Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park

Endless rolling hills, bungy jumps off high bridges, the glittering Skytower of Auckland . . . so you think you've experienced the grandeur of New Zealand. Think again. Aoraki glowers severely at these puny sideshows as if to say Try to bungy jump this, wee one!

A few things about Aoraki/Mt. Cook: it's dually named with Māori and Anglo titles. Second, you may never see New Zealand's tallest mountain, as weather can shroud the peaks for days. Plan to stay in the park overnight in case your arrival coincides with curtains of clouds. Note that shopping in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village is very limited. If you don't intend to eat every meal in a restaurant, purchase food and necessary supplies in Twizel or Lake Tekapo. The ice cornices and granite faces are the realm of serious mountain climbers. Nonclimbers can still get a strong sense of the place with hikes, scenic flights, glacier ski trips, and a visit to the excellent Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at the Hermitage Hotel. And, finally, be prepared to be awed by these majestic peaks.

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