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borgund stave church norwayOn a recent trip to Norway, a member of the country’s tourism bureau told me that the number of U.S. visitors to Norway increased by about 40 percent in 2014 due to “Frozen.” That’s right — an animated Disney blockbuster for children boosted the number of travelers to the region by nearly half. That got us thinking about other movies that have spurred visits from loyal fans and, in some cases, even tours that feature the places where the actual filming took place. Read on for a list of some of the most notable ones.

“Frozen” (Norway)
Set in the Norwegian fjords, this story takes Anna, a princess, on a journey to find her sister with the help of a snowman. It sounds quirky, but Disney is now offering official “Adventures by Disney” tours of the region, which include stops in Bergen (on which Arendelle, the movie’s fictional setting, is based), as well as activities like rafting, hiking, fishing, dancing and fjord exploration.

“The Lord of the Rings” (New Zealand)
This famous fantasy series, shot entirely in New Zealand, had many filming locations within the country, including Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Fiordland, among others. Several companies like Lord of the Rings Tours offer guided excursions to various places seen in the movies, but you can also easily organize your own tour with the help of New Zealand Tourism’s resources.

I’ll Take a Large Popcorn and a Ticket to Paris

“Anne of Green Gables” (Canada)
The classic novels and their made-for-TV counterparts still draw lots of visitors each year to Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, Canada. While there, you can get a feel for the place Anne called home and even tour Green Gables, the house that was used in the TV/film series; it has been decorated to look just like what you’ve imagined from the books.

“Memoirs of a Geisha” (Japan)
Set in Kyoto, Japan, a “Memoirs of a Geisha” tour — like this one offered by Japan for You — will take you to several of the movie’s shooting locations and expose you to Japanese food and culture through performances and trips to shrines, restaurants and tearooms. You’ll also have some free time to explore on your own.

The Top 5 Airlines for In-Flight Entertainment

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

Today’s post is part of a weekly series called “Travel Toss-Up,” in which we ask you to take your pick between two amazing travel experiences.

This week’s toss-up offers a choice of two unique, almost otherworldly landscapes.

Would you rather…

… see the one-of-a-kind baobab trees in Madagascar, or …

baobab trees madagascar



… hike to the Emerald Lakes in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand?

emerland lake tongariro national park new zealand


Madagascar is home to several endemic species of baobab trees, which can live up to 800 years. The best place to see them is the Avenue of the Baobabs in Toliara Province, where a cluster of trees makes for striking photos (especially at sunset). A show-stopping view of the Emerald Lakes is the reward for completing the daylong Tongariro Crossing, one of New Zealand’s most popular hikes. The trip takes seven to nine hours on average.

13 Best New Zealand Experiences

Vote for your preference in the comments below!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Each month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

blenheim marlborough new zealandIn this month’s featured review, reader Caroline Hanson writes about the trip of a lifetime to New Zealand. “In Blenheim, we stayed at the Old St. Mary’s Convent Vineyard Estate. The B&B was elegant. I found the hostess, Maria, especially friendly and helpful,” says Caroline. “Of course, since she had cats, she was my immediate friend. The grounds and gardens were so peaceful. My husband loved his walk in the morning among the exquisite gardens. The B&B is situated among the picturesque vineyards. We marveled at how straight the seemingly endless rows of vines appeared.”

Read the rest of Caroline’s review here: Bucket List Trip to New Zealand. Caroline has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Today’s post is part of a weekly series called “Travel Toss-Up,” in which we ask you to take your pick between two amazing travel experiences.

This week’s toss-up offers a choice of two scenic rides.

Would you rather…

… go kayaking in Milford Sound, New Zealand, or …

kayak kayaking milford sound new zealand



… take a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway in California?

pacific coast highway california


Milford Sound (actually a fjord) is one of the most popular attractions on New Zealand’s South Island, but most visitors see it via a small cruise ship rather than on a more intimate kayaking journey. (Intrigued? Roscoe’s Milford Kayaks is one local operator.) If driving is more your speed, you can’t beat the Pacific Coast Highway for sweet scenery along the California coast.

Vote for your preference in the comments below!

Photos: 13 Best New Zealand Experiences

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Suffering from the Monday doldrums? For everyone out there facing the beginning of another work week, here’s a little jolt of wanderlust to brighten up your morning. Each Monday, we offer a photo of a spectacular place to spark ideas for your future travels.

This week’s shot captures a view of Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook on the South Island of New Zealand.

lake pukaki mount cook new zealand


Photos: 13 Best New Zealand Experiences

Send us your best travel shot! E-mail your most beautiful or captivating travel photo to feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put Monday Inspiration in the subject line.)

Our Favorite Auckland Hotels

– written by Sarah Schlichter

sydney opera houseEach month, we highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

In this month’s featured review, reader Carmen Critchlow writes about her first trip Down Under — a cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice. “We had an informative backstage tour of the Opera House, what a fascinating history that building has,” Carmen wrote. “We took a leisurely stroll across the Harbor Bridge and enjoyed the great view.

“We were lucky to be here in March because on June 30, 2013, the Sydney Light Rail and Sydney Monorail will cease operations and will be removed to facilitate the development of the new Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct at Darling Harbor. The trains are marked ‘Farewell Sydney.’ We were glad to be able to take a ride on a piece of history before it was gone.”

Read the rest of Carmen’s review here: Fantastic Cruise to Australia/New Zealand. Carmen has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Suffering from the Monday doldrums? For everyone out there facing the beginning of another work week, here’s a little jolt of wanderlust to brighten up your morning. Each Monday, we offer a photo of a spectacular place to spark ideas for your future travels.

This week brings a shot of lupines flowering on the banks of Lake Tekapo, on the South Island of New Zealand.

lake tekapo new zealand lupines


25 Ways to Save on New Zealand Travel

Send us your best travel shot! E-mail your most beautiful or captivating travel photo to feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put Monday Inspiration in the subject line.)

Our Favorite Auckland Hotels

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Suffering at work on the day before Christmas? Rather be someplace else in the world? For everyone out there facing the beginning of another work week, here’s a little jolt of wanderlust to brighten up your morning. Each Monday, we offer a photo of a spectacular place to spark ideas for your future travels.

Today’s shot is of folks exploring a glacier in Patagonian Chile. But glacier hiking can be done in New Zealand, Alaska, Norway, Greenland and many other places, giving you endless travel options.

glacier hiking patagonia chile



Walking Tours and Trips

Send us your best travel shot! E-mail your most beautiful or captivating travel photo to feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put Monday Inspiration in the subject line.)

– written by Dori Saltzman

Today, during my usual lunchtime sanity break, I peeled myself from my desk and ventured outside in search of food. The wall of hot air that greeted me was stifling. To the chagrin of several women in the knitting store across the way, I immediately stripped down to my underwear. Okay, not really — but I did seriously consider it as I watched a small child attempting to fry an egg in the parking lot.

The latest heat wave here in the Northeastern U.S. has brought temperatures in the 90’s for the past several weeks, and it’s constantly got me wishing I were anywhere but here — anywhere that’s cooler than here, that is.

Take a peek below for four places and activities that I’ve been dreaming about almost daily of late. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel cooler just looking at them.

Visiting Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

glacier bay national park



Swimming at Dunn’s River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

dunns river falls jamaica



Skiing in Queenstown, New Zealand

queenstown skiing



Touring the (air-conditioned!) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

metropolitan museum of art new york



Where would you like to cool off right about now?

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

eden park bed and breakfast aucklandHere’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog.

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $250 NZ per night (about $203 US). Dale, who gave the first correct answer, has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug.

The room pictured was the Cream Room at Eden Park Bed and Breakfast in Auckland, New Zealand. The four-room Edwardian home is located in one of Auckland’s inner suburbs, with plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby on Dominion Road and in Mt. Eden Village. Daily breakfast is included in the rates, featuring a hot entree along with fruit, yogurt, muesli and juice.

To check rates and read about other properties in New Zealand’s largest city, see our favorite Auckland Hotels.

– written by Sarah Schlichter