I have been studying in Christchurch, New Zealand for over a month now and I must say New Zealand is definitely an under-rated country. My first weekend trip was to Mount Cook also known as Aoraki, and it is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Be prepared to observe all 4 seasons happening at once! According to New Zealand National Parks, Mt. Cook encompasses 23 peaks over 3000 metres high, this park is very accessible. State Highway 80 leads to Aoraki/Mt Cook Village which is situated beside scenic Lake Pukaki and provides a comfortable base for alpine activities.Surreal, milky lakes are a feature of the park – suspended, glacier-ground rock sediment makes the water opaque. Far from city lights, the stargazing here is magnificent. We camped out in tents the whole weekend and slept under what looked like trillions of stars and even the Milky Way. I would recommend finding a camping site near the Mt. Cook trails instead of booking a hostel. http://www.newzealand.com/int/feature/national-parks-aoraki-mount-cook/ Next place I would recommend is Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, NZ. It is about 5 hours south west of Christchurch. Wanaka is a beautiful lake town filled with small boutiques, cool spots to eat and like the Water Bar and Lala Land (great cocktails!). We woke up at 3:30am in order to get to Roy’s Peak before sunrise. According to the Department of Conservation, Roy’s Peak is 16km (about 10 miles), takes about 5-6 hours round trip. This very popular and challenging track zigzags steeply along a 4WD track from the carpark to the conservation area. The track continues through tussock grasslands to the 1578 m summit. The panoramic views from the ridge line includes most of Lake Wanaka, the surrounding peaks and Mount Aspiring/Tititea. The total height gain of 1300m makes this a demanding walk for many. Honestly, it was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/wanaka-area/things-to-do/roys-peak-track/
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