Don't Miss Places In Lesotho
Lesotho is a landlocked country in South Africa dominated by the snow-capped Drakenberg Mountains. Because of the cool, damp mountain climate, the locals are often found wearing warm colorful blankets and sturdy, broad-brimmed hats made from woven grasses.
Since the 1700s Lesotho has suffered many of the struggles common to South Africa. In the 1800s Lesotho, once called Basutoland, was founded by a fleeing band of warriors who settled in the mountains under the protection of the Chief Moshoeshoe I. The fledgling country fought against the British and the Boers, and escaped inclusion into South Africa to finally become an independent kingdom in 1966.
Troubles from neighboring South Africa have spilled over into Lesotho in recent years. However, the end of South Africa’s apartheid, and the beginning democratic elections in Lesotho have brought some stability to the country.
If you are planning a visit to Lesotho these are your not-to-be-missed attractions.
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Lesotho Mountain Kingdom
If you visit Lesotho Mountain Kingdom be sure to check out the Sehlabathebe National Park in the Maluti Drakensberg (südlichre part). The park is near Qacha's Nek, a border post with South Africa, near Matatiele. Here you will find a new camp consisting of a number of well-appointed chalets.
Sehlabathebe National Park is an attraction for nature lovers’ known for beautiful hiking, majestic rock formations and views of the escarpment, a key feature of the park. The top of this slope rises to about 2400 m above sea level. Additionally, the park is also just a short walk from the Bushman's Village.
A local tour operator can lead you on a day trip from South Africa to Lesotho via the Sani Pass. These narrow winding gravel roads offer stunning views they wind up the mountain pass, climbing to 2865 meters altitude. Your journey will deliver you to the Lesotho border post, where you will need your passport ready for entry to the small mountain country.
Continue your drive into Lesotho along its dirt roads where you can meet grassland boys with their sheep and goats. You can visit a typical Lesotho village to see how they live in their huts, and enjoy some homemade bread and beer. Then stroll around and listen to musicians and singers perform as a way of welcoming you to their village. This is a full day tour and a lively and interactive experience with the locals that is highly recommended.
The magnificent mountain scenery and countryside with its rural embossed structure are features that distinguish it from the rest of South Africa, and should not be missed. Even from inside your car it is impressive, however you should enhance your experience by taking a hike explore more of Drakensberg.
Kingdom In The Sky
While in the past Lesotho was not an obvious choice in South African travel experiences, in the last 15 years the government partnered with business investors to create a highland water project that has transformed the barren mountainous landscape into an ideal holiday destination. This project has resulted in an attraction known as the Kingdom in the Sky.
With breathtaking landscapes, well-paved roads, easy to navigate highways, this attraction is both safe and fun to explore.
You can enjoy its specialized attractions such as: mountain trail adventures, hiking expeditions, horseback riding, the two grand Lesotho dams, and even a site a site which locals say contains “dinosaur footprints.” And, if you’re feeling more adventurous, rent a 4x4 and explore the sights without being limited to paved roads.
But outdoors fun is not all The Kingdom in the Sky has to offer, with a range of hotels to choose from, you can ensure that your stay will also be comfortable and relaxing
Katse Dam is a charming double-curvature concrete structure located 2,250 meters above sea level at the confluence of the rivers and Malibamatsu Bokong. In fact, Katse is the highest dam in Africa measuring 185 meters high. The huge retaining wall measures 710 meters wide with a thickness of 60 meters at the base and 9 meters in the ridge. With a total volume of 2.5 million cubic meters this stunning wall is capable of restraining a staggering 2,000 million cubic meters of water.
The Katse Dam is part of South African project originally financed to build five reservoirs capable of supplying communities with high quality water. Built by Italians in the 1990s, the locals still fondly recall the kindness and aid received from Italy on this project.
Located in Lesotho’s mountain behind the Drakensberg peak, the dam is fed from the Vaal Dam serving the Gauteng region, which includes the major cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Amenities in and around the dam include the Katse Lodge, with stunning panoramic view of the lake and great restaurant dining. And, within a short distance from the dam there is a tourism office with a huge model of the town and staff on hand to help with any information.
About 2 km. away you can see ancient prehistoric figures with hunting scenes and animals painted on the rock. You can also find good hotels in Maseru, the capital, to Rome and Butha Buthe, Lesotho's small towns. The town is about 500 kilometers away from Johannesburg, which has a domestic airport.
The 3-hour trip from Leribe, to Katse Dam is an adventurous uphill excursion into the center of Lesotho via a high mountain road climbing three steps of 2100, 2500, and finally the Mafika pass of 3090 meters above sea level. It is easy to find yourself lost in the middle of nowhere. And above the 2000 meters over sea level mark the atmospheric conditions make journey difficult or dangerous depending the rain, fog, and snow, so take extra precautions for fuel.
While a 4x4 is not an absolute requirement for travel, a raised 2x4 will more likely a successful arrival. If the weather is good, the show is magnificent. If it rains, nevertheless, it is still a must to see this attraction in Lesotho.
The Maluti Mountains of Lesotho and its villages are fantastic and very characteristic of Africa.
This area is well preserved, so much so that a visit to the local caves reveals markings done by early Bushmen who were the first inhabitants. If you get tired of walking, arrange for a quad or bike ride, or even horseback riding to access more hard to reach portions of the mountain.
The roads here are a bit treacherous so it is imperative to take the trail with utmost care.
While you’re here, don’t miss attractions like; the Forgotten Kingdom, the city of Clarens and the nature reserve park. Make sure to snap lots of pictures when you pass by the walking trails, as the views are astounding.
Ha Baroana Rock Paintings
The Ha Baroana Rock Paintings is an overhanging rock that is located almost 5 kilometers away from a rocky path along the Mountain Road. This famous village of the Bushmen is about 38 kilometers from the capital city of Maseru.
It is here where the Sans left their legacy and piece of art carved and immortalized on the rocks. You can see their creativity shine on in every drawing of panthers, lions, birds and a few guinea fowls.
There are also drawings depicting how the Bushmen survive life in the wild: chasing or hunting animals, how they work and till the land to gather crops, and how their first huts were built. From the primary vantage point, a trail crisscrosses down past the keeper's cabins to a stream, which you will need to cross to see to the rock sketches.
Initially a harness trail for wild creatures the Sani Pass was opened up to public access in the 1950's.
While the trek can be made in a standard vehicle, it is not recommended. From the Lesotho fringe post is situated at the Sani Top 8km from the highest point of the pass. From here the path winds downward through the difficult serpentine road 15km down the road to the Sani Lodge. Another 15 kilometers further takes you to the quiet town of Underberg.
The full length of the pass winds from the height of the Drakensberg mountains down into the South African region of Kwazulu Natal. Consider the Sani Pass as your gateway to another attraction; the Roof of Africa territory that connects you to the breathtaking views of the Drakensberg and other points of interests in Lesotho such as the Golden Gate Park and the Monontsa Pass.
The city of Maseru is an ideal jump off point to visit the western part of Lesotho. Blessed with a superb landscape, interesting history, rich culture and varied artworks, Mohale Dam is the most visited attraction in Lesotho.
Situated 90 km from the city of Maseru the dam became fully operational in 2003. At the southwest part of this site is the equally famous. Along with the Katse Dam, these two huge dams are the source for reliable water in Lesotho. It is an enjoyable place to visit with lots of observation decks to take a break and enjoy the views while driving the area.
Thaba-Bosiu National Monument
Lesotho has two sacred things; the cone hat and the Thaba Bosiu Mountain, and in the mountains, these two sacred things converge. Standing next to it is the plateau of Kviloane – a smaller mountain that curiously resembles the shape of their national attire called the Mokorotlo.
The Thaba-Bosiu mountain is more precisely a plateau. It is sacred because it is the official residence and final resting place of Lesotho king and founder Moshoeshoe I, who formed the national identity of the people. Moshoeshoe I was a unique personality. Born into the family of a leader he received the name Lepoko. Even and during the time of famine, his parents raised him as a leader so that even at a young age he helped his father gain power over small neighboring tribes and within a single anti-terrorist operation helped lead his nation to freedom. Moshoeshoe is buried at the top of the Thaba-Bosiu National Monument.
The Thaba-Bosiu is also sacred because it once saved the people by serving as a natural fortress during wars with the Ndebele, and later, when they decided to move the British and the Boer republics against the colonizers when this stronghold was not yet occupied.
Its name - "Night Mountain" stems from the folk belief that in the morning the night mountain starts to shrink, leaving enemies wandering around the cliffs.
It is difficult to appreciate the beauty and sacredness of this place without a climb to the top, to the most impressive vantage point. Here one can take in the ruins and tombs, as well as the amazing landscape of the Drakensberg Mountain foothills and the Kviloane mountain in whose honor the people of Lesotho invented the cone hat and placed it on their flag.
AfriSki Ski and Mountain Resort
The AfriSki Ski and Mountain Resort in Lesotho is just the destination if you want to try skiing in Africa. Situated up in an excellent part of the mountain, the resort and pistes are quite remarkable, features varying runs for amateur and pros alike and even ski instructors beginners.
The resort is a bit pricey, but being the main site to ski in Lesotho, the price is reasonable and you can take an impulse ski holiday without worrying about packing all your gear, as the resort shops are there to cater to all your skiing your needs. From gear rentals, thermal wears, hoodies, and other ski accessories, to restaurants and bars, everything is conveniently accessible from the resort and ski areas.
The chalets and accommodations are clean and pleasant, and the food is phenomenal. There is Wi-Fi, cable TV channels, plus friendly and attentive staff.
While it may not measure up to the top ski resorts in the Alps, AfriSki Ski and Mountain Resort is well staffed and the ski slopes are in great condition, making this a reasonable choice if you want to satisfy the skiing urge while in Lesotho.
Want some fine dining while in Lesotho, check out the Portuguese inspired Piri Piri. Given its humble exterior you may be surprised to discover an exceptionally mainstream restaurant is quite popular with the locals, and it is also of the most frequented dining options by visiting foreigners.
This restaurant has excellent staff, exceptional food presentation, and a great chef who has packed the menu with his specialty of meat dishes. From chicken, beef, fish, and pasta dishes which are all sensibly valued, to tasty family-friendly options, and even some really spicy fare if you are in the mood. And you can wash it down with a unique brand of ice-cold beer called “Maluti” which is served in frosted glasses from their cocktail bar.
Easy to find, the Piri Piri sits just right across the Maseru Sun Hotel and clubhouse. As the night wears on the restaurant fills with tourists generating an atmosphere grows more vibrant and interesting as the night wears on.
The restaurant has a nice ambiance and attentive staff. The place looks a bit dim and deserted at times, but that may be just the ticket for an intimate dinner.. Mark it on your list as one of the best dining experiences to enjoy after a long day of touring Lesotho’s attractions.
While Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa, it is uniquely independent. Lesotho is pure Africa without the scars of apartheid. Located high in the mountains it is a barren but curiously attractive land where most crops are grown on the valley floor.
Anyone traveling to South Africa and deciding to bypass Lesotho will sadly miss one of the best adventures and attractions. For a memorable South African vacation, be sure to include Lesotho on your itinerary.