AORAKI / MT COOK
Aoraki / Mount Cook is situated in the centre of New Zealand's majestic South Island. The region is renowned for its incredibly clear starry nights, brilliant sunny days, remarkable turquoise blue lakes and valleys of emerald green and snow-capped mountains. Shaped by extreme forces of nature, massive glaciers have scoured the land leaving a trail of lakes and rivers across the landscape. Today you will see awesome mountain ranges - the snow capped Southern Alps stretching across the western horizon. Of the 23 NZ mountains over 3000m, 19 are in this park. Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand and Australasia's highest mountain at 3,724 metres above sea level, towers over the expansive countryside. It used to be the world's 37th most prominent mountain standing, until the eastern face of its northern peak fell off in 1991.
Glaciers cover 40% of the National Park. The area is abundant in walking tracks, with walking trails leaving Mount Cook Village taking anywhere between 10 minutes and 4 hours. On the trails, look for the thar, a Himalayan goat; the chamois, smaller and of lighter build than the thar, and originally hailing from Europe; and red deer, also European. Summertime brings into bloom the Mt Cook lily, a large mountain buttercup, and mountain daisies, gentians and edelweiss. There are also day tramps to some of the area's alpine huts, and for the more experienced, mountain climbing is widely popular, with guides are available.
Helicopters and ski-planes provide access to the park's fabulous glaciers. The Tasman Glacier is an excellent choice for intermediate skiers, while the Murchison, Darwin and Bonney glaciers promise excitement for advanced skiers. Landing among spectacular ice formations and caverns is the start of an unforgettable experience. From October until May, you can explore the Tasman Glacier's terminal lake by boat.
Far from city lights, the stargazing here is magnificent - Aoraki Mount Cook National Park forms the majority of New Zealand's only International Dark Sky Reserve. Mountaineers regard the area to be the best climbing region in Australasia, while less skilled adventurers find plenty of satisfaction with the mountain walks that lead to alpine tarns, herb fields and spectacular glacier views. Encounters with cheeky kea (mountain parrots) are part of the fun.