Dark Sky Experience: Tekapo and Mt John

From Christchurch to Christchurch
  • Canterbury & Upper South Island
  • Small Group Tours
  • Wildlife and Nature
  • Southern Lights
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Tour Description

Viva's nights under the dark sky...one billion stars, the moon, planets and galaxies far, far away! 

Join us at Lake Tekapo (Takapō) and Mt John Observatory on a 3 day, 2 night Dark Sky Experience; star gazing, astronomy and astrophotography. 

Staying near the shores of Lake Tekapo, there is time to explore, visit the Church of the Good Shepherd, go for a walk, or soak in the Tekapo hot springs. At the Dark Sky Project we take a thought provoking guided tour. We enjoy nightly dinners as a group before heading up Mt John, to the world-renowned astronomical centre; UC Mt John Observatory each night. Here expert guides will educate us on the night sky, as we gaze through telescopes, try our hands at astrophotography or simply grab a bean bag and enjoy a prime view on the mountain top under the stars. 

Nā te pō, ko te ao, ko te ao mārama.  From the darkest depths of the night we become enlightened

*Itinerary and rates for 2023 subject to change**


This bespoke astronomy tour at the observatory at Tekapo is bought to you by Viva Expeditions in conjunction with the Dark Sky Project. 

*Tekapo has its own unique alpine micro-climate and can change without notice. Weather predictions are often inaccurate. What we will see is weather dependent. Our guides tailor content to what is visible on a given night. 

Viva's Best Bits...

"Designed to combine with our Southern Lights by Flight, this makes for the perfect astronomy & night sky long weekend! Not going on our Southern Lights Flight? You are still welcome to join us!" Tara, Team Viva

A bespoke mountaintop stargazing experience at the world-renowned astronomical centre; UC Mt John Observatory, great for all levels, whether you want to learn a little about our night sky, or a keen to do a little astrophotography.

As part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, Mount John is one of the best places in the world to observe the planets, stars, galaxies and solar systems, and you will have fantastic guides with you as well!

Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Christchurch Mt John, Tekapo

Departing Christchurch Airport before midday (time still to be finalized approx 11am), we will head to the Tekapo, approx. 3 hours by coach.

Arrive at our accommodation near the shores of Lake Tekapo, check in and a little leisure time to explore or relax.

Enjoy an early dinner with your group at Pepper Blue Water Rakinui Restaurant & Bar.

Then it is time to dress up warm for the nights activities, and get your camera gear ready. We meet this evening, to make our way by coach up Mt John, to the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory, your guide will give you a little commentary on the way.

We begin our evening of activities on the mountaintop, with an intro to the area, and naked eye presentation.

There will be 4 "stations" set up for our evening, you are encouraged to explore the different activities.

• Telescope observation 1 - Using our domed 16" telescope as well as a 9.25" telescope, we will observe several objects in the night sky, your guide will provide commentary to describe each object and answer questions. Your guide will also be taking requests in case you would like to view something specific (dependent on what is visible)

• Telescope observation 2 - Using the University of Canterbury's B&C (Boller and Chivens) telescope we look at a handful of objects through this very powerful research telescope. It happens to be perfect for planets, so we'd probably observe Jupiter and Saturn with it!* Please note what we see will depend on time of year

• Astrophotography - On the patio (at the very summit of the observatory), a guide experienced in astrophotography will be using several mounts. A tracking mount to take guests cameras with their own lenses and take long exposures of the night sky ; a tracking telescope (likely RC8") to plug guest's cameras and take deep-sky images ; a tracking wide-field telescope to plug guest's cameras and take wider deep-sky images. These last two telescopes will be able to take Canon and Nikon cameras (*if you have other camera brands, you would need to bring your own adapters). The guide will also be offering to take portraits with long exposure that will be later uploaded on our account for guests to download.

• Relaxing area - Take a quiet moment and simply relax. There will be bean bags, blankets and some binoculars for you to sit down, relax and simple enjoy the sky.

During the evening a snack break will provided for hot drinks and a hot brownie or similar. and we will also take a group photo.

Late tonight , we will take the coach back down to Tekapo, to get a good nights rest.

Overnight at Peppers Resort

Day 2
Mt John, Tekapo

Take it easy this morning, enjoy a leisurely cooked breakfast at Pepper resort.

Your day is at leisure until the late afternoon. Explore the local area, get in some more photography, take a walk or visit Tekapo Springs for a soak in the hot pool (entrance not included). You may even be in the mood for some exercise and take a daylight walk back up Mount John.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY (NZD 70 per person) Photo processing workshop.
2pm: For those keen photographers who would like to learn a little more about processing their astro photos, join us for a special workshop.

Mid/Late afternoon, meet back in town, where we have a guided tour, The Dark Sky Experience with a wonderful local guide.

Then it is time for another early dinner, this time at The Dark Sky Diner

Tonight we will head back up to Mt John for another night of activities, similar to the night before, however the aim is to focus on different themes.

Later we head back to our accommodation for the night.

Overnight at Peppers Resort.

Day 3
Tekapo Christchurch Airport

Enjoy a cooked breakfast at Peppers Resort

8:30am Check out and return to Christchurch to arrive around midday. You will be dropped at Christchurch Airport.

For those of you continuing your journey on with us on our Southern Lights by Flight this evening, please take a quick break for lunch (own account).
Your afternoon Pre Flight Mission starts at either 1pm or 3pm at the International Antarctica Centre, approx. 5 minutes walk from the airport.

*Please note times are subject to change due to weather and the nature of this tour

What’s Included

  • Included Copy 20 2 nights at Peppers Bluewater Resort in a deluxe room
  • Included Copy 31 Single room supplement NZD 339
  • Included Copy 20 2 group dinners, with a drink
  • Included Copy 20 2 cooked breakfasts
  • Included Copy 7 Lunches and additional drinks
Fees & Services
  • Included Copy 20 Transport to /from Christchurch Airport to Lake Tekapo by coach
  • Included Copy 20 2 nights of guided stargazing at University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory
  • Included Copy 20 Use of telescopes: domed 16" telescope, 9.25" telescope, B&C telescope
  • Included Copy 20 Dark Sky Experience tour in Tekapo
  • Included Copy 20 Tour host and expert astronomy guides
  • Included Copy 20 Option to have your photo take with long exposure (access to digital photo will be provided)
  • Included Copy 20 Free time to explore beautiful Lake Tekapo; walk, photograph, visit the hot pools
  • Included Copy 20 Small group tour of 20 guests (please note 2 groups may be in the area at the same time)
  • Included Copy 31 Optional photo processing workshop, additional $70 per person


  • Included 2 nights of astronomy activities at University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory
  • Included Expert guides to help you learn about the night sky
  • Included Opportunities to use specialist telescopes
  • Included Time for some astrophotography and to improve your skills
Click here for dates & prices

3 days

Price from

$1,062 USD

Per person, twin share

including GST

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