I think the Maori name for Mt. Cook, “Aoraki“, which literally translates to “cloud piercer” is chillingly beautiful, and apt. At 3,724 metres, it is the highest peak in New Zealand. In the one day that we spent at Mt. Cook National Park, we felt the majestic presence of Aoraki, and the beauty of the park that surrounds it in every single moment.
Queenstown to Mount Cook
We made our way to Mount Cook National Park from Queenstown. The journey, which is 255 kms, took us just over 3 hours. Our agenda was to get to Mount Cook early so as to spend more time at Lake Pukaki.
The drive to Mount Cook was spectacularly beautiful with quick scenery changes. From lush green fields, to barren hills, to snow-capped mountains, and glacial lakes. We saw it all! Just look at the pictures below.
Lakes On Our Way To Mount Cook
We had also had the pleasure of witnessing three beautiful lakes during our drive – Lake Dunstan, Lake Pukaki and Lake Tasman. Each lake was so different from the other. One was a normal looking lake, the other had turquoise-azure water, and last was milky-enamel with chunks of glacier.
Of course one of the lakes impressed me more than the others. I have to say that I have never seen anything as beautiful as Lake Pukaki! It is by far the most insanely, breathtaking beautiful lake in the world. The way it changes colours when the sun’s rays hit its waters is nothing less than magical! However, we were equally awestruck by a lake inside Mount Cook National Park – Lake Tasman.
We braved the biting wind, and rain to see Lake Tasman the day we arrived, and it did not disappoint. As it wasn’t tourist season yet, we were the only ones at the lake. It was so surreal and calm looking at the still enamel-coloured waters with chunks of floating glacial ice. That’s right, chunks of glacier. Now there’s something that you don’t see everyday.
Mount Cook Accommodation
After admiring the beauty of Lake Tasman, and getting soaked in the rain we decided to return to out hotel to relax. There are only a handful of hotels inside the Mount Cook Village, and it can be really difficult to book a room, especially during peak season. We didn’t even visit Mount Cook during peak season, and had to struggle with securing a booking.
Luckily we got a room at the Aoraki Court Motel, which was absolutely fantastic. I would highly recommend it to you in case you’re planning a visit. Remember to book in advance. Otherwise, there is plenty of accommodation outside the village, in neighbouring towns.
Dining at Mount Cook
Later that evening we were treated to the freshest salmon that I’ve ever eaten at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Café and Bar (FYI, Mt. Cook is where Sir Hillary practiced before he scaled Mount Everest). It still is one of the coziest restaurants that I’ve ever eaten at. Outside, the view of Mount Cook covered in clouds, contrasted with the warmth inside. That dinner was definitely one of my fondest, and warmest memories of New Zealand.
Stargazing At Mount Cook
One of the things that attracted me to Mount Cook is that it is one of the best places in the world to see the Milky Way. Unfortunately, the weather that evening really bummed us out. The incessant rain, and the overcast sky really put a damper on our mood. So, after a sumptuous dinner we returned to our room heartbroken that a night of stargazing wasn’t upon us.
Little did we know what lay ahead.
I’m not sure what prompted me to step out of our room in the middle of the night, but I’m glad that I did. I was treated to a sky full of stars so majestic that I forgot that I was standing in my PJs and slippers in sub-zero temperatures. Still, no regrets as I captured the Milky Way in all its glory and witnessed numerous shooting stars that night.
But guess what? Mount Cook wasn’t done impressing us yet. Not by a long shot.
The topographical landscape of Mount Cook National Park is extremely conducive to rainfall. So, when we woke up the next morning, rain-bearing clouds had returned and were passing quickly in front of the rising sun. They brought with them short bursts of rain that lasted 2 minutes, and then cleared up.
You know how sometimes all the elements align to put together a magical show? Well, that morning the sun, the clouds, and the mountains aligned to produce a rainbow every couple of minutes. I must have seen a dozen rainbows that morning. It was so mesmerising, and surreal!
As we began driving, the Mount Cook gods just had to show off one last time. This time rainbow appeared right next to us, begging for us to find that pot of gold! This was the biggest, and brightest rainbow we had seen all morning.
Excited, we parked our car and ran towards the rainbow! Once we got back into our car, I strapped the GoPro to the side of our car, and let it capture the moment. We were literally chasing the rainbow.
You’re going to love Mount Cook! I hope this post inspired you to make a stop at Mount Cook to experience its magic the same way we did. Also, if you liked this post, please remember to share it on the social media platform of your choice.