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- 24 Feb 2020, 3 nights
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The small town of Lake Tekapo shares its name with a glittering lake on New Zealand's South Island. The region is rich with postcard-perfect scenery, from the staggering Southern Alps to the striking turquoise lake coloured to a milky hue by fine minerals floating in the water. The area is as picturesque by day as it is by night, as the region is one of only a handful of International Dark Sky Reserves in the world.
Lake Tekapo hostels are dotted around the shore, meaning you'll almost always wake up to views of the water. Stay in a contemporary glass-fronted lodge where you can chill on the outdoor deck with a BBQ in the summer, or get cosy by the open fire in the common room during winter. There's also a Lake Tekapo hostel set in a peaceful garden home to rabbits, chickens and sheep, an ideal spot for gazing at the star-filled sky on clear nights.
The compact town is centred around its main street, where you'll find a selection of restaurants serving everything from Japanese cuisine and pizza to homemade New Zealand favourites. Want to pick up a couple of souvenirs? Most of the town's shops are also along this stretch. Browse crafts like artisan jewellery and delicate designs made from pāua shells. Towering over the east shore of the lake is the range of mountains that includes Mount Dobson, while Mount Cook borders the northwest bank that leads out to Mount Cook National Park.
Here, most of the things to see and do are in the great outdoors. Thanks to Lake Tekapo's lack of light pollution, the region is one of the few places in the world where you can see the Aurora Australis (the southern version of the Northern Lights). Bundle up in the winter and hope for a glimpse of the shifting colours over glittering constellations and shooting stars. By day, you can take in panoramic views on a trek across the Mackenzie Basin to the Southern Alps, ending at what is thought to be New Zealand's most photographed building, the Church of the Good Shepherd.
The closest airport to Lake Tekapo is Christchurch Airport, which you can fly into from Auckland or Wellington. It's under a 3-hour drive to the lake by car or just over 3 hours by bus. You'll also find buses that run to Lake Tekapo from other major cities in New Zealand, such as Cromwell (3 hours away), Queenstown (4 hours away) and Mt Cook Village (90 minutes away).