The Godley and Cass rivers feed into the 83-square-kilometre Lake Tekapo which spills into the Tekapo River then wends its way across the Mackenzie Basin.

On Lake Tekapo’s southern shore, the burgeoning village of TEKAPO revolves around a roadside ribbon of cafés and gift shops surrounded by new housing developments. Its name derives from the Maori taka (“sleeping mat”) and po (“night”), suggesting that this place has long been used as a stopover. It still is, with visitors keen to spend a sunny afternoon picnicking on the lakeshore, enjoying the sunset from a hot pool then stargazing after dark.

Minimal light pollution presents perfect conditions for observing the night skies, and the 1000m summit of Mount John, 9km northwest of Tekapo, has sprouted telescope domes operated by the University of Canterbury and astronomical institutions around the world. There’s an excellent hike up here and great reward in the form of Astro Café, though the star attraction is the range of observatory and night sky tours.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

How to find the right New Zealand for you

How to find the right New Zealand for you

While it may not loom large on the world map, New Zealand feels incredibly vast and imposing on the ground, especially to those who try to visit the North and S…

23 May 2016 • Eric Grossman insert_drive_file Article
Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks are dotted with wildlife and beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every co…

07 Mar 2016 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
Video: the world's friendliest cities

Video: the world's friendliest cities

Which cities are going to welcome you with open arms? Where will the locals be likely to buy you a beer, and who's going to invite you in for tea when it's cold…

10 Oct 2014 • Rough Guides Editors videocam Video
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month