If you've ever seen a picture of Lake Pukaki, you can be forgiven for thinking there’s no way that this lake could possibly be real. After all, the color of the water—a shining, rich, deep shade of turquoise—has the same captivating and alluring effect as a pair of misty-blue eyes. The hue of the water seems to match the sky, and in addition to being surrounded by open plains, the towering spire of Aoraki/Mount Cook stands watch over most of the shoreline. Isolated, empty, and incomparably scenic, there are few places on the South Island of New Zealand which can inspire nearly as much awe.
Running north-to-south and glacially-fed, this narrow lake parallels the road which leads to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. It’s the glacial silt from the Southern Alps which gives the lake its trademark hue, and on the clearest of days when the turquoise waters are backed by snowcapped Mount Cook, it’s a panorama that easily has the ability to drain your entire camera battery. Summer is the most popular time to visit—due to the warm temperatures and clear views of the mountains—although unpredictable alpine weather can roll through during any time of year. During the winter the views of Mount Cook are often obscured by clouds, but on the rare days when blue skies accompany the lakeside snow drifts, there is a good chance you’ll have the lake completely to yourself.
More than just a scenic picture, however, there are also numerous walking trails which begin from the shore of the lake. Seeing as the lone road leading in towards Mount Cook is the only semblance of development, ten minutes of walking on a trail can leave you enveloped by the surrounding wilderness. The road is also a popular route for cyclists touring the country by bicycle, and whether you visit independently, or on your own two wheels, or as part of a guided tour, everyone who gazes upon Lake Pukaki can agree on its unrivaled beauty.