Location background: Turoa and Ohakune The Ruapehu region of New Zealand, where Hidden Bay - Turoa, Ohakune are located - provided the perfect rugged backdrop in 'The Hobbit' Trilogy. Images (2) Some rights reserved Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverses a colourful volcanic landscape, revealing many amazing landforms. Credit: Tourism New Zealand Download image from visuals.newzealand.com ID:2515 Some rights reserved From Whakapapa skifield, on the side of Mt Ruapehu, the volcanic cones of Tongariro and Ngauruhoe are a surreal sight. Mt Ruapehu has a permanent cover of snow and ice, including seven glaciers. Credit: Tourism New Zealand Download image from visuals.newzealand.com ID:2008 Turoa was used to film ‘Hidden Bay’ in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - chosen for its unique landscapes which include a cluster of mountains on a volcanic plateau with diverse terrain from extensive snowfields, lava flows, hot springs, active craters and lakes, to vast desert-like plains, unusual vegetation and rare wildlife. This was the favourite filming location for cast member Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) - "So this is my favourite location. It is beautiful. There is a mountain, there is a waterfall, there’s a beautiful view across the valley there. It’s one of the sort of archetypal Kiwi places that you think god New Zealand has such amazing landscapes." Tongariro National Park was also used to portray Mordor and Emyn Muil in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the classic conical shape of Mount Ngauruhoe was the basis for Mount Doom. The Ohutu Grazing Company in nearby Ohakune featured in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as the outskirts of Hobbiton. Tongariro National Park is centred on three active volcanoes: Mt Tongariro (1,967m), Mt Ruapehu (2,797m), and Mt Ngauruhoe (2,291m) - together forming the southern part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Volcanic activity in the area started two million years ago and is still active today. The three volcanoes are considered tapu (or sacred) to New Zealand’s indigenous Māori people. Tongariro National Park was the first in the world to be gifted by a country’s indigenous people - the Ngati Tuwharetoa tribe in 1887. It is New Zealand’s first national park and the fourth in the world. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of three in New Zealand) and a dual World Heritage Area recognising important Māori cultural and spiritual associations, as well as the outstanding volcanic features. Tongariro National Park covers 79,000 hectares and is protected by the Department of Conservation in conjunction with the Māori iwi (tribe). The local Māori iwi / the tangata whenua (people of the land) consider these mountains a vital part of their history. The whakapapa (genealogy) and legends are recognised accordingly. Ruapehu was one of the last parts of New Zealand to be settled by Europeans and about 40 per cent of the population identify themselves as Māori. Turoa is one of two large ski fields on Mount Ruapehu and is the world’s only ski field within 500m of an active volcanic crater. More than one million people visit Tongariro National Park each year - despite being a ski destination, there are more visitors in summer due to the excellent hiking opportunities. The region is a haven for walkers and hikers and the famed Tongariro Alpine Crossing has been lauded as among the world’s best one-day walks. One of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, Tongariro Alpine Crossing travels across unique volcanic terrain, past a cold mountain spring, old lava flows, active craters, the stunning emerald and blue lakes, and a beautiful native forest. Mt Ruapehu is also a popular mountain biking destination and home to two of the great rides in the New Zealand Cycle trail network- Nga Haerenga, which is made up of 23 trails across the country. Local wildlife includes North Island brown kiwi and long and short-tailed bats - New Zealand’s only native mammals.