The New York Times has released its annual 52 Places to Go list for 2024 — and New Zealand comes in for high praise.

Travelling Aotearoa by train is ranked fourth in the prestigious travel ranking.

“Road-tripping across New Zealand via camper van is a free-spirited traveler’s dream,” the entry reads. “But a simpler and more sustainable way to go is by train.

“Opt for a 17-day journey on the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine trains offered by Great Journeys, the tourism division of KiwiRail, New Zealand’s national rail operator.”

The US newspaper reckons the only better places to visit this year are the Path of Totality in North America (to watch a total solar eclipse sweeping across the continent); Paris, France (for the Olympics); and Yamaguchi, Japan (for the sights and food without the crowds).

But nowhere else beats the “ease and sustainability offered by a rail journey through vineyards, volcanoes and snow-capped peaks”.

“The journey starts in Auckland and explores transcendent sites like the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum,” the entry reads.

“Guests ferry across the Cook Strait to the South Island and board the Coastal Pacific for a ride through world-class vineyards and along the jagged coast, stopping to whale- and dolphin-watch before ending in Christchurch.

“The last leg on the TranzAlpine starts on the lush Canterbury Plains then climbs over the Southern Alps, with views to white-capped peaks, rushing rivers and alpine lakes.”

It comes after a number of other recent wins for New Zealand in the international tourism arena, including Rotorua being named one of the “top trending destinations” in the world by Booking.com just over a month ago.

The 17-day tour from Great Journeys is priced from NZ$13,999, beginning in Auckland and ending in Queenstown — but a number of other shorter tours are available for less.

“Coming in spring: carriages with luxurious reclining seats, panoramic windows and partial glass ceilings,” the New York Times said.

The list’s top 10 entries are rounded out with Maui in Hawaii, Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni in Arizona, Singapore, O’Higgins in Chile, Ladakh in India and Geneva in Switzerland.

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