Located on the west side of the South Island stands the tallest section of the Southern Alps mountain range consisting of the peaks of Aoraki and Mt. Cook. This mountain range is simply stunning in beauty and is a popular film destination for several famous movies. With a total elevation of 12,316 ft for Mt. Cook means that you can get in on the strenuous climb to the top of New Zealand yet still be able to breathe when you summit the mountain. Depending on the time of year you plan to travel will play a role in the type of gear and guide you need. The climb is seriously rewarding for those fit and brave enough to do it but is not the reason why most trek to this corner of New Zealand.
With the beauty of the mountains rising from the earth gives onlookers an incredible sight year round but if you look around the national parks you will find some incredible opportunities to see jungles and glaciers and everything in between. There are several guided and non-guided treks that can be done all around the area. From visiting the local sheep farms to taking helicopter tours through the mountain range gives you a gist of things that can be done. Guided treks will likely start around $75-$100 and go up steeply depending if you go for the 4×4 tours or heli-ski/heli-bike tours.
If you love nature then you will want to spend several days in this area as there are a lot of trails to take and sights to see. It would be a good move to take a good camera especially one that can withstand abuse from the elements and if you have a well protected DSLR then you will definitely get the pictures that will cause all your friends and family to go green with envy.
For lodging there is not a whole lot to choose from but what is available is good for the backpacker. Located near Franz Josef Glacier which is north of Mt. Cook are a few hostels and hotels that offer reasonable prices for the night. If you are looking to go on the cheap then expect to pay around $20 a night. Be aware that Oct-May is busy season so prices may fluctuate substantially.
This is truly a destination for the nature lover and for those that want to see natural beauty that seems to defy belief. Do your homework on the climate before you travel and remember that just because it is warm at your hostel certainly doesn’t mean that it is warm 12,316 ft up. So take quality hiking gear and be prepared in the event that you get lost especially if you are trekking around without a guide.