New Zealand

The Glowworm Cave

When it is time for vacation and you go online to research ideas, it often happens that small things can make a big difference in choosing your destination.

Take, for instance, the tiny glowworm. The unusual creature is only about the size of a small mosquito. But when gathered in a large group, the glimmering effect the glowworms create can be worth traversing the globe for.

And you likely will have to traverse a large portion of the globe to experience the glow of the glowworm, unless you happen to live Down Under. That’s where the majority of glowworm habitats are located.

The very best place to go glowworm gazing? That’s inside the appropriately-named Glowworm Cave in Waitomo, New Zealand.

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Sponsored Video: Hobbits Return To New Zealand

The last time Spot Cool Stuff flew into the international airport in Christchurch, New Zealand there was a big sign in the customs area that read WELCOME TO MIDDLE EARTH.

That was in 2003. The third installment of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was selling out in theaters worldwide. Word had spread that the filming location of Middle Earth in the three Rings movies — all the outdoor scenes from the volcanic landscape around Mordor to the lush green elven forest — were filmed somewhere in New Zealand. In fact, even the rings used as props in the movies were made in New Zealand. And suddenly, New Zealand, on the fringe of the planet’s populated masses, became the center of travel for fantasy fiction lovers everywhere.

Then the hype around the movies faded into shadow (as they say). But its power is about to reemerge.

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See, Swim With Penguins
(Not in Antarctica)

Every day around dusk the world’s smallest penguins waddle up on a stretch of coast near Oamaru, New Zealand

Is it possible to dislike penguins? There’s something universally adorable about them. Maybe it’s their waddling. Or their tuxedo outfits. Or how they are portrayed in popular culture, as in the wonderful March of the Penguins documentary.

Most penguin stories, including March, take place in Antarctica. However there are several other places on the planet to see wild penguins. At a few of those you can hop in the water and swim along side these friendly, feathered creatures. Here’s a look at our favorite:

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The World’s Best Hostels 2011 (Part II)

This is the second of our two-part look at the world’s best hostels, budget hotels and inexpensive guest houses as chosen by the users of the Hostelbookers website. Scroll down or click on the region you are interested in:

Part I Part II
Africa Europe
Asia Oceania
Canada South America
Caribbean/Mexico United States

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Air New Zealand To Offer Lie-Flat Economy Service

These days most airlines are cutting back on the amenities they offer. If they still have amenities to cut back on, that is. Airlines already without frills are resorting to increasing extra fees in their quest to make your flying experience increasingly horrible—Ryanair is even considering charging for bathroom use.

In this race-to-the-bottom environment we’re thankful that a small handful of airlines are working on a novel concept: increasing their level of service. Air New Zealand is chief among them. Starting later this year, on select long-haul routes, the airline will be introducing lie-flat seats in their economy class and improved seats in premium economy.

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Ice Bars In Warm Places

At almost any bar in the world you can get a drink with ice. At a few you can get a drink in ice. While sitting on seats made of ice. At a table made of ice. Surrounded by walls made of ice.

The concept of the ice bar originated, logically enough, in Sweden where both water and freezing temperatures are abundant. These icy drinking establishments soon became popular around Scandinavia, partly because they combined two elements Scandinavians tend to embrace (cold and alcohol) and partly because these bars’ LED lighting, artworks of frozen water and and intimate settings made them great places to chill out. (Pun. Sorry.)

Today, there are more than two dozen ice bars around the globe including ones in Amsterdam, London, Poland, Canada and Alaska. Not all of these frozen saloons are in places with cold climes. Hence this Spot Cool Stuff overview of ice bars in warm places.

For the purposes of this review, a “warm place” is anywhere it doesn’t snow in the winter and regularly gets hot in the summer. So, the ice bar in Beijing doesn’t count. The one in Shanghai would have had it not recently closed.

All of the selections on this list, like most of the ice bars anywhere, charge an entrance fee to get in. Usually this fee includes one free drink and use of cold-weather clothing that is designed as much to protect patrons from the bar’s sub-freezing temperatures as it is to protect the bar itself from the patrons’ body heat. To help keep their establishments below freezing, ice bars also have strict limits on the number of people allowed in.

And with that, let’s kick back with a cold one and tour the world’s ice bars in warm places . . .

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New Zealand’s Best Hot Springs
& Geothermal Sites

Waiotapu is Maori for "Sacred waters" but we think this place should have been named for whatever the Maori translation is for "Incredibly photogenic place."

If you’ve seen the Lord Of The Rings movies you’ve seen a glimpse what a beautiful country New Zealand is, with its awesome fjords, its stunning coast line, its dense forests and its Mountains of Mordor. What you didn’t see is that, after those long horse rides and rough battles, the citizens of Middle Earth are able to spend time touring geothermal sites and relaxing in hot springs. Here are our four favorite:

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Woodlyn Park: Three Unusual Hotels In One

Not content to play host to merely one of the world’s unusual hotels Woodlyn Park, on New Zealand’s North Island, has three!

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