The stunning Cook Islands are a tropical paradise located deep in the South Pacific Ocean. The Cook Islands are self-governing and are in free association with New Zealand which lies to the southwest. Also nearby are French Polynesia (including the islands of Moorea and Bora Bora) and American Samoa. Within the Cook Islands are 15 major islands divided into two groups: the Northern Cook Islands and the Southern Cook Islands. The Northern Cook Islands consist of six coral atolls. The capital of the Cook Islands is the city of Avarua, on the most populous island Rarotonga. The island of Aitutaki is also a popular destination for tourists. Visitors to the Cook Islands can enjoy swimming in the crystal blue ocean waters, sunbathing on the spectacular white sand beaches, or snorkeling over the fertile reef. The Cook Islands are also popular for weddings and honeymoons.
New Zealand’s north island is home to Mount Taranaki, or Mount Egmont, a 2,518 meter (8,261 ft) tall active volcano. Taranaki is quite young for a volcano, having become active only 135,000 years ago. Its most recent activity was a mere 160 years ago. Mount Taranaki is the center of the Egmont National Park, the circular tree-line boundary of which can be seen in two of the photos below. Visitors to the mountain can enjoy the Manganui ski resort for skiing and snowboarding. Those more adventurous types can trek to the summit during the summer months. The closest major town is New Plymouth, just north of the mountain, where all types of hotels and other accommodation can be found.