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Southern Alps

The impressive mountain range runs along the western side of New Zealand’s South Island and it forms a dividing range along the entire length of the island. Aoraki/Mount Cook is the highest point at 3,754 metres, there are 16 other points in the range that exceed 3,000 m! A vast part of of the range is included in numerous national parks; Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The alpine region contains more than 350 glaciers, most of the smaller ones, but Tasman Glacier with 29 km has a respectable size considering the temperate climatic conditions. The Southern Alps were given their name by Captain Cook in 1770; they had previously been known by Abel Tasman in 1642, whose description of the South Island's West Coast has been translated as 'a land lifted up high'.

The longest and highest mountain range of New Zealand, the Southern Alps, are located in the centre of the South Island. In geological terms, they are a young mountain range which stretches over 550 km across the length of the South Island. The ranges start rising near Blenheim in the far north of the South Island and stretch all the way through to the breathtaking Hollyford Valley in the very far south-west of the island. The Southern Alps include all of New Zealand’s summits over 3,000 m; all but one of them are situated in the spectacular Mount Cook region. As the mountains are relatively young, they are still actively being uplifted. In combination with high precipitation levels on the western side and as a result high erosion, there is an ever changing landscape. The precipitation also results in the range having more glaciers (some 360 altogether; the largest being Tasman Glacier) at lower altitude than comparable mountains of the same altitude in other parts of the world. Aoraki or Mount Cook is the highest peak at 3,754 m. A large proportion of the range is protected as part of various national parks (Westland, Mount Aspiring and Aoraki/Mount Cook National Parks).