Lesotho

Commonly known as ‘The Kingdom in the Sky’ due to its dramatically high altitude, Lesotho is rather unique in that it is entirely surrounded by South Africa. This tiny and spectacularly mountainous kingdom makes for a wonderful adventure getaway with excellent pony trekking, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, abseiling, birdwatching, mountain biking and even skiing on offer. The country’s highlands boast magnificent mountain scenery, clean mountain air and the opportunity to witness the fascinating traditional cultures of its warm and welcoming locals. Lesotho is an ideal location for travelers seeking an adventurous outdoor experience in a place of raw natural beauty with a wonderfully preserved authentic local culture.

Top 5 places to visit

Sani_Pass
Drakensberge

The legendary Sani Pass provides the only road link between Mokhotlong, Lesotho and the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Originally a mule track, it is still a tortuous, hair-raising road today but the views from this altitude (2,876m) are nothing less than awe-inspiring, with snow and frozen waterfalls in winter, and a blaze of flower blooms in summer. Enjoy a drink in the highest pub in Africa. It is also the only road crossing the summit of the Drakensberg mountains, the highest mountain range in Southern Africa with highlights such as the Amphitheatre and Giant´s Castle. With peaks that rise to 3,482 metres in height, the Drakensberg mountain range is an area of spectacular natural beauty. The mountains themselves span approximately 1,000 kilometres from Southwest to North-East and meet Lesotho at its North-Eastern border. The area has some excellent hiking trails to fully appreciate the scenery and wildlife, which includes eland and majestic bearded vultures. The dramatic outline of the jagged peaks has earned it the name ‘Barrier of Spears’ in local Zulu language.

One of the most impressive San Rock Art sites in Lesotho, ancient Ha Baroana adorns a massive sandstone overhang flanking the Liphiring River near the village of Matela some 40km East of Maseru. Ha Baroana translates as Home of Bushman, and the rock art there, as with most other such sites in Lesotho, is attributed to the San or Bushmen hunter-gatherers who inhabited the region prior to the foundation of the Sotho Kingdom in the early 19th century. As is so often the case in Southern Africa, the art at Ha Baroana is dominated by polychrome depictions of the eland, which is the world’s largest antelope, and was held sacred by the shamanic artists. Other figures include a herd of smaller, more streamlined antelope (most likely hartebeest or blesbok), a peculiar leopard-like predator, a circle of dancers, and an unusually well-preserved all-black hunter running with spear in hand.

Rock Art
Katse Dam

The Katse Dam, a concrete arch dam on the Malibamat’so River, is Africa’s second largest double-curvature arch dam. The dam is the centrepiece of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which takes the water of the Lesotho Highlands via an incredible series of dams and tunnels through the mountains eventually coming out on the plains of South Africa’s Free State province where it gravity feeds to supply Johannesburg and Pretoria with water. It was touted as the biggest engineering project in the Southern hemisphere in the 1990’s when it was under construction, and the sight of the massive dam wall and the deep still lake it has created in the mountains is well worth beholding. A highlight of a visit to the dam is the Katse Botanical Garden, which was established in 1995 as a sanctuary for Afro-Alpine flora rescued from land soon to be submerged by the reservoir. Reputed to be the highest botanical garden in the Southern hemisphere, the garden stands at an altitude of 2,230 metres adjacent to Katse village and it extends across 17 hectares of terraced slopes crisscrossed with well-maintained footpaths. The garden protects more than 500 indigenous plant species, including various proteas, aloes, lilies and red-hot pokers, all adapted to withstand harsh winters that often bring heavy snowfall.

The Maletsunyane Waterfalls, one of the highest single dropping waterfalls in the southern hemisphere, plummets 192 metres into a spectacular gorge creating a mist visible from afar.  It is from this mist or fog that the nearby town Semonkong – The Place of Smoke – gets its name. The area is great for hiking and riding and the brave will find the officially highest abseiling path in the world along the thundering water of the falls.

Maletsunyane Falls
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General Information

Currency: Lesotho Loti (LSL)

The South African Rand is accepted 1:1 as legal currency across the country. ATMs which accept international debit and credit cards (Visa & Mastercard) to withdraw cash can be found in the capital Maseru. Your card needs to have a chip and pin. Cash is the most preferred method of payment in Lesotho, but it is possible to pay by credit card, especially in hotels, large western-style supermarkets or in shops and restaurants in Maseru. Debit cards are not always accepted for direct payments.

While changing money at a Bureau de Change is possible, it is not recommended as it is often a complicated and lengthy process.

Please be sure to advise your bank before you travel that you will be using your card in a different country as they may block access to your card if they do not know that you are travelling.

For current exchange rates please use this website.

Official languages: Sesotho and English

Visa Requirements: Depending on nationality, please check visa requirements here.

Please also consult the embassy or consulate for any updates before departure, especially when traveling with children.

Independence: 4 October 1966 from Britain

Religion: The population of Lesotho is estimated to be around 90% Christians. Members of other religions and members of traditional indigenous religions comprise the remaining 10% of the population.

Souvenirs: Jewellery made of seeds and clay beads, chess sets made of copper and ebony; wool and mohair rugs; tapestries and textiles; angora sweaters and shawls; rock paintings and pottery.

Agricultural products: Corn (maize), beans, wheat, sorghum, and peas

Industries: Farming and animal husbandry, as well as small-scale industries that include clothing, footwear, textiles, food processing and construction

Best time to visit: Temperate climate with well-marked seasons. Summer is the rainy season; 85% of rainfall occurs from October to April, especially in the mountains. Snow occurs in the highlands from May to September. The hottest period is from January to February.

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