'Tawhai' is the Maori word for the silver beech tree, and they abound in Mt Aspiring National Park, the focus of this adventure. Fly, hike, and jetboat to some of New Zealand's most incredible hidden gems with the local experts.
Quite simply, this is one of the most spectacular and least well known wilderness experiences in New Zealand. We're exploring the Siberia Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park - we'll access it via a fixed wing flight, and jetboat out the following day. This is backcountry New Zealand in style.
(Trip start - Christchurch, trip end - Queenstown).
- All guiding services: Experienced New Zealand guides on every trip. These guys are the pros, and they're the difference between a good trip, and a life-changing adventure you'll never forget.
- All meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner on all days, except where indicated on the itinerary. (Day 1 excludes breakfast, and Day 4 excludes dinner).
- All transport: This trip includes a fixed wing flight and a jetboat ride, our rides in and out of Mt Aspiring National Park. Other than that, when you're not travelling under your own steam, there will be comfortable air-conditioned vans to stretch your legs.
- All accommodations: All accommodations are included on this trip, one night in each in Franz Josef, Makarora, and Siberia Hut.
- All activities: All hikes, plus a breathtaking flight into Siberia Valley, and a jetboat ride out again are all included on this epic adventure.
Arrive, hike Devil's Punchbowl Falls
We’ll kick off our time together in Christchurch. After picking you up from either the joining hotel or the airport, we’ll travel into the Southern Alps to Arthur’s Pass. Here, we’ll be doing our first hike together, the Devil’s Punchbowl. This walk will take you through native beech forest to an incredible 131 metre (430 feet) waterfall, so you’ll want to make sure you have your camera on hand! After our hike, we’ll make our way through Arthur's Pass. This is a stunning drive surrounding by rolling hills, and winding through river valleys. We'll descend a steep and impressive highway, a feat of engineering which needs to be seen to be believed! Next stop is Hokitika, a coastal settlement known as the “Cool Little Town”. Hokitika is famous for its pounamu, also known as greenstone or jade. As the birthplace of pounamu, Hokitika is a vital stop to learn about its history, and the carving process - it's also a great place to grab a souvenir or two! We'll stretch our legs on the beach and through town, before making our way down the coast to Franz Josef where we'll be spending the night in the aptly named Rainforest Retreat. Nestled in the rainforest-clad foothills of the Southern Alps, Franz Josef is the heart of New Zealand glacier country. Today is quite a bit of driving, but our route is beautiful, we'll cross the Southern Alps at Arthur's Pass and enjoy amazing views all the way!
Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef (Lunch, dinner)
Hiking Distance: 2 kilometres (1.2 miles), 0.5-1 hour
Hike near Franz Josef Glacier
Today we're hiking in Glacier Country, hitting the trail towards Alex Knob. This route offers regular viewpoints as it winds its way upwards, so we don't have to reach the top to get the spectacular views - though we're up for the challenge if you are! The Franz Josef Glacier is truly an impressive spectacle at the heart of this region, plunging down through temperate rainforest to just 250 metres (820 feet) above sea level. This frozen giant is just one of the 140+ glaciers making their way down from the Southern Alps. During our hike we’ll grab some lunch at a viewpoint along the trail, and once we're back at the bus we'll hit the road.
Optional Heli-hike (extra fee applies)
An outrageously scenic alternative to today’s hike is to heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier itself. After being fitted with crampons, you’ll board a turbine helicopter and fly towards the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, landing on the glacier at 1300 metres (4265 feet) above sea level. Led by specialist glacier guides, you’ll hike through the grand ice formations of the glacier, checking out its crevasses, seracs and tunnels – no previous experience is required! The constant movement of the glacier means every day is different, so your guides will cut steps in the ice to make the most of the conditions. At the end of your hike on the ice, you’ll take another helicopter ride out of the mountains and back to civilisation.
The heli-hike is extremely popular, so we offer advance reservations with the helicopter operators and guiding company. At the time of booking, or up until one month before your trip, we can reserve a space for you, or you can leave your decision until the start of your trip and your guides will get you a spot if it’s available
This afternoon we're taking one of the most beautiful coastal journeys in the world - south along the South Island's West Coast, looking out to the Tasman Sea as we wind our way towards the small township of Haast, where we turn inland and cross the Haast Pass, to our final location for the night, the small mountain community of Makarora - our starting point for tomorrow's wilderness experience in Mt Aspiring National Park.
Makarora Lodgings, Makarora (All meals)
Hiking Distance: 8 kilometres (5 miles), 3-4 hours
Fly into Siberia Valley, hike to Lake Crucible
We’ll start the day with a breathtaking scenic flight over and around the Southern Alps to Siberia Valley airstrip, a short hike from the hut where we'll be sleeping tonight. After dropping our gear at the hut to lighten our loads, we'll start our hike up to Lake Crucible, an alpine lake with bright blue water and spectacular views of the valley below. From the hut, we’ll follow the Siberia stream upriver, before crossing and starting our climb up to the Crucible Valley. This steep and forested section of the trail is fairly strenuous, but we promise it’s worth the effort! Eventually we’ll make the final push up the face of the moraine wall, and be met with breathtaking views of the valley and Mount Alba. The lake isn’t visible until the very last stretch, but it’s an impressive reward for an epic hike. Once we reach the lake, we’ll have a chance to relax over some lunch, or even a swim (if you dare!). Tonight, we’ll be having a true Kiwi experience at a backcountry hut, tucked within the Siberia Valley.
Siberia Hut, Mt Aspiring National Park (All meals)
Hiking Distance: 7 kilometres (4.3 miles), 6-8 hours
Hike to Kerin Forks, jetboat to Makarora, explore Cardrona Valley and depart
Today we’ll wake up early for a quick breakfast before packing our bags and starting our hike out to Kerin Forks at the head of the Wilkin River. At the Forks we’ll be met by our jetboat for a truly thrilling and memorable ride back to Makarora. The ride is fast paced and exhilarating, but we’ll be coming to a stop a few times along the way to take in the views and snap some photos, so make sure you have your cameras ready! We'll grab some lunch once we're back at Makarora, hop onto the bus for the last time and begin our journey back to Queenstown. We’ll be travelling over the Crowne Range so we'd be mad not to make a stop at the famous Cardrona Hotel en route. One of the country’s oldest and most iconic buildings, the Cardrona Hotel was established during the Gold Rush in 1863! It’s rumoured to be the most photographed building in New Zealand, and for good reason. Once we get back to the adventure capital of Queenstown, we’ll say our goodbyes and drop you off at either your hotel or the airport. If you’re staying on in Queenstown, feel free to ask us for recommendations – we know all the best spots!
Hiking Distance: 6.6 kilometres (4.1 miles), 2-3 hours