty well where almost all of the Gondorian action takes place in the films (aside from a very small number of locations). Apparently, there is a LOTR tour that one can take in Twizel which, as readers can see above, might involve reenacting the battle of Pelennor Fields. I bet there are plenty of people who go out there to fake fight for the freedom of Middle Earth.
21 Tukino Ski Field - The Gates Of Mordor
In case readers here did not know this, there are plenty of places to go skiing out in New Zealand. As tropical as the island country is, it definitely has some beautiful mountains with some snowy slopes. Given all of the snow here, one might not think that this could possibly be the place but it turns out that at the Tukino Ski Fields, along the slopes of Mount Ruapehu sits the location where Gollum shows Frodo and Sam the Black Gate of Mordor.
20 Tawhai Falls - Forbidden Pool
Many readers should be very familiar with this location without even needing to look at the title of it. This little fall is a pretty iconic location in LOTR. The Tawhai Falls was a location partly used to create the sequence where Gollum enters the forbidden pool, smacking a fish along the rocks while Frodo watches in horror as Faramir sets archers after the skulking little creature. Apparently, and I think this makes perfect sense, this waterfall and pool are now simply known as Gollum's Pool.
19 Snowdon Forest - Fangorn Forest
"You're tracking the footsteps of two young hobbits. They passed this way the day before yesterday". Yes, this is the wonderous location of the great and ghastly Fangorn Forest. If a LOTR fan were to travel to the Fiordland National Park and traipse through Snowdon Forest, they would find themselves in the realm of the ents. They could maybe find the magical growth stream. Maybe they'd even find the hill where Gandalf returns to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Regardless, this is a beautiful location.
18 Skippers Canyon - Borders Of Rivendell
“If you want him, come and claim him.” That's right, this location is exactly where Arwen turned around and faced the Ring Wraiths with nothing but her sword...and the immense power of her Elven people. This is the very stream where the Wraiths were washed away by an equine torrent of water. This bit of water in Skippers Canyon essentially marked one of the borders into Rivendell in the film. In the books, the reader is met with a completely different elf though.
17 Putangirua Pinnacles - Dimholt Road
This is probably one of the coolest locations in the entire LOTR trilogy if for no other reason than there is nothing else like it in the film. There are several forests, lakes, rivers, and fields, but these jagged rocks exist nowhere else in the film but the Dimholt Road where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli take their journey into the realm of the dead and recruit the undead army to aid in the battle at Pelennor Fields. Pinnacles was also a location used by Peter Jackson in one of his earlier horror films.
16 Piopio - Trollshaws Forest
This is maybe one of the coolest photos in this entire article simply because the person in the frame is holding up a screenshot of the dwarves marching through the woods in the same location! Now, yes, to be fair this is, in fact, a location from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but that should not take away from the fact that it is still Middle Earth and this is still a place to be visited. And if readers didn't like The Hobbit, they can simply pretend this location was part of Fangorn Forest. Piopio looks close enough to it. Just watch out for trolls.
15 Paradise - Isengard
First of all, I think it is just hilarious that there is a place in this tropical island country of New Zealand that is simply called Paradise. Don't get me wrong, it makes sense but...maybe it's just a little too on the nose? Anyway, Paradise is a spot that you can clearly make an easy drive to and it is also the location of Isengard. At least, it is the location for that approaching shot where Gandalf rides up to meet with Saruman for the first time in Fellowship.
14 North Mavora Lake - End Of The Anduin Journey
Mavora Lake is one of the key components in building the Anduin River sequences in The Fellowship of The Ring. Clearly, a large lake, the northern end of Mavora was used for a couple of scenes for the first film. The first being within the forest where Merry and Pippin hide, briefly, from the orcs. The second and more important location is the shoreline where the Fellowship ultimately splits. Frodo and Sam cross the "river" from this point, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli take to the woods to rescue Merry and Pippin.
13 Mount Victoria - Journey To The Prancing Pony
Remember when Frodo yells to the other hobbits to "get off the road"? Well, this is the very road that they were traveling when he yelled at them. This is the very ridge road where the Ring Wraiths tracked the hobbits. Not far from this very road is also the hilarious moment before the Wraiths show up where Merry breaks a carrot that he's landed on, and Pippin finds mushrooms. And one can take the Mount Victoria hiking trails all they want.
12 Mount Sunday - Edoras
This is probably one of my very favorite locations for a number of reasons. The first and foremost reason being...well, just look at this place! It is spectacular! Mount Sunday sits in this massive valley getting constantly ravaged by wind and stands pretty well alone with only short grass and shrub around it below. Secondly, this one featured the great Rohan village of Edoras and the stunning Golden Hall. Everything was physically built there and then taken down to restore the natural beauty of the place. A must-see LOTR location.
11 Mavora Lakes - Tracking The Hobbits
This beautiful location is where Merry and Pippin finally make their escape from the orcs that have been hauling them about for days. The reason they escape? The Rohirrim come to take out the orcs, of course. Any LOTR fan should know that. Beyond that, this is also the location where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli track the hobbits to the edge of Fangorn forest...and this is where Aragorn broke his toes kicking an orc helmet. I wouldn't mind taking a canoe out on that lake.
10 Mount Ngauruhoe - Mount Doom
Every self-respecting LOTR fan should know exactly what this place is just by looking at it. No reader here should have to look at the heading of this entry to know that this is the infamous Mount Doom location. Taking a hiking trip along Tongariro Crossing will give an amazing view of Mount Doom. But, for those who feel adventurous, one can simply head straight to Mount Ngauruhoe and climb the slopes of Mount Doom itself! Just make sure you bring a ring with you.
9 Mararoa River - Leaving Lothlorien
This swinging bridge was obviously not featured in any of the LOTR films, but this location was a pretty important one all the same. This is the very shore where the Fellowship departs from Lothlorien. This is where Galadriel gives gifts to each of the members of the party and sends them on their way. Thanks to this moment, Frodo and Sam manage to survive Shelob. I wouldn't mind paddling this lake, but not in one of those Elven boats.
8 Mangawhero River - Catching A Fish
This is a stream of the Mangawhero river which leads to a waterfall of the same name. This is also the location where Gollum races to catch a fish, just before the edge of the falls. Just before shooting this scene, the crew had to clear out a ton of snow and ice and Andy Serkis had to plunge himself into the freezing cold waters to get the reference shot for Gollum. I wouldn't suggest swimming here but it is a gorgeous location to visit, for sure.
7 Mount Gunn - The Beacons Are Lit!
This is a beautiful spot that surely some people would think is from Frodo and Sam's journey with Gollum but it is actually one of the locations of the beacons. The beacon-lighting sequence is maybe one of the best sequences to show off the incredible beauty of New Zealand. It is stunning. There are two ways to get out to Mount Gunn...or at least to this location at Mount Gunn. There is a scenic flight to look down on it...or a braver person can hike to the beacon location.
6 Lake Pukaki - Laketown
Ok, alright, so it's another location from The Hobbit. So what? Sue me. This is just another example of a gorgeous piece of Middle Earth that can be found in the gorgeous country of New Zealand. This is the location for Laketown. Of course, there is no remnant of the town anymore now that filming is done, but that doesn't mean one can't paddle that beautiful blue water still. The original location for Laketown was built on the shores of the lake at Tasman Downs Station.
5 Kepler Mire - The Dead Marshes
"Don't follow the lights!" This is the incredibly dreary and desolate location of the Dead Marshes. Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through this drowned battlefield of history where spirits are just waiting to take victims down into the marsh forever. It doesn't look near as scary from this aerial shot as it does down in the marsh itself...in the film anyway. The Kepler Mire may not be one of the prettiest places but it is certainly a must-see location for the LOTR fan out there.
4 Kawarau Gorge - The Argonath
This gorge should be recognizable to any LOTR fans worth their weight in mithril. This is one of the most stunning locations used in the Anduin River sequences. To be fair, the very thing that makes this location so breathtaking was actually added in post-production and it is the colossal Argonath. The two giant kingly statues that stand guard over the Anduin falls are amazing and while they may not actually be standing guard in the Kawarau Gorge, even a novice imagination would be able to picture the scene while paddling these waters.
3 Matamata - Hobbiton
Alright, this is probably the coolest place to go in all of the real-life Middle Earth locations. This beats out even the slopes of Mount Doom. Why? Because it is Hobbiton! This actually still exists. This is a village fans can actually go to and experience in New Zealand. Unfortunately, it's not like it would actually be littered with hobbits but who cares? Anyone can go visit Bag End (watch for the rafters), or dance around the Party Tree, or even have a drink at the Green Dragon...I'd be at the Green Dragon the whole time...
2 Deer Park Heights - The Journey To Helm's Deep
This is probably one of the most, if not THE most used location for scenes shot in Rohan. And this is just a range of hills and fields and mountains that can actually be hiked by any LOTR fan. No driving is permitted up there anymore as the owners of the land have technically closed the park, having retired. But that doesn't mean a hiker or two can't go up there to take shots of the beautiful land of Rohan.
1 Twelve Mile Delta - Cooking Up Po-Ta-Toes
I would love to camp along this stretch of the Twelve Mile Delta. Why? Because this is the wonderfully hilarious spot where Sam and Gollum have their argument over the cooking of rabbit and just what "taters" are. And everyone knows what comes next... "Po-Ta-Toes! Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew!" It would be great to camp in this spot. This is also where Frodo, Sam, and Gollum watch Faramir take out a bunch of Haradrim with their Oliphants...just before Faramir captures the wandering trio.