The small village of LAKE TEKAPO occupies the southern shore of Lake Tekapo and comprises little more than a roadside ribbon of cafés and expensive trinket shops surrounded by new housing developments. The name Tekapo derives from the Maori taka ("sleeping mat") and po ("night"), suggesting that this place has long been used as a stopover. Stay overnight to fully enjoy a sunset free of day-trippers and the wondrously clear night skies.
At an altitude of 710m, the area is reputed to have the clearest air in the southern hemisphere and on a good day views really do have sharp edges and vibrant colours, making this one of the best places from which to photograph the Southern Alps. The most striking thing about lakes Tekapo and Pukaki is their extraordinary colour: the light reflected from microscopic rock particles suspended in glacial meltwater lends the waters a vibrant turquoise hue. Fed by the Godley and Cass rivers, Lake Tekapo covers 83 square kilometres and spills into the Tekapo River, wending its way across the Mackenzie Basin.