Whether you enjoy your mountains from the summit or from behind the lens of a camera at ground level, New Zealand has more than 100 mountains that reach heights of more than 2,400 metres (7,874 feet).
Most of the country’s most spectacular mountains are in the South Island, with the biggest all belonging to the Southern Alps chain.
Only two of New Zealand’s 100 highest mountains are in the North Island – Ruapehu (Tahurangi Peak), which is the 19th highest, and Mt Taranaki, the 65th highest.
Five of the best mountains that appeal to climbers and visitors alike:
Aoraki Mt Cook
Height: 3,724 metres (12,218 feet).
Ranking: 1st – the highest peak in New Zealand.
Interesting fact: The first ascent of Aoraki Mt Cook was achieved on Christmas Day 1894 by climbers Jack Clarke, Tom Fyfe and George Graham. Six weeks later, Clarke was in a different team that became the first to conquer the summit of New Zealand’s second highest peak, the 3,497-metre (11,473 feet) Mt Tasman.
Why it’s so good: A four-hour drive inland from Christchurch, Aoraki Mt Cook is in an International Dark Sky Reserve with some of the world’s clearest night skies.
Photo opportunity: For a close up shot of Aoraki Mt Cook, take a flight with Air Safaris who fly from nearby Tekapo, Franz Josef and Glentanner.
Height: 2,518 metres (8,261 feet).
Ranking: 65th highest.
Interesting fact: The first pair to get the best view of Taranaki were Ernst Dieffenbach and James Heberly who claimed the summit on December 23, 1839. German Dieffenbach was the first trained scientist to work in New Zealand after being expelled from Zurich for his politics and for duelling.
Why it’s so good: Taranaki has been rated the second-best region in the world by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017.
Photo opportunity: The mountain looks good from just about anywhere on the west coast of the lower North Island. To get closer, walk the 18.4km Pouakai Crossing which takes you into the Egmont National Park, circumnavigating Taranaki’s iconic volcanic cone.
Height: 3,033 metres (9,9511 feet).
Ranking: 9th highest.
Interesting fact: It’s commonly called the ‘Matterhorn of the South’ because of its pyramidal peak, when viewed from the Matukituki River.
Why it’s so good: Mt Aspiring is part of Te Wahipounamu, the area of South West New Zealand recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The area is a special place for the people of Ngaio Tahu for whom the mountains and valleys are the places of Atua (gods).
Photo opportunity: Aspiring Helicopters provide scenic flights that take you around Mt Aspiring and reveal stunning views of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site.
Tongariro National Park
This park is an UNESCO World Heritage site and home to three of New Zealand’s most scenic mountains:
Mt Ruapehu (2,797 metres/9,177 feet), ranked 19th highest.
Mt Ngauruhoe (2,287 metres/ 7,503 feet), ranked about 116th highest.
Mt Tongariro (1,978 metres/6,490), ranked about 135th highest.
Why it’s so good: This park is home to the fictional sites of Mordor and Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Take your Middle Earth manual as you walk the world-renowned Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a day-long walk through this volcanic landscape.
Photo opportunity: Your chance to take a selfie in Middle Earth itself.
Height: 2,621 metres (8,599 feet).
Ranking: 37th highest.
Interesting fact: Mitre Peak towers over the beautiful waters of Milford Sound, described once by writer Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world.
Why it’s so good: You can enjoy the might of Mitre Peak from one of the many boat cruises through the Sound, watching frolicking dolphins in the water and the snow-capped peaks of this iconic New Zealand landmark all at the same time.
Photo opportunity: It might be a photographic cliche to capture an image of Mitre Peak’s reflection on the tranquil surface of Milford Sound … but you should take the shot anyway!