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New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mt Cook (Aoraki in Māori, meaning ‘cloud piercer’) towers 3,724 metres into the sky and provides a stunning backdrop to the beautiful Aoraki/ Mt Cook National Park in the centre of the South Island.
Declared a World Heritage park in 1986, it sits within the Mackenzie Basin and boasts over thirty 3,000 metre high peaks, which make up the Southern Alps. It also has five of New Zealand’s largest glaciers, including the Tasman Glacier at 21km in length. Scenic flights over Mt Cook National Park provide unparalleled views of this spectacular spot.
The Mt Cook Alpine Village is inside the National Park. Here the iconic Hermitage Hotel offers a luxurious space in which to relax, have lunch and soak up the atmosphere and the views.
The region is also renowned for its clear, starry nights and in June 2012 it was designated a Dark Sky Reserve, recognizing the clarity of the skies in the Mackenzie Basin. It is the first Dark Sky Reserve in the southern hemisphere and the world’s largest, encompassing a 4300 sq km area.
Travelling south from Mt Cook, you’ll journey through the distinctive tawny tussock land of the Mackenzie Country, past the vivid blue glacier-fed Lake Tekapo, massive hydro-dams and onwards through the township of Cromwell, known as “The Fruit Bowl of the South” – keep an eye out for the giant fruit at its entrance!
Mt Cook Day bus tours depart daily from Queenstown and Christchurch and can be completed as a return day trip or one-way journey.