Located at the foot of the Southern Alps on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki, is the highest mountain in the country measuring 3,724m high. Surrounded by towering mountains, the wilderness is known as some of the most unforgiving in New Zealand however it is also one of the most exceptionally beautiful. Mount Cook holidays are known for their incredible scenery and you don’t need to be a mountaineer to enjoy the variety of alpine walks, glaciers, stargazing and scenic flights.
This Mount Cook travel guide is designed to help you make the most of your time in this comfortable haven. Encompassing 23 peaks more than 3000m high, the Mount Cook National Park is very accessible, with State Highway 80 leading to the village beside Lake Pukaki. Considered some of the best climbing in Australasia by skilled mountaineers, there are plenty of options for less experienced adventurers. By night, the stargazing is unbelievable, and far from the city lights, the Mount Cook National Park comprises the majority of NZ’s only international Dark Sky Reserve.
There is a wide variety of Mount Cook accommodation to suit both climbers and non-climbers. There are 17 huts in the Mount Cook National Park provided by the Department of Conservation, however these are intended for mountaineers and require climbing skills to reach. Non-climbing visitors will find a comfortable range of Mount Cook accommodation in the nearby village, which offers everything from comfortable motels and luxury hotels to charming bed and breakfasts. The Hermitage Hotel is particularly famous thanks to its views of Mount Cook from its barstools. The nearby town of Lake Tekapo also offers a variety of accommodation options.
There are a fantastic range of Mount Cook attractions, many of which revolve around the spectacular beauty of this wilderness region. Beginning just outside the village, there are 10 formed and well-signed short walking tracks including the Hooker Valley, Kea Point and Red Tarns Tracks which take approximately 2 hours return. For more experienced hikers, there are 3 alpine mountain pass routes including the Ball, Copland and Mueller passes. There are also scenic flights available on ski-planes and helicopters offering access to incredible glaciers like the intermediate skier-friendly Tasman Glacier and the more advanced Darwin, Bonney and Murchison Glaciers. Experience the unforgettable opportunity to land among the spectacular caverns and ice formations in this alpine wonderland.
As the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook was the perfect practice peak for Sir Edmund Hillary and helped the expeditioner develop his climbing skills before his legendary conquering of Mount Everest. The weather in and around Mount Cook can change suddenly and rapidly and visitors should always be prepared for high wins, heavy rain and even snow regardless of when they visit. In winter, climbing becomes an extreme sport and only experienced and well-prepared mountaineers should attempt to climb. However throughout the rest of the year, local guides are available to accompany you on walks, climbs and glacier skiing.