Lord of the Rings location
J.R.R Tolkien’s works – namely the Lord of the Rings series, and The Hobbit book, have been converted into much-loved adaptations that are widely regarded as some of the best fantasy films that have hit the big screen. Both trilogies were filmed in more than 150 locations, but in just one country – New Zealand. The director, Sir Peter Jackson, felt that New Zealand closely matched his idea of ‘Middle Earth’, the fantasy realm that J.R.R Tolkien places his novels in. Even though Tolkien was English and never actually visited New Zealand, the country’s landscapes, mountains, volcanoes, and pastoral land served as the perfect setting that mirrored the mystical and epic fantasy land.
For those who haven’t seen the movies, the story is set in Middle-Earth, and follows the hobbit, Frodo Baggins, and his Fellowship, as they embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring (a magic ring that the Dark Lod Sauron crafts to control the free people of Middle-Earth – he gifts a series of rings to various peoples, but secretly crafts one ring to control all the others, making him the ultimate ruler). The movies follow Frodo’s adventures as the team journeys deep into Mordor, to the one place where the ring can be destroyed – Mount Doom – without attracting Sauron’s attention. Of course, the world is far richer, and these movies deserve to be watched in their entirety to be fully appreciated. Here are a list of the Lord of the Rings location
All of the scenes that took place in The Shire – in Lord of the Rings and in The Hobbit trilogy, took place in Matamata, Waikato. The Shire is an inland area that’s occupied by the hobbits, or the Shire-folk, and are largely sheltered from what happens in the rest of Middle Earth. The hobbits are also the protagonists of both series – in Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins is tasked with taking the One Ring to Mordor to destroy it, and we see how Bilbo Baggins gets the ring in The Hobbit trilogy. The series starts and ends at the Shire; we see the Shire in the beginning of the series, along with the 4 hobbits that make up the Fellowship of the Ring: Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took.
The Shire is actually built on a dairy farming landscape, around the Waikato town of Matamata, and is about 38 miles east of Hamilton (New Zealand’s fourth-largest city). The village of Hobbiton was created here for Lord of the Rings, and then re-created for The Hobbit, and have been left up to form a permanent attraction. Visitors can visit around 44 “hobbit holes” on guided tours that can last up to two hours, and this is one of the few spots that have permanent Lord of the Rings props in place, as opposed to empty landscapes.
Mordor and Mount Doom
Mount Doom, also known as Oroduin or Amon Amarth, was a volcano located in Mordor.
Mordor is a black, volcanic plain in the south-east of Middle Earth, and is Sauron’s realm. This is because there are mountain ranges that surround it on three sides, creating a natural fortress against Sauron’s enemies, and it’s where his base – Mount Doom – is located.
Mount Doom is the place where the One Ring was forged, and is the only place where it can be destroyed. In Middle-Earth, it is located in the north-west region of Mordor, and the volcano is Frodo’s end destination, his final goal he must reach in order to destroy the Ring. The volcano itself has fictional lore; in this world, the volcano responds to Sauron’s presence and his commands, becoming dormant when he’s away and active when he returns; in fact, when Sauron is defeated, the volcano violently erupts, pointing to a deep bond between Sauron and Mount Doom.
Mount Doom in New Zealand is more commonly known as Mount Ngauruhoe in New Zealand, and is located within Tongariro National Park. The Tongariro National park is also a great place for a day hike, which is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Though this hike may be challenging, it passes Mount Ngauruhoe, and is a popular trail to hike along. You can climb Mount Ngauruhoe, and it takes a few hours to reach the peak. However, climbers should keep in mind that the volcano’s surface is covered with soft ash, so climbing up feels something like climbing a sand dune – going down is far easier than climbing up.
Edoras was the capital city of Rohan, which was the great kingdom of Men. The city of Edoras plays an important role in the films, as the Fellowship of the Ring split up, with the hobbits continuing their journey, while the others gather their forces and recruit others to fight Sauron, and distract his attention while Frodo and his friends reach Mount Doom to destroy the ring. In the city of Edoras, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and Gandalf meet with King Théoden, where they requested King Théoden to resist Saruman (Sauron’s servant, and a powerful, formidable wizard in his own right).
The scenes for Edoras were shot amongst New Zealand’s Southern Alps, on a mountain called Mount Sunday. The mountain was named Sunday because boundary riders from high-country stations would meet here on – you guessed it – Sunday. Located in the Ashburton District on the South Island, filming involved constructing vast props and sets for the scenes, which were then taken down post-filming. Though the props are no longer visible, the visit to the mountain is worth it, for the stunning views of the mountain range and for the refreshing hike up to the peak. Visitors can park on Hakatere Potts Road and walk up to the site, and grab a bite to eat afterwards at the Mount Potts Station nearby.
The Battle of the Pelennor Fields was one of the epic battles in Lord of the Rings, in the books and in the subsequent adaptations. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields was a battle for the city of Minas Tirith and ultimately for Gondor (the prominent kingdom of Men in the realm), and is considered to be the greatest battle of the War of the Ring – the war between Sauron and the free people of Middle Earth for control over the One Ring, and took place between Minas Tirith and the River Anduin.
The battle itself is said to be one of Peter Jackson’s cinematic masterpieces, and was the centrepiece of the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The scene was filmed near Twizel in the Mackenzie Country, where thousands of orcs (created by CGI) fought the men of Gondor and Rohan. The foothills were a perfect place to shoot the scene, because of the close resemblance to the description of the Pelennor Fields in the novels. Though the foothills and mountains are on private land, it is possible to arrange a tour in the town of Twizel, and many Lord of the Rings fans can visit the epic foothills and visualize the battle that took place on these lands.
Isengard, also known as Angrenost, is a major fortress in Gondor, and also held one of the realm’s ‘Palantiri’, or seeing-stones, which were used to communicate in Middle Earth. The stones could be used to see what happens across Middle Earth, and would only show visions or intended thoughts of the users, but could not transmit sound. Isengard was built in the northwest corner of Gondor, and comprised of a black, circular, stone-wall that surrounded a broad plain, and the centre had the Tower of Orthanc. The river Angren (or Isen) was behind Isengard, and also served as a type of wall – the other three sides were guarded by a large wall known as the Ring of Isengard. The complex was initially lush, green, and beautiful, with large trees and grass fields as the ground was fed by the river Isen. Unfortunately, the river was then dammed by Saruman, and the lush greenery began to die. After Saruman’s defeat, Treebeard and the other Ents restored Isengard to its former glory, destroying the dam and the walls around the fortress, renaming Isengard to ‘Treegarth of Orthanc’.
Isengard was shot at Upper Hutt’s Harcout Park, a popular place for families to have picnics, or for a day of discgolf, and it shot to popularity once Peter Jackson chose this place to shoot the scenes of Isengard for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The park was transformed into the lush, grassy fields of the gardens of Isengard, and it’s a great place to take a stroll and imagine yourself amidst Gandalf and Saruman walking through the gardens, listening in as Gandalf warns Saruman about the discovery of the One Ring.
Lothlórien, also known as Lórien, is a forest and Elven realm, near the Misty Mountains. Lórien is defined as the fairest realm of the remaining Elves in Middle-Earth, and is ruled by Galadriel and Celeborn. Lothlórien is the Elven centre of resistance against the Dark Lord Sauron, and Galadriel uses one of the Elf-Rings to keep Sauron from seeing into Lothlórien, and evading his all-seeing eye. The Fellowship of the Ring visits Lothlórien, after their trials through the caves of Moria, and Galadriel helps the fellowship with their journey, preparing individual gifts for their unique quests.
To shoot the scenes of Lothlórien and the ancient forest of Middle Earth, Peter Jackson used Lake Wakatipu, a vast inland lake that stretches for about 290 squared kilometres, and is the lake that borders Queenstown. The lake is bordered by a set of mountain ranges, and the view is stunning from the lake’s blue waters. The highest mount in this range is Mount Earnslaw, standing at a peak of 2,819 metres. The lake is fascinating, not just for its history in Lord of the Rings – its unique shape means that the lake has a ‘tide’, which causes the water to rise and fall about 10 centimetres, every half an hour or so. Taking a cruise out onto the lake is a peaceful experience, as the steady motion of the waves is a calming motion, and the surrounding scenery makes it feel like a hidden paradise, safely tucked away.
The Great River Anduin, also known as the Great River, is the longest river in Middle Earth, in the Third Age. It’s estimated that it’s around 2,234 kilometres long in this fantasy world, and plays a central role in the fellowship’s journey, as this is the river they take once they depart from Lothlórien. The river takes them to through a significant distance, past Orc ambushes, and when they finally disembark, they must decide between going to Mount Doom or take the way to Minas Tirith, a city in Gondor, the city where the Battle of the Pelennor Fields took place.
For this scene, Peter Jackson turned to the Waiau River, which is the largest river in the Southland region of New Zealand. The upper Waiau River was used as River Anduin at the end of the first film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the resulting fame that the river has attracted is so great that suggestions were made to rename a stretch of the river from the ‘Balloon Loop’ to ‘Anduin Reach’, in honour of Peter Jackson’s use of this area for the trilogy. Unfortunately, this proposal was rejected by the New Zealand Geographic Board, but that shouldn’t deter fans from visiting this awe-inspiring river and reliving the journey the fellowship undertook, taking off from Lothlórien.
Rivendell, also known as Imladris, is an Elven town located in Middle-Earth, and is thehome of Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, and one of the Elf-rulers who lived in Middle-Earth from the First Age to the beginning of the Fourth Age. Rivendell s located at the edge of a narrow gorge of the river Bruinen, hidden in the foothills of the Misty Mountains. Rivendell is seen as a sanctuary for the elves, and is depicted as a peaceful, blissful place. In fact, Bilbo Baggins ‘retired’ to Rivendell as an old hobbit, before heading over the sea.
In the films, Rivendell is a place that is ethereally beautiful, filled with light, and was shot in Kaitoke Regional Park, a Wellington Regional Park located in Kaitoke, New Zealand. The park is about 45 minutes away from Wellington city, and covers over 2,860 hectares of lush land, featuring Beech and Rimu forests that are centuries old. The park was used for exterior shots of Rivendell, and fans can camp overnight, or take a day trip, and fully explore the forests of Rivendell. Along with overnight camps, the park also features river pools that guests can swim in, and walking routes that are accessible for people of all ages, making this park a peaceful way to explore Rivendell and soak in some of New Zealand’s rich greenery.
Though most of the movie’s set design was shot using constructed props (which were then taken down post-shooting), it is possible for die-hard fans to recognize the backdrop of these beloved movies and walk the very path that hobbits, elves, dwarves, and wizards once walked. Though there are tour companies that offer guided, Lord of the Rings themed tours, it is possible to visit these places independently, and take in the remnants of this incredible series. Each location is a great space to visit as they all offer a unique perspective into the films, the efforts taken to shoot and produce such a fantastic project, and why Peter Jackson chose to work with New Zealand to portray this fantasy land, even though J.R.R Tolkien, an English author, never stepped foot into the country.
Do take a look at the Hobbit filming locations too.
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