The upper reaches of the Rangitata Valley are shrouded in a refreshing emptiness. Since Mt. Sunday is on private property, the best way to reach the remote outpost is with a guided tour. Given the beauty of the landscape and the fame it received in the movies, many The Lord of the Rings tours make a visit from Christchurch to the out-of-the-way mountain.
The views alone are reason enough to venture out into the countryside, and for LOTR fans who are exploring the South Island, a trip to Mt. Sunday is the most adventurous of options for putting yourself in the movie. In addition to the scenery where sky, snow, and high-country terrain all combine for a landscape of wonder, the knowledgeable guides can passionately re-create the scenes and setting of the films.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Outdoorsy types and LOTR fans are well-suited for the region.
- Hikers should have a moderate physical fitness level for exploring Mt. Sunday.
- Wear appropriate footwear and bring along a hat and warm jacket.
- The rocky tussock terrain is not wheelchair accessible or recommended for children under age 4.
How to Get There
The region is only two hours from Christchurch, with hotel pickup offered on most tours. Much of the road is unpaved, and a 4WD vehicle is recommended.
When to Get There
During the winter there is a backcountry ski resort at nearby Mt. Potts, where skiers are transported by snowcats or helicopter. During the rest of the year there is a small outpost with a restaurant, a cattle farm, and a lodge. Summer activities like fishing, swimming, rafting, and bicycling are popular.
The Rohan City of Edoras Even the LOTR crew said they were taken aback by the beauty and serenity of the filming site. Although the set of Edoras has since been removed, there was once a time when 50 men took nine months to build the city. Battling winds and constant solitude, they labored to build on Mt. Sunday’s sheer rock face, which is backed by the Southern Alps.