Peter Jackson chose this site to film 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit'

The Milford Sound fjord, the 'eighth wonder of the world' on New Zealand's South Island

New Zealand is a country known for its beautiful landscapes, and among them there is one that stands out above all for its spectacular nature.

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That place is in the western part of the South Island and is called Milford Sound, in English, and Piopiotahi, in Maori. Its name in English evokes Milford Haven, a beautiful place on the coast of Wales where the British navigator and explorer John Grono was born, who was the first European to visit this place and named it that way in 1823. The name Maori evokes the piopio, an extinct bird from New Zealand. According to a Maori legend, one of them would have flown to that fjord after the death of the local hero Māui.

A hazy image of Milfourd Sond taken in 2018 (Photo: Steve Camp).

This fjord is formed at the mouth of the Cleddau River, which empties its waters into the Tasman Sea. The fjord is 15 kilometers long and its widest point is almost 2 kilometers. The rock walls that surround this fjord rise up to 1,200 meters high, forming a landscape that seems straight out of a fantasy novel.

Many visitors come to this fjord through boat excursions through it (Photo: Eyrie Photography).

The beauty of Milford Sound is completed by two waterfalls: the highest is Lady Bowen Falls, fed by the waters of the Bowen River and 162 meters, and the lowest is Stirling Falls, called Waimanu by the Maori and that measures 151 meters. In addition, when it rains other temporary waterfalls form, such as the Fairy Falls, on the south bank.

The Stirling Falls of Milford Sound (Photo: Sylvain Cleymans).

Milfourd Sound is surrounded by mountains. The fjord was formed from them during millions of years of erosion. The two largest mountains are The Elephant, on the north shore and with an altitude of 1,517 meters (its name is due to the fact that it looks like an elephant's head), and The Lion, 1,302 meters, also located on the north shore (further inland of the fjord) and whose name is due to its resemblance to a lion.

The Cleddau River as it passes through the beautiful region of this fjord (Photo: Stuart Davies).

Milford Sound has been, for years, one of the most visited places in New Zealand, with up to a million visitors each year. One of the most illustrious visitors who passed through this fjord was the famous British writer Rudyard Kipling. He was there when he was young, in 1891, and called it "the eighth wonder of the world."

The spectacular mountains of Milford Sound (Photo: Timothy Chan).

Today, one of the causes of Milford Sound's worldwide fame is its appearance in "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), the first film directed by New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson in his film trilogy from "The Lord of the Rings", based on the popular work by J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson chose this fjord to film several scenes in the film, including the journey of the Company of the Ring through the Misty Mountains and the Mines of Moria, but without a doubt the scene that contributed the most to spread this fjord was the one that showed the Gate of the Kings, on the Anduin River, in which stood two colossal statues of the kings Isildur and Anárion, statues known as the Argonath.

The Argonath scene in "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001).

Jackson once again chose this fjord to film some scenes for "The Hobbit" trilogy. Furthermore, there have been filmed other famous films, such as "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009), the first installment of "The Chronicles of Narnia" in 2005, "Alien: Covenant" (2017), "Mission: Impossible – Fallout " (2018). In this video from Amazing Places on Our Planet you can see more images of this beautiful place:


Main photo: Sébastien Goldberg.

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