The first International Mountain Day was celebrated worldwide on 11 December 2003. Every year, Mountain Day creates awareness of the importance of mountains to life and pays tribute to their incredible natural formations.
New Zealand has some of the world’s most beautiful and accessible peaks. Some have played starring roles in blockbuster movies and others stand guard over some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
Mt Taranaki is impossible to miss; the perfect volcanic cone stands on its own in the Egmont National Park in the Taranaki region of the North Island. Recently ranked the second-best region in the world in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 publication, Mt Taranaki is the jewel in Taranaki’s skyline. One of the region’s best-kept secrets is the Pouakai Crossing, taking walkers into the Egmont National Park and circumnavigating the mountain.
Aoraki Mt Cook
Aoraki Mt Cook in the South Island’s rugged Southern Alps is New Zealand’s highest peak, standing at 3,724 metres (12,218 feet). Mt Cook is a four-hour drive inland from Christchurch and in the middle of an International Dark Sky Reserve, known for having some of the clearest night skies in the world. Mt Cook overlooks Lake Pukaki in the Mackenzie Basin, part of the Canterbury region. The best way to get up close to the peak is with Air Safaris, which flies from nearby Tekapo, Franz Josef and Glentanner.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is a UNESCO cultural and natural World Heritage site and home to three mighty mountains, Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro. The best way to see all three is to complete the world-famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a day walk through the central North Island’s volcanic landscape. The park is the site of Mordor and Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, so don’t forget your Middle Earth guidebook.
New Zealand’s highest mountain outside of the Mt Cook region, Mt Aspiring (3,033 metres or 9,951 feet), is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site. Mt Aspiring National Park is best accessed from Wanaka, a small lakeside resort town just an hour from Queenstown in the South Island. A scenic flight with Aspiring Helicopters will show off not only the mountain, but the incredible scenery across the entire World Heritage Site.
Bursting from the tranquil waters of the famous Milford Sound, Mitre Peak towers over tourists who’ve come to experience one of the most spectacular places on Earth. The British writer Rudyard Kipling dubbed Milford Sound the eighth wonder of the world, and Mitre Peak’s impressive stature adds to the drama of the landscape. There are many boat cruises for visitors to Milford Sound to choose from, including overnight adventures, and all offer awesome views of the iconic peak.