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Long before Game of Thrones did wonders for tourism in places like Iceland, Ireland, and Croatia, there was another fantasy epic that had travelers flocking to see its beautiful real world filming locations. We’re, of course, talking about The Lord of the Rings and the Pacific nation of New Zealand. Fans of the films couldn’t wait to visit all of the New Zealand destinations used as The Lord of the Rings filming locations to represent Middle Earth.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the film series was in cinemas, but The Lord of the Rings will soon be returning to our screens in a very different way. Amazon is currently in the middle of producing a TV series that will take viewers back to Middle Earth. What’s more, this series is also filming in New Zealand, which means more gorgeous New Zealand scenery. To tide you over until the new series debuts, here’s a list of where the films were shot in New Zealand.
Where Was The Lord of the Rings Filmed?
It’s common knowledge that The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand, which is home to an incredible variety of landscapes, making it well suited as a filming location.
The country is made up of two islands: the North Island and the South Island, with much of the signature mountain scenery found on the South Island, though there were a few spots filmed on the North Island, too, including near Wellington, Matamata, and Port Waikato. Because of the fantasy setting, most locations used for the films are out in the countryside rather than in easy-to-reach city locations.
The Lord of the Rings Tours in New Zealand
With so many fans of the films coming over to New Zealand, it is little surprise that tours became available showing travelers the film locations. Most tours to The Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand focus on just one or two locations, but there are a few longer tours that visit more spots.
- From Wellington: Lord of the Rings Half-Day Tour
- From Wellington: Weta Cave & Lord of the Rings Full Day Trip
- From Christchurch: Full-Day Lord of the Rings Tour to Edoras
- From Queenstown: Lord of the Rings Full-Day Tour
- From Queenstown: Half-Day 4WD Lord of the Rings Tour to Glenorchy
The Lord of the Rings Filming Locations
You can find your own way around to the different locations either by using this article or a location guidebook to help plan and navigate. In fact, the New Zealand Department of Conservation has compiled a list of locations with coordinates and access roads used to reach them, which will be invaluable on a self-guided tour of The Lord of the Rings locations.
There’s really no better place to start this list than at the incredible set of Hobbiton. The film crew actually constructed an entire hobbit village on a farm near the town of Matamata, complete with hobbit-holes built into the terrain. Hobbiton is, of course, where The Fellowship of the Ring begins, introducing us to the hobbits, Gandalf, and the One Ring. The real-life Hobbiton has been open for tours since 2002, receiving a major upgrade when it was used again for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. On a visit to Hobbiton, you’ll get to see hobbit-holes of all different scales but most importantly Bilbo and Frodo’s home of Bag End.
2. Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park, in the center of the North Island, covers around 796 km² and is home to multiple filming locations. Two of the most popular are Mount Ngauruhoe and the Tawhai Falls.
For the better part of three films, Frodo’s quest was to reach the appropriately named Mount Doom to throw his ring into the volcano. What you might not know is that an actual volcano was used to depict Mount Doom. If you want to visit Mordor, then you’ll need to head for Mount Ngauruhoe in Tongariro National Park. The Tongariro Crossing hiking trail offers some of the best views of Mount Ngauruhoe and lets you climb up the mountain as well. Just remember, you won’t have Sam along to carry you.
Elsewhere in the national park, you’ll find a waterfall and pool commonly known now as Gollum’s Pool. Actually called the Tawhai Falls, this beautiful waterfall spot was used for the scene in The Two Towers when Gollum is fishing, unaware that Faramir and the Rangers of Ithilien have their bows trained on him. While the setting was digitally altered for the film, it really is a pretty spot all on its own.
3. Mavora Lakes Park
The diverse scenery of Mavora Lakes Park was used for a number of the scenes at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring and the start of The Two Towers.
After paddling down the Anduin River, the Fellowship bring their boats to shore along North Mavora Lake. Soon after, Merry and Pippin hide from the fight with the Uruk-hai in the same area by the lake. In The Two Towers, fields and forest near the lake are used for the scene where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli search for the missing hobbits on the edge of the forest.
4. Skippers Canyon
The character of Arwen makes quite the first impression in The Fellowship of the Ring. She creates a flood to wash away the Nazgûl chasing her and Frodo on horseback. The location used for this scene at the Ford of Bruinen is Skippers Canyon, which itself makes quite an impression in real life. The canyon, in a river valley outside Queenstown, is an especially picturesque spot with the Shotover River flowing through it and mountains all around.
5. Fiordland National Park
Another large national park that was used for multiple different settings in the films was Fiordland National Park at the southwestern tip of the South Island. On a visit to Fiordland National Park, you’ll have the opportunity to see both the mighty River Anduin and the gnarled Fangorn Forest.
In a trilogy full of captivating aerial shots, one of the best is of the Fellowship paddling down the River Anduin after leaving Lothlórien in The Fellowship of the Ring. Many of New Zealand’s rivers were used to depict the River Anduin, chief among them the Waiau River near Te Anau. The best way to see the parts of the Waiau River that were used for filming is to take the Kepler Track that follows the riverbank.
Fangorn Forest is quite a pivotal setting at the start of the The Two Towers, both for the characters it introduces and also for its ancient atmosphere. It might be hard to believe that such a place actually exists in New Zealand, but visit Snowdon Forest in Fiordland National Park and you’ll see it does. It’s here in Snowdon Forest, with its gnarled roots and twisted tree limbs, that we see Aragon track Merry and Pippin after they escape the Urukhai. Fangorn is also home to the Ents, but sadly you haven’t got much chance of seeing them.
6. Putangirua Pinnacles
Some filming locations are worth visiting regardless of their connection to The Lord of the Rings. One such location is the Putangirua Pinnacles. Caused by erosion over a hundred thousand years, this area in the Aorangi Mountain Range of the North Island features a bizarre cluster of rock pinnacles. The pinnacles were used as the backdrop to film the Paths of the Dead as Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli go to enlist the Army of the Dead in The Return of the King.
7. Mount Sunday
Much of The Two Towers focused on the kingdom of Rohan, home to characters such as Eomer and Eowyn. Rohan was shown to feature endless fields across rolling hills, with dramatic mountains overlooking it and its captivating capital, Edoras, resting on a hill. While the set for the city was dismantled after filming, the splendid scenery of Mount Sunday on which it was built remains. The spot is nestled within the Southern Alps not far from major mountains like Mount Taylor and Mount Cook, guaranteeing some phenomenal views if you visit.
8.Kaitoke Regional Park
Cities like Wellington were not viable filming locations for The Lord of the Rings, but there are some filming locations close to Wellington worth visiting. Probably the most interesting is Kaitoke Regional Park, which was used for some scenes set in the elven city of Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring. Also close to Upper Hutt is Harcourt Park, which was used in the first film’s scenes of Isengard, home to Saruman. Then there’s the Hutt River, another of the rivers used for Anduin River scenes.
Could there be a more perfect name than Paradise for a destination used as the mystical elven forest of Lothlorien? Found close to popular tourist destinations like Queenstown and Milford Sound, Paradise was used for the scenes when the Fellowship first encounter the elves there. Other parts of the woods were also used later for the big fight with Uruk-hai and the death of Boromir at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring.
10. Mount Aspiring National Park
Continuing our tour of New Zealand’s national parks used by Peter Jackson, we come toMount Aspiring National Park, where various scenes were shot. This large national park on the west coast of the South Island was used for all sorts of landscape shots, including various snowy peaks of the Misty Mountains. Slightly more accessible spots to visit, though, include Dan’s Paddock and the Dart River Valley, both of which were used for the landscape around Isengard, although Dart River Valley was quite heavily altered in postproduction.
11. Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier is already one of the best places to visit in New Zealand, and the fact that it is also connected with The Lord of the Rings just gives you another reason to visit. The glacier itself wasn’t featured in the films; rather, the view from Franz Josef Glacier Valley toward Mount Gunn in the Waiho Valley was used. This incredible view is what you see as the mountaintop beacons are lit along the White Mountains calling for aid to Gondor.
12. 12 Mile Delta
Watching Sam and Gollum interact is always entertaining in The Lord of the Rings, especially when they bicker over food while making camp in The Two Towers. The campsite scene, as well as the ambush by Faramir and the Rangers of Ithilien on the Oliphaunts, was filmed out in the scrub near 12 Mile Delta Campsite on Lake Wakatipu. Near the campsite, you’ll find a lookout that shows the view Frodo, Sam, and Gollum had of the ambush.
13. Port Waikato
There were some particularly gripping scenes with the Nazgûl early on in The Fellowship of the Ring. One was when they attacked the hobbits in the ruins of Weathertop. Although the ruined fortress of Weathertop isn’t real, the distinctive limestone hill they sat on certainly is. Weathertop’s hill and many moody limestone rock formations like it can be found in the countryside around Port Waikato on the North Island.
14. Kawarau Gorge
One of the harder filming locations to recognize in New Zealand is probably Kawarau Gorge near Queenstown on the South Island. This is because the two colossal stone statues of the Argonath were digitally added in. Still, it is indeed the Kawarau River and Gorge used for this spot along the Anduin River by the Pillars of the Kings. Nearby, you’ll also find the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, a popular spot for bungee jumping.
15. Ben Ohau Station
The Lord of the Rings had plenty of epic battles in it, but the biggest spectacle has to be the Battle of Pelennor Fields outside the city of Minas Tirith in The Return of the King. It makes sense, then, that this massive confrontation on wide-open fields of grass was filmed at Beh Ohau Sheep Station near the town of Twizel. It’s important to note that this sheep station is private land, but tours can be arranged in Twizel.
Bonus: Weta Cave & Workshop
Although it’s not a filming location in the same sense as the other destinations on this list, it would be wrong to leave off the incredible Weta Cave. Located in Wellington, this is the headquarters of the Weta Workshop, the people behind the state-of-the-art special effects and props used in The Lord of the Rings. Here you’ll see life-sized sculptures and showcases full of props and a free documentary on what goes on behind the scenes with their work.
New Zealand's mountain ranges, wild rivers and grassy fields provided the perfect setting for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
Dry Creek Quarry. This modest quarry had a spectacular transformation during the filming of The Two Towers. The sets for Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith, the fortresses of Gondor, were built here and the quarry was used for the famous last battle scene in The Two Towers.Where was Argonath filming location? ›
One of the harder filming locations to recognize in New Zealand is probably Kawarau Gorge near Queenstown on the South Island. This is because the two colossal stone statues of the Argonath were digitally added in.
On Aug. 31, 1998, before filming on the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy began, Variety reported that Jackson was convinced “New Zealand is particularly suitable for re-creating Middle-earth. The landscape and the raw beauty of these places is ideal for this story.”Was Lord of the Rings filmed entirely in New Zealand? ›
If you've watched the Lord of the Rings movies, you've probably wondered; “Where was Lord of the Rings filmed?” LOTR was filmed entirely in New Zealand!When was Lord of the Rings filmed in New Zealand? ›
When was the Lord of the Rings trilogy filmed? The trilogy was filmed between October 1999 and December 2000, with all three films shot at the same time over a period of over 400 days. Many of the locations are still easily recognisable from the films, especially those heavily featuring the landscapes of the country.Is Helm's Deep a real castle? ›
I am referring to the Predjama Castle in Slovenia, the Helm's Deep of The Middle Earth made reality. Predjama Castle is a renaissance castle built within a cave mouth in south-central Slovenia, in the village of Predjama.Where was Mount Mordor filmed? ›
Tongariro National Park is home to Mount Doom, Mordor and Emyn Muil and some of New Zealand's most incredible scenery.Where did they film LOTR Two Towers? ›
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was filmed on location in Mount Sunday, Canterbury; Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park; Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park; Mount Tasman, the Southern Alps. Additional filming took place at Camperdown Studios in Wellington, New Zealand. Mount Ruapehu.Where is Saruman's tower located? ›
In The Lord of the Rings, Orthanc, a tower at the centre of Isengard, is the home of the Wizard Saruman.
|Other names||Minas Ithil (S), Dushgoi (O), Tower of the Moon, Tower of the Rising Moon, Moon-tower, Tower of Black Sorcery, Dead City|
|Location||Ephel Dúath, facing Gondor|
|People and History|
|Title||Captain of the White Tower High Warden of the White Tower Steward-prince of Gondor|
|Affiliation||Fellowship of the Ring|
|Family||Faramir (brother) Denethor II (father)|
And for a whole lot less money than shooting in Japan for real. Combine that with the staggering scenery and it's a location scout's dream. Whether it's Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom in J. R.
In terms of tourism bucks alone, Tourism New Zealand conservatively estimates that travellers who visited the islands just to see Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit locations have brought in $620million since December 19, 2001.How many people from New Zealand worked on The Lord of the Rings? ›
More than 1200 New Zealanders worked on the series, and it was shot across 38 locations – 15 of those in Auckland, with others including Coromandel, Central Otago, Kahurangi National Park, and Queenstown. Writer Patrick McKay (left) on location during filming of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.How long did Lord of the Rings film in New Zealand? ›
Filming. Principal photography for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was conducted concurrently in New Zealand for 438 days from 11 October 1999 through 22 December 2000.Was the Hobbit filmed entirely in New Zealand? ›
The Hobbit Trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand, throughout locations in both the North and South Islands. Find out where to go and what to see to experience Middle‑earth™ for yourself.Were all of the Lord of the Rings movies filmed at the same time? ›
Considered to be one of the biggest and most ambitious film projects ever undertaken, with an overall budget of $280million the entire project took eight years, with the filming for all three films done simultaneously and entirely in New Zealand.Can you visit where Lord of the Rings was filmed? ›
In fact, the village of Hobbiton is the only set from the Lord of the Rings trilogy that wasn't torn down after filming, but instead turned into a museum where you can take a walking tour through the Hobbiton Movie Set, including the Hobbit hole of Bag End and the Green Dragon Inn.Where is Rivendell in real life? ›
According to scholars, in 1911, Tolkien took a study trip to Switzerland around the Lauterbrunnen Valley which they believe went on to form the inspiration for Rivendell.
Generally, New Zealanders are extremely proud to have their country be associated as the home of Middle Earth. The films had a huge impact on our country's reputation and built the foundation for what is now a thriving screen production industry.How are Orcs made? ›
In The Book of Lost Tales, it is said that Orcs were "bred from the heats and slimes of the earth" through the sorcery of Morgoth. Again, Tolkien later changed this, as Morgoth could not create life on his own. This led to the most popular theory that Orcs were created from corrupted Elves.How many Orcs were at Helm's Deep? ›
The enemy, Saruman's army, consisted of at least 10,000 Orcs and men, most marching from Isengard to Helm's Deep, and others heading to the Fords of Isen. An additional force of Men of Dunland joined the enemy.Who won Helm's Deep? ›
Gondor is a fictional kingdom in J. R. R. Tolkien's writings, described as the greatest realm of Men in the west of Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age.Where was Mad Max Fury Road filmed? ›
Principal photography began in July 2012 in Namibia, with most of the filming based in the Dorob National Park. Some scenes were also shot at the Cape Town Film Studios in Cape Town, South Africa.What volcano is in New Zealand in Lord of the Rings? ›
Mount Ruapehu's volcanic rock formations were cast as the desolate Mordor in Peter Jackson's “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.Where was The Hobbit filmed in NZ? ›
New Zealand's rugged scenery was the location for much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit films, but it was a 1,250 acre working sheep farm on North Island that became Hobbiton, the home of the hobbits in JRR Tolkien's fantasy land, Middle Earth.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was shot at Camperdown Studios and Stone Street Studios in Wellington, New Zealand. Hobbiton was located in Hinuera Valley, Matamata. Filming locations included Mount Ruapehu, Milford Sound, Upper Hutt, Twizel, and Rangipo Desert.What was the last scene filmed for Lord of the Rings? ›
Said Wood, “The last shot was a pick up from Bag End when Frodo is finishing up writing his story of what he's experienced in Bilbo's book. And essentially, the subject of the scene is that Frodo knows he's going to leave and that he's going to leave the book to Sam.”
Saruman is a Mannish translation of Quenya Curumo, his original name in Valinor as a Maia; and Sindarin Curunír which is supposedly the same name (with the ending -ndîr "man"). All names mean "Skilled Man" or "Cunning One" (root curu "skill").What is Saruman's orb called? ›
A palantír (/pæˈlænˌtɪər/; in-universe pl. palantíri) is one of several indestructible crystal balls from J. R. R. Tolkien's epic-fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. The word comes from Quenya palan 'far', and tir 'watch over'.Where is the White city in Lord of the Rings? ›
|Other names||Minas Anor Mundburg The Guarded City Tower of Anor Stone-city|
|Location||Easternmost point of the White Mountains, close to Anduin|
|Description||White city of seven levels|
minas is a noun meaning "tower" in Sindarin. The noun often appeared in compound names, where it implied a citadel or a city with a watchtower.Who are the nine Nazgul? ›
All the Nazgûl are named - The Witch-king of Angmar, The Dark Marshal, Khamûl The Easterling, The Betrayer, The Shadow Lord, The Undying, The Dwimmerlaik, The Tainted and The Knight of Umbar.Is the Undying Lands heaven in LOTR? ›
Though the Undying Lands can be viewed as heaven, going there doesn't mean death. It is a paradise, yes, but it is not necessarily the end. As far as we know, those elves go on to lead beautiful immortal lives in the Undying Lands.Is Aragorn half elf? ›
Aragorn is not half Elf, although he is a descendant of Elros, who is half Elf (and the brother of Elrond, the half-Elf who raised him), which explains why Aragorn's life span is unusually long.Did Boromir have a wife? ›
Boromir was the eldest son of Denethor II and Finduilas and the older brother of Faramir. Boromir was beloved by his father and was like him in face and pride, but in little else. Boromir's temperament was similar to King Eärnur of old; he took no wife and was more interested in arms and warfare.Where did the orcs live in Lord of the Rings? ›
|Locations||Utumno, Angband, Mordor, Misty Mountains, Angmar, Mount Gundabad, High Pass, Dol Guldur, Isengard|
|Rivalries||Elves, Men, Dwarves|
|Languages||Black Speech; numerous Orkish languages; Westron|
The Lord of the Rings was entirely filmed in New Zealand the perfect landscapes to depict Middle-earth!
The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films are the most famous movies filmed entirely in New Zealand. They chose New Zealand because of the beautiful landscapes. In addition, many props and digital special effects were also made in New Zealand, in the WETA workshop in Wellington.What two famous trilogies were filmed in New Zealand? ›
- Bridge to Terabithia (2007) This Disney film was a faithful adaptation of the novel with the same name. ...
- The Hobbit (Trilogy - 2012, 2013, 2014) ...
- Chronicles of Narnia (Trilogy - 2005, 2008, 2010)
Another big name to join the globally successful trilogies was British heavyweight thespian Ian McKellen, who played fan favourite Gandalf. The veteran theatre actor has a reported net worth of US$60 million and took home a total of US$14 million from the first two films, according to Celebrity Net Worth.What made more money the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings? ›
The highest grossing movie in the 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy is 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King', which generated over 1.1 billion U.S. dollars in box office revenue worldwide. Second was 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' which made 1.02 billion at the global box office.How much did Amazon spend on LOTR? ›
WSJ: Amazon spends record-breaking $715 million on Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. With its upcoming "Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power," Amazon has shot an arrow through previous records for TV-series expenses.Why is Lord of the Rings leaving New Zealand? ›
The show's steep cost was a key factor in the decision, with sources saying that the U.K. will be a more economical choice moving forward. Amazon has already been heavily investing in studio space in the U.K. and is shooting many other titles there (such as Good Omens, Anansi Boys, Citadel, The Power and The Rig).How many black riders are there LOTR? ›
The Nazgûl (from Black Speech nazg, "ring", and gûl, "wraith, spirit"), introduced as Black Riders and also called Ringwraiths, Dark Riders, the Nine Riders, or simply the Nine, are fictional characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth.How much of Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand? ›
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed entirely in Aotearoa New Zealand. In fact, more than 150 locations were used across the country.Where in NZ is Hobbiton? ›
The Hobbiton Movie Set is located at the heart of Waikato, in a small agricultural town called Matamata. The set is in a 1250 acre or a 500-hectare property that has been traditionally a New Zealand sheep and beef farm owned by the Alexander's since 1978.Which New Zealand island was The Hobbit filmed on? ›
New Zealand's rugged scenery was the location for much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit films, but it was a 1,250 acre working sheep farm on North Island that became Hobbiton, the home of the hobbits in JRR Tolkien's fantasy land, Middle Earth.
The Hobbit Trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand, throughout locations in both the North and South Islands. Find out where to go and what to see to experience Middle‑earth™ for yourself.Which LOTR film location is the most visited in New Zealand? ›
The mountain is located in Tongariro National Park on the north island, which itself was depicted as Sauron's land, Mordor, in the films. One of the most recognisable filming locations from The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, Mount Ngauruhoe, like the fictional Mount Doom, is an active volcano.How long did it take to film Lord of the Rings in New Zealand? ›
Filming. Principal photography for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was conducted concurrently in New Zealand for 438 days from 11 October 1999 through 22 December 2000. Pick-up shoots were conducted annually from 2001 to 2003.Can you visit the Shire in real life? ›
Step into the enchanting village of Hobbiton™ Movie Set
In the heart of the Mighty Waikato region, you can explore the lush pastures of the Shire™ with a guided walking tour of Hobbiton™, as featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies.
How to book a stay in Hobbiton. There are just three overnight stays (of two nights each) available for booking. They cost 10 New Zealand dollars (just over US$6) per night—in honor of the 10th anniversary of the first movie in The Hobbit trilogy.Was the Rings of Power filmed in New Zealand? ›
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was filmed in New Zealand over a period of more than a year - the shoot was hit by delays caused by the pandemic.How much of The Hobbit was filmed in New Zealand? ›
The Hobbit Trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand, throughout locations in both the North and South Islands.Where is the Lonely Mountain in New Zealand? ›
Turoa – The Lonely Mountain
Location: Turoa, Ohakune, Mt Ruapehu, North Island.
Most snow in New Zealand falls in the mountain areas. Snow rarely falls in the coastal areas of the North Island and west of the South Island, although the east and south of the South Island may experience some snow in winter.What mountain is the lonely mountain in real life? ›
The Lonely Mountain appears in Peter Jackson's film adaptations of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies. The actual setting was Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand.
Waiau River: The opening aerial shot of The Fellowship of the Ring showing the forested banks of the Anduin River.