Mount Cook, or, by its Maori name, Aoraki (the cloud piercer) is the highest mountain in New Zealand at 3,724 metres. Its permanently snow-capped peak stands proud amongst the Southern Alps and has inspired generations of climbers, including Sir Edmund Hilary who honed his mounting-climbing skills here. Mount Cook Village is tucked in to hills just south of the mountain itself, at a slightly less heady altitude, and is predominately used as a base for sightseers and walkers exploring Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. It’s a small settlement surrounded by big scenery and the awe-inspiring landscape of rugged peaks, shimmering glaciers and icy-blue rivers is surely some of the best on the South Island.
Nearby Lake Tekapo sits below the Alps, glowing turquoise from the rock particles that are swept down from the glaciers above. The tiny Church of the Good Shepherd sits on the waterfront and with the magnificent mountains providing the backdrop it’s no wonder that this is one of the most photographed places in New Zealand. This area is also part of a UNSECO Dark Sky Preserve, meaning that the star-gazing here is simply superb.
There are several impressive, mountain-framed lakes in the area – Tekapo, Ohau, Pukaki and Benmore – which, on a clear, calm day, create magical scenery. As you pass through prepare to be leaping out of your car frequently to take photos!