New Zealand’s highest peak, Aroaki Mount Cook, is an arresting sight dominating the skyline of the national park which surrounds it. Its traditional Maori name means ‘cloud piercer’, apt in a stunning alpine landscape where 22 other snow-capped mountains stand over 3000m, towering above flowering meadows, glacial streams and turquoise lakes.

A haven for climbers – this is where Sir Edmund Hillary trained before ascending Everest – the park also offers hikers dozens of stunning tracks and walks to choose from. Add to this dizzying mountain biking trails, the chance to kayak around floating hunks of ice, helicopter flights onto the enormous Tasman Glacier and even some skiing, it is an adventurer’s dream.

One of the park’s highlights are the brightly hued waters of Lake Tekapo, watched over by the humble Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. Close by are hot springs and the Mount John Observatory from which you can peer deep into starry nights of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve.

It’s pretty cool to be able to swim in a glacial lake, where the water is crystal clear and so fresh. My favourite lake in this area is Lake Pukaki – waking up to views over the lake and mountains with the famous Mount Cook in the distance is something I could do every day.

Ellie Khoury
Travel Designer