When J.R.R. Tolkien was writing his description of Edoras, the capital city/fort of the kingdom of Rohan, he most likely had no idea that he was essentially describing New Zealand’s Mount Sunday.
Nestled in the Canterbury Plains of the South Island, Mount Sunday feels worlds away from any civilization. But, in reality, this majestic spot is only about two hours southwest of Christchurch. The low mountain sits in the middle of towering alps on a flat river plain, giving it a lonely, expansive feel.
Because of director Peter Jackson’s vision, the world of Tolkien was eventually brought to life on film, using much of New Zealand’s natural landscape as the backdrop. When it came time film the portion of The Two Towers that takes place in Rohan’s seat of power, Jackson saw the remote beauty of Mount Sunday’s isolated peak as the perfect spot for the home of the horse-lords. The entire town of Edoras was actually built on the mount, including the large great hall, and it was all taken down at the end of filming.
Any diehard Lord of the Rings fan knows that no trip to New Zealand would be complete without a stop here. But a visit to Mount Sunday isn’t just for LOTR fans. If you don’t have a a lot of time to visit all the picturesque places the South Island has to offer, Mount Sunday, and the areas immediately surrounding it, provide a great glimpse of the area’s natural beauty without having to travel too far.
Know Before You Go
The best way to get there is to book a tour out of Christchurch. Go with a company who really knows the area well, because it's on private property and not exactly the easiest place to get to. However, you can also drive on some dirt roads when the weather is good. Also there is only one place to stay: Mt. Potts Lodge (make sure you book in advanced during high season).