(CNN) — For many “Lord of the Rings” fans, New Zealand’s vast landscapes are inextricably linked to Middle Earth.
Although the Hobbit Home was a figment of author JRR Tolkien’s imagination, so unfortunately off-limits to tourists, the film’s set Hobbiton offers a good alternative.
In 1998, “The Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson visited a sheep farm southwest of the town of Matamata in the Waikato region, putting this modest place on the cinematic map. The farm, located about two hours south of Auckland in the North Island, was the backdrop for the original three “Lord of the Rings” films and the subsequent “The Hobbit” trilogy.
Hobbiton’s collections, often facades built into landscaped hillsides, have been a tourist attraction since 2002, but until recently most of the “hobbit holes” were off limits to visitors.
Now two fully decorated “hobbit holes” are open to visitors for the first time. The interiors have been recreated by expert illustrators and designers who worked on the films to evoke the cozy feel of a hobbit’s home.
In a statement, director Peter Jackson said Hobbiton was his favorite place from the “Lord of the Rings” films and expressed his delight that the “Hobbit Holes” are now open to the public.
“There’s a sense of curiosity when you’re in Hobbiton and want to go beyond the gate, but of course it’s closed up until now,” he said. “The team did an amazing job bringing the experience to life. It looks like it came straight from the pages of the book […] Tolkien.”
A look inside
“Hobbit holes” are now part of the experience of visiting Hobbiton. Participants will be invited to explore one of two holes, each described as having a “slightly different footprint” but both “designed to provide the same experience for our visitors.”
Each hole is what Hobbiton calls a “floor of completely themed rooms”: entrance hall, bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, dining room, pantry and lounge. The level of fidelity of detail will be welcomed by “Lord of the Rings” fans, who are encouraged to stop and explore each location, though taller visitors should bend a bit.
Visiting the Hobbiton set costs NZ$120 (about US$74) for adults and NZ$60 (about US$37) for children under 17.
“Lord of the Rings” and New Zealand
If you’re planning a “Lord of the Rings”-themed visit to New Zealand, there are plenty of other places to check off your list besides Hobbiton. The New Zealand Tourism Board proudly claims that more than 150 seats of the northern and southern islands of the country.
One of the highlights of a great day trip is the Tongariro Alpine Traverse in the North Island, which includes Mt Nkaruho (also Mt Doom). Travelers can also ski on the North Island at Mount Rupehu, which has reimagined Mount Doom and parts of Mordor.
Thirty-year-old Conor McNish-Lane, a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” who lives in the United Kingdom, tells CNN Travel that he loved a trip to New Zealand he took when he was young.
“I wanted to nationalize what many around the world consider to be the greatest film trilogy in the history of cinema,” he says.
McNish-Lane enjoyed seeing recognizable locations from “The Lord of the Rings.” The day he spent on Mt Sunday near the Rangitata River in Hagatere Nature Park in southern New Zealand, home to edores, stands out.
“It was an incredible walk around the home of Edorus, the capital of Rohan, very far away, where Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf meet King Théoden in the pictures,” recalls McNish-Lane.
“There were no structures on Sunday Hill because they were temporary buildings for the films, but there was a plaque as a symbol of what had happened, and you could feel and sense the incredible atmosphere and why they chose that place.”
From Mount Sunday, hikers can admire the Dry Creek Quarry, used as Helm’s Deep.
“Lord of the Rings” fans know the residents of Rohan make the long and treacherous trek to Helm’s Deep, which serves as the setting for the epic final battle in the second film, “The Two Towers,” explains McNish-Lane. .
“What fans don’t know is that you can easily see the site of Helm’s Deep (which is a temporary structure built into the side of a nearby mountain in the valley) from Sunday Mountain because they are actually so close.”
McNish-Lane hadn’t been to Hobbiton on his previous trip, but the news that they’d expanded the place and opened the “hobbit holes” to the public had him daydreaming about future adventures.
“I live in London and I’m 32, so I haven’t been to New Zealand for a long time,” he explains. “Of all the movie settings in the world, reading about Hobbiton makes you want to get on a plane and make that long journey to Middle Earth.”
— CNN’s Thomas Page contributed to this report.
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