Talk to the Lesotho shepherds or measure the emotional ladder; look out for tall waterfalls or head up a cliff; Here are our favorite things to do in the Drakensberg mountains.
From the balcony of the Sani Pass Mountain lodge, the valleys rise from our 3,000-foot [3,000 m] floor. The view is amazing.
Also, it is just one of the many beautiful things you can do in one of the most exciting places to visit in South Africa.
The Drakensberg Mountains form a spectacular natural border between Lesotho and South Africa. At 10,000 feet [3,000 m], it is rich in natural resources, including the three-kilometer-long cliff face and the world’s second-largest waterfall.
It’s a beautiful place to visit that feels like it’s not on the grid yet it’s full of exciting adventures. Travel through beautiful landscapes, meet local people, enjoy the best South African wines and enjoy one of the most diverse regions in the country.
Here are 10 reasons to visit the Drakensberg.
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1 – CALL THE OLD MAN’S SONG
There are not many drives like this. Sani Pass rises 1300 meters under 9 km as it rises from the plains of South Africa to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.
The authorities will not let you out of 4 × 4 and for good reason. This small rocky road has loose rocks, small rain-soaked valleys, hairdressers in need of three point-switches, and vertical drops on one side.
The sensation takes about an hour and 15 minutes, but at the top, the views of the Drakensberg mountains from Africa’s highest canteen are magnificent. Travel is available if you do not like drive.
2 – START IN DRAKENSBERG AMPHITHEATER
The Drakensberg Amphitheater is 5 km long with a vertical fall of just over 1,200 meters, giving the surface of the falls more than ten times the size of El Capitan in Yosemite. It is a spectacular sight from the top of the Tugela Mountains or down the gorge.
The perfect place to stay to see this nature from Thendele Camp in Royal Natal National Park. From the balcony behind their chalets, you can sit down, relax and grab a coffee in the morning (or beer in the evening) and watch the magically changing light on the rock of its face.
3 – TAKE IT OUT TO TUGELA
Entering the Drakensberg Mountains, the Tugela Falls sank to a depth of about 3,000 feet [1,000 m], making it the world’s second-largest fall.
But, despite their height, they are not easy to spot. In winter (when dry) they are often without water at all. In summer, their beauty is revealed only after a long journey to reach them.
You can look down on the beautiful explosions from the Sentinel Peak climbing up the Drakensberg Amphitheater. Or you can walk through the center of Tugela Gorge and catch a glimpse of the distance covered by the forest. Both are great days to go out.
4 – SCALE NERVE-TERING CENTER CENTERS
The Drakensberg Mountains are rich in stony walls that offer stunning beauty and fascinating challenges. If you are going to make good progress on well-marked pedestrian crossings, then this big fallen face needs to go up. The South African solution is chain ladders – metal stairs hanging upside down.
There are a few dots on the north side of the Drakensberg but the highest and most difficult decision is the 100-step vertigo game associated with the Tugela Falls waterfall. If you wish for a mental challenge with a story and a great sense of satisfaction, that’s for you.
5 – CHAT TO THE LESOTHO SHEPHERDS AND WORKERS ARE BACK
The plateau at the top of the Drakensberg is a land of contrasts. Instead of South Africa’s rapidly growing cities, Lesotho’s small communities are living a rural life.
Here the Basotho (Lesotho residents) roam the grassy highlands looking for their goats, sheep and horses. Dressed like a Jedi wearing robes and hoods – eyes hidden from the scorching sun of Lesotho – they often approached, wanting to know why we were on their land.
“Slow walk” seemed to be an unfamiliar response to them. But a quick and friendly conversation in broken English to understand about a simple culture that is not available.
6 – DISCHARGE 3000 METER CATHEDRAL PEAK
Moving from the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains to the top is not easy. The surface of the steep cliff made many mountain trails impossible. But this exciting climb to the 3,004m Cathedral Peak summit can be made as a walk. It’s not just simple.
It is considered a non-‘technical’ 19-day return trip, climbing 1,600 meters and taking 9 to 10 hours. However, it is not just a fake length, the final stage up to the summit is a challenging challenge at the edges that are presented using organized resources. Rewards for excellent viewing and great satisfaction. The first time we have to take a guide.
7 – BOULDER HOP UP THE GORG FAILED
You can swim in rivers and lakes; the stone bounces off the bed of the stream or simply overlooks the straight walls. As you go up the river they become stronger, more stable and more challenging, adding to the already powerful sense of humor.
Rainbow Gorge at Cathedral Peak and Tugela Gorge at Royal Natal National Park are two of the best. But be sure to check the weather before you leave; heavy rains are a common occurrence in the afternoon.
8 – BEHAVIOR AT THE CATHEDRAL PEAK WINE ESTATE
If you’ve got enough entertainment, or rain is on the way, then Cathedral Peak Wine Estate is the perfect place for lunch. Out of respect for the region where the wine is served, their fine wines are named UNESCO 985 – the ID number of the successful UNESCO application in 2000.
Tasting wine is R10 (€ 0.50 / $ 0.56 / £ 0.45) per glass and can go hand in hand with their delicious meat and cheese bread. Try the perfect Merlot on the unique Estate Range or Pinotage of South Africa and while walking in the afternoon look at the vineyards supported by the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains.
9 – EXPERIENCE THE VEGETABLE OF OLD MEN’S WATER PRICES
The first South Africans, San (or Bushmen), lived in the Drakensberg mountains for a thousand years before disappearing in the late 1800’s. Luckily they leave behind a fragile heritage: the stone art of the ancient stone.
There are more than 600 rock art and tens of thousands of paintings spread across the region but the best can be found at the Games Pass Shelter near Kamberg, Main Caves near Giants Castle Camp or Battle Cave near Injisuthi.
The Didima Rock Art Center in the Royal Natal National Park also has an educational museum dedicated to the rise and fall of the San and its art.
10 – RAMBLE THE 60-KILOMETER GIANT’S’S CUP TRAIL
As the climbing stairs go up, the boulders and the cliffs sound a little louder and you think about this multi-day climb, which is considered to be the longest distance in the Drakensberg. It takes 5 days and covers 60 miles. Although tall, it is only moderately heavy.
It starts at the bottom of Sani Pass and runs along roads and streams through the rugged Drakensberg region to Bushman’s Nek.
It is the only climb up the Drakensberg houses. Since accommodation is basic, you will need to provide your own bed and food. It is cold rain all the way.
HOLY TIME TO VISIT THE DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAINS
The best time to visit the Drakenberg mountains is from March to May when the rains have subsided, temperatures are comfortable and the hills are still green from the winter rains. September to November is also good to go but the hills will be dark brown rather than shiny green.
Summer rains (December to February) can be flooding in the Drakensberg and temperatures can reach mid-30s making jobs tedious. In winter (June to August) temperatures drop rapidly, and high temperatures can be very cold.
Whatever time of year you will try to start in the morning each day. In the morning there is a beautiful photo frame, clear sky and light air. In the summer, be sure to come back in the afternoon. Storms can be seen outside the area which makes the conditions not only unsatisfactory but the canyons are very dangerous.
HOW TO GET DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAINS
The Drakensberg Mountains are a remote region bordering South Africa / Lesotho.
The nearest airports are King Shaka International Airport in Durban (3 hours, 30 minutes by car) or Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg (four hours, 30 minutes by car).
Public transport is very limited in this part of South Africa so, the best option is to rent your car. This will give you the flexibility to see more places on your trip. Our favorite car rental company in Auto Europe, check prices using the links below depending on the location of your home.
TIPS FOR STARTING VISITORS TO VISIT THE DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAINS
Divided into different areas, around the Drakensberg takes time. Public transportation is virtually non-existent, so we suggest you rent a car to visit. If you use public transportation, stay on the edge of the park and join the daily tours.
Because of its size, you will need to choose which places you want to visit.
For the first time, we highly recommend the Royal Natal National Park north of the Drakensberg. This is where you can see the Drakensberg Amphitheater, climb up the Tugela Falls, climb the chain ladders, the boulders climbing the ravines and meeting the locals.
If you have more time then take an exciting but challenging drive up Sani Pass. Not only is it a good drive but upstairs you will find the best restaurant in Africa, friendly people, amazing views and excellent mountain travel. For more information read our 4 × 4 adventure at Sani Pass post.