Visiting Mount Sunday (AKA Edoras) in New Zealand

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The first time I went to Mount Sunday, it was nothing more than a desolate high country sheep station at the end of a poorly paved road.

There were no tour buses. No well-worn hiking trails. And, to get to Mount Sunday itself, you had to take off your shoes and ford a handful of bone-chillingly cold rivers.

View from Mount Sunday (Edoras)

It was only for fanatical “Lord of the Rings” fans wanting to see Edoras (Tolkien's fictional city of the Rohan horse lords) in person — and it was difficult to find for anyone not in-the-know.

Mount Sunday AKA Edoras

My second trip to Mount Sunday was, in many ways, very similar to the first. It was a blustery, chilly day (though in a completely different season). The sky was partially blue and the mountains were dusted with fresh snow.

And I was once again in the company of a bunch of “Lord of the Rings” fans excited to climb Edoras.

Mount Sunday AKA Edoras

But, unlike that first time when we crawled through fences and forded streams, this time the site was practically groomed for tourists.

Instead of fording streams, we crossed new bridges. Instead of forging our own path through the tussock, there were now narrow trails well-worn from many sets of curious feet. And, instead of having the entire site to ourselves, we passed other groups of fans on the trail.

Mount Sunday AKA Edoras

The view from Mount Sunday

Hiking to Edoras

This isn't a BAD thing. After all, this site is one of the most epic I've been lucky enough to visit in New Zealand.

Hiking to Edoras

Mount Sunday AKA Edoras

But it just goes to show you the impact the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies have had on tourism here.

Climbing up Mount Sunday (Edoras)

Even though Hobbiton is the only film set still in-tact in New Zealand, people still seek out other filming locations around the country — because Peter Jackson did not do anything half-assed and chose some truly INCREDIBLE places for on-location shoots.

RELATED: 5 Middle Earth Locations You Can Visit in Real Life

Mount Sunday AKA Edoras

Following the release of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, a Tourism New Zealand study in 2004 found that 6 percent of visitors cited the films as one reason for them visiting NZ. Ten years later in 2014, a similar survey found that 13 percent of international visitors said that “The Hobbit” was a factor that influenced their interest in New Zealand as a destination.

A year ago, a news story suggested that the Green Dragon (the themed pub at the Hobbiton movie set) was the busiest bar in New Zealand's Waikato district.

Yes, hobbits and orcs and the world they live in have certainly left a lasting impression on the tourists of the world.

Atop Mount Sunday with a Rohan flag

There's proof of it at Edoras, too — tour groups come from Christchurch every day, even off of cruise ships (though I would never recommend those cruise ship tours — they don't even give you enough time to climb Mount Sunday!).

But, thankfully, the remoteness of this location keeps the huge Hobbiton-scale crowds away.

Hiking to Edoras

Getting to Mount Sunday requires about a 2-hour drive from Christchurch, and a bit of know-how in order to find the road that leads to the site. Once there, there's a small gravel parking lot, a gravel road the leads to the first bridge, and then a rough track that take you to the top of “Edoras” itself.

Mount Sunday map

Hiking to Edoras

The 30-minute hike to the top is steep in spots, and can be slippery. And be prepared for strong wind!

But the views at the top are SO worth it.

The view from Mount Sunday

The view from Mount Sunday

None of the Edoras set remains (though every once in a while you'll find a nail or bit of wood that was left behind by accident), but it's not difficult to imagine Rohan flags blowing outside the Golden Hall of Meduseld. (Sorry, too geeky?)

Mount Sunday AKA Edoras

Even if you're NOT a Lord of the Rings fan, you would still be able to appreciate this location.

The view from Mount Sunday

Hiking to Edoras

Lots of tussock

So there you have it — my favorite not-so-secret-anymore location in New Zealand.

Even though I don't ever want to see it overrun with tourists, I still highly recommend finding this spot if you find yourself with some extra time in the Canterbury region of New Zealand.

Mount Sunday AKA Edoras

Essential info

Is this a place YOU would visit?

 

*Note: I visited Edoras as part of my 14-day Lord of the Rings tour with partner Red Carpet Tours. As always, though, all opinions are my own! 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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34 Comments on “Visiting Mount Sunday (AKA Edoras) in New Zealand

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  1. Thanks for this post! I am so keen to go but sadly I don’t have time to take the full day Edoras tour from Christchurch. Is the gravel road ok to be driven on by a standard 2WD hire car? We havent hired a 4WD. But I’m hoping we can drive by ourselves on the way to our next destination after Christchurch. Thanks for your help 🙂

      I’m fairly certain you can drive a regular car on the gravel road – though be aware that if you’re renting a car, you may not be covered to drive on unsealed roads in New Zealand! You also can’t drive right up to Mount Sunday, and have to hike a little bit to get there from the parking area – so be sure to factor that in, timing-wise!

        Are the gps coordinates the location of Mt Sunday or the parking area?

          The coordinates should be for Mount Sunday itself – but there’s only one road in/out!

    Excellent post, thank you! We are going to New Zealand in a few weeks, and are planning to head to this site. We really appreciate the information.

    -Sarah

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