nz-south- aoraki mount cook national park
Nz sunset aoraki barton matthews16 discoverpage detail nationalparks
Hooker Valley Mount Cook National Park Canterbury Miles Holden
Nz hiking mount cook national park partner active
nz-south- aoraki mount cook national park
Nz sunset aoraki barton matthews16 discoverpage detail nationalparks
Hooker Valley Mount Cook National Park Canterbury Miles Holden
Nz hiking mount cook national park partner active
Discover the diverse beauty of nature

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Explore Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand's most dramatic natural beauty. It has the highest mountains, longest glaciers, permanent snow, crystal-clear lakes and star-studded skies. Hike the Hooker Valley Track at sunrise for stunning views, go stargazing in the only Dark Sky Reserve in the Southern Hemisphere or try heli-skiing on the Tasman Glacier, the longest glacier in New Zealand.

Where should you visit in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park?

Brown vegetation, white snow fulled mountains and blue glaciers/Mount Cook National Park
Experience the diverse landscape of Mt Cook
© Rob Suisted
Stunning snow-capped mountain views with crystal clear water | New Zealand nature
Hike Sealy Tarns track for spectacular views
© Barton Matthews

Welcome to Aoraki/Mount Cook

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is located on New Zealand’s South Island about two hours from the town of Lake Tekapo. It was known as Aoraki by the Maori which means "cloud piercer." The heart of the park is Mount Cook - at 3,724 metres it is New Zealand's highest mountain on the South Island.

Explore nature's playground

The park spans 722 square kilometres, with 19 peaks and is home to 8 of the 12 largest glaciers in New Zealand, notably the Tasman Glacier. These glaciers cover a massive 40% of the national park area. A third of the entire area consists of permanent snow and ice.

Amazing mountain view | New Zealand nature
Marvel at the dramatic natural landscape
© Barton Matthews
Two people jumping with a lake and mountains in the background
Capture fun moments in beautiful surroundings
© Will Patino

First climbed in 1894 by New Zealanders Fyfe, Graham and Clarke, Mount Cook is to be respected by climbers as it is long, physically demanding and challenging. You need to have a certain level of skill and fitness to conquer the climb. Sir Edmund Hillary used it as his training ground before climbing Mount Everest.

Blue lake, green forest, white mountain peaks
Enjoy post card perfect views
Mountain range covered in snow
Summit the peak as an experienced mountaineer


Flora and fauna

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park's altitudes are perfect for hundreds of alpine plant species that usually flower from November to February. Travellers from all around the world make the trip to see the Mount Cook Buttercup which is the largest buttercup in the world. If you hike the Hooker Valley Track, keep an eye out for them just after the second bridge.

Are you an avid bird watcher?

Remember to pack your binoculars to spot the 40 different types of birds that find their home here, including fantails, piwakawaka, and morepork. The cheeky kea, known as the 'clown of the mountain' will most likely make you laugh and keep your ears peeled for New Zealand’s songbird, the pipit.

Green leaves and flowers, blue glacier and snow-capped mountains | New Zealand nature
Experience unique flora and fauna on a hike
© TravelEssence
Parrot on a mountain peak
Spot a kea mountain parrot while climbing Mt Cook
© Sebastien Goldberg

Be entertained by the kea

The kea is an endangered species, however, you can usually spot a couple at Kea Point. Be prepared for a laugh when you meet this mountain parrot. They are very flashy and known for their pranks. The tiny rock wren is the only alpine bird that lives in the national park and spends the winter in the rock pools.

Flower with white petals and yellow centre
Walk through fields of flowers
Small brown bird on a rock
Discover a variety of bird species

Hiking and mountaineering

The starting point for exploring the area is Mount Cook Village. Sit on the deck of the Hermitage hotel, one of New Zealand's most famous hotels, and enjoy magnificent views. Or spend time at the nearby visitor centre where you can find all the necessary information about geology, flora and fauna, weather and the environment.

Discover the diverse landscape

Mountaineers consider the area to be the best climbing region in Australasia but there are different ways to discover this diverse landscape. Several guided or unguided hikes, from easy to difficult, start from Mount Cook Village, allowing you to enjoy the spectacular surroundings. The best short hike is through the Hooker Valley via two suspension bridges to the Hooker Glacier which takes a total of four to five hours.

White flowers, green vegetation, rocks and snow-capped mountains | New Zealand holiday
Discover different species of flowers on the trail walks

Sightseeing flights and skiing

There are other ways to explore the mountain and its glaciers up close without having to climb it. A helicopter flight, possibly with a landing on a glacier, while still adventurous and impressive, is much more comfortable. Skiing on the Tasman Glacier is available from mid-July to mid-October. The slope can only be reached by plane or helicopter and is 10 to 15 kilometres long.

A helicopter on a mountain peak with six people ready to ski down the slopes
Take a helicopter ride for stunning views of Mt Cook
A pilot in a helicopter flying over a mountain
Enjoy a scenic flight over the Southern Alps

"Whether it's a flight across Lake Tekapo or above the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers - it's always special to get a bird's eye view."

Nicole, travel specialist


Spending the night under the stars takes on a whole new meaning at Mount Cook National Park. It is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve which is a 4,300-kilometre region protected from artificial light pollution and is the only Dark Sky Reserve in the Southern Hemisphere. The purpose of the Dark Sky Reserve is to allow the Mount John Observatory to look into space without light pollution.

Three people star gazing at night
Be captivated by the star-filled night sky
© Julian Apse
Go stargazing and be mesmerised by a natural light show


The drive from Queenstown to Mount Cook is listed as one of the greatest drives in New Zealand. Along the way, you pass stunning scenery and interesting towns. The drive is about 275 kilometres long and it can be done in as little as 3.5 hours.

Explore quirky towns

We recommend taking your time and making it a full-day adventure. Drive from Queenstown through Wanaka which is a small, quirky town surrounded by the Southern Alps. Enjoy a pit stop at Wanaka Lavender Farm, visit the famous lone willow tree with the hashtag #thatwanakatree or pass by the much-debated Cardona Bras (bra fence) which is probably the weirdest tourist attraction in New Zealand.

A tree in the middle of a lake with snow-capped mountains in the background
Capture a memorable moment at #thatwanakatree
Hike to peak points to enjoy lake views

How to get there

Mount Cook Village and the mountain region of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park can be reached via Highway 80. Most of it runs along Lake Pukaki, a scenic route through a breathtakingly beautiful area with views of the mountains in the distance.

Take a road trip on the most scenic routes in New Zealand

Best travel time

The best time to travel to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is either spring or summer (end of September to April) because the conditions are perfect for walking, hiking or climbing the mountain. From December to March the landscape turns into a magical landscape. The wildflowers bloom in the mountains, making nature even more beautiful. The meadows are covered with lilies, gentians, edelweiss and daisies as far as the eye can see.

Golden sky over a snow-capped mountain range overlooking a lake
Watch the golden hues of sunset glow over the peaks
© Miles Holden
Two people walking on a trail through the mountain
Explore nature blooming along the trails

Where to stay?

Make your trip extra special by experiencing a unique stay from our large collection of hand-selected accommodations located in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and beyond. Your travel specialist will match you with accommodation that suits your wants and needs. A journey where your accommodation is an experience in itself.

Amazing views from your accommodation | New Zealand holiday
Enjoy beautiful views of the lake from your lodge

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We'll take the time to get to know you to match your fully bespoke holiday with your pace, your interests, and anything you desire. Combined with first-hand, local knowledge, you'll receive a mapped-out itinerary from us - but the process isn't done until you are 100% satisfied. We take care of every detail, so you can focus on relaxing, rejuvenating and reconnecting with yourself and the world around you. Get in touch to get started now.

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At TravelEssence, we specialise in crafting custom-made holidays that take you off the beaten path and create memories to last a lifetime. We believe in connecting with the heart and soul of a place, introducing you to the locals who call it home. Engage in conversations with fascinating individuals who will share their stories, traditions, and way of life, leaving an indelible mark on your journey.