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- 28 Sep 2021, 3 nights
- 2 Guests
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Mount Cook (or Aoraki as it's known by the Māori) is a huge national park in the Mackenzie region of New Zealand's South Island. It shares its name with the park's (and country's) tallest peak – one of 23 towering mountains that make this area a hikers' and nature-lovers' paradise. In the day, travellers can trek through valleys to reach gigantic glaciers or kayak the cool waters of Lake Tasman. After nightfall, the park is a spectacular spot for stargazing.
Most Mount Cook hostels can be found in Aoraki Mount Cook Village – a smattering of cabins and chalets in the heart of the park. You can stay in a traditional alpine lodge with cosy wood-panelled walls and views of the mountains. On warm days, join your fellow travellers for a barbecue on the terrace, or pop into the sauna to unwind. Other hostels have private double rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Admire the valley from your own balcony in one Mount Cook hostel, or head to the on-site bar for a refreshing drink.
Aoraki Mount Cook Village has a couple of shops, bars and handy tour guides, and it's an ideal base for exploring the park. Nearby, a three-hour trail through Hooker Valley leads you across two picturesque swing bridges to reach Hooker Glacier Lake. One valley over, another short hiking route takes you to the Tasman Glacier, the longest in New Zealand, and the lake of the same name, where you can watch large icebergs bob in the water.
Hiking isn't the only activity in Aoraki Mount Cook – you could join a guided tour to explore a glacier close up, or hop on a boat to glide through icebergs on Lake Tasman. For panoramic views, take a one-hour drive or bus ride to the Mount John Lookout next to Lake Tekapo. On the way, you'll circle the shore of Lake Pukaki, which was used as the setting for Lake Town in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Aoraki Mount Cook has its own mini airport, but it's only really used for scenic helicopter flights. That means you'll need to arrive by road. There are plenty of buses that run between the nearby towns, as well as InterCity services that go to both Christchurch and Queenstown airports. Once settled in Mount Cook, you'll find the village is easy to explore by foot, or you could hire a bike from your hostel.