New Zealand honoured with travel awards from National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler

A road leading to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
A road leading to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Photo credit: Getty Images

As the year draws to a close and people around the world are starting to plan 2023 getaways, Aotearoa has been feted with honours by two major international travel publications - on the same day.

New Zealand took out Best Long-Haul Country in the National Geographic Reader Awards 2022 and Auckland is the first destination listed on Condé Nast Traveler's 23 Best Places to Go in 2023.

The accolades should be great news for local tourism operators, many of whom struggled to stay afloat throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and are eager for continued growth in the return of international visitors.

In the National Geographic awards - which are shortlisted by editors before users vote to decide the winners - Aotearoa won the Best Long-Haul Country category ahead of runners up Japan and the US.

"Nature went large with New Zealand - two main islands (and 558 smaller ones) with an extraordinary diversity of landscapes and vistas," wrote National Geographic.

"It's not just Middle-earth that puts it firmly on the must-visit map; rich Māori culture, good food and wine plus the easy-going charms of Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland are draws that make the long flight utterly worthwhile. Shout out too to the adventure travellers, who cite the country as one of the best places to ramp up adrenaline with extreme sports.

"If that wasn't enough, New Zealand is the second most peaceful country in the world after Iceland, according to the Global Peace Index. Reason to visit and recharge in febrile times indeed."

Auckland at night, as seen from the harbour.
Auckland at night, as seen from the harbour. Photo credit: Getty Images

Condé Nast Traveler said its editors from the US, UK, Spain and India determined the 2023 list with "great care".

It advises readers to travel to Auckland next year for the city's "cultural and sporting events, new hotels and improved flight connectivity", highlighting the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023.

"Auckland's jam-packed events calendar seems to be making up for lost time. After a three-year hiatus, the popular Lantern Festival will be held in February 2023 to celebrate Chinese New Year. Pasifika, the largest Pacific Island cultural festival in the world, is returning in March 2023 after a two-year pause," wrote Condé Nast Traveler.

"Aside from Auckland's newest attractions that outsiders have yet to experience - like the $350 million eco-sensitive Te Wānanga waterfront development on Quay Street - three years' worth of flashy hotel openings also await.

"There's the Park Hyatt, QT Auckland, the charming Hotel Fitzroy, and Hotel Britomart, New Zealand's only 5-Green-Star certified hotel. Stays in the city pair perfectly with newcomers in Auckland's rural periphery, like the Scandi-inspired Parohe Island Retreat and golf-centric Te Arai."

Auckland appears to have topped the list thanks to it being presented in alphabetical order.

Other destinations on Condé Nast Traveler's list include Queensland, Western Japan, Kenya, Israel's Galilee, Argentina's Mendoza, Spain's Zamora, the Central Coast of California and Egypt.