The Polynesian Maori reached New Zealand in about A.D. 800. In 1840, their chieftains entered into a compact with Britain, the Treaty of Waitangi, in which they ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria while retaining territorial rights. In that same year, the British began the first organized colonial settlement. A series of land wars between 1843 and 1872 ended with the defeat of the native peoples. The British colony of New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907 and supported the UK militarily in both World Wars. New Zealand's full participation in a number of defense alliances lapsed by the 1980s. In recent years, the government has sought to address longstanding Maori grievances.
New Zealand is known in the native Maori language as Aotearoa, often translated as The land of the long white cloud.
New Zealand is a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty which includes: jagged mountains, steep fiords, pristine lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, and active volcanic features. The islands are one of Earth's richest flora zones and is inhabited by some unique fauna, including many flightless birds such as the kiwi, which is the national symbol.
The Maori culture continues to play an important part in everyday New Zealand life, and there are abundant opportunities for the visitor to understand and experience the history and the present day form of Maori life.
The country is sparsely populated, but easily accessible. New Zealand has modern visitor facilities, and developed transportation networks. New Zealand often adds an adventure twist to nature, and is the home of jetboating through shallow gorges, and bungy jumping off anything high enough to give a thrill.
Read more about New Zealand in our New Zealand travel guide »