“The Kingdom in the Sky!” Lesotho certainly sounds like a place any adventurous traveller should visit at least once during their lifetime. Why? Well, simply put, this is one of the most beautiful places on earth, filled with stunning mountainous terrain. It doesn't get its nickname for nothing.
Surrounded by the Republic of South Africa, Lesotho covers an area of only 30,000 km2 and is home to around 2 million inhabitants. Formerly known as Basutoland, it was given independence by Great Britain in 1966 and today is a popular tourist destination for both South Africans and overseas visitors alike.
But what awaits you in this high-altitude country? Well, Lesotho is filled with several activities, some adrenaline pumping, and others a little more relaxed.
Home to over 300,000 people, the capital Maseru lies on the Caledon River, right near Lesotho's border with South Africa at 1,600 meters above sea-level. In fact, Lesotho has the distinction of being the only nation in the world where the whole country is 1,000 meters above sea level.
Maseru will in all probability serve as a focal point during your stay in the country. First and foremost, the city is a great place to shop with a number of modern malls. But there is so much more!
If you are looking for beautiful African tapestries, visit the Helang Basali Craft Centre, just 30 kilometres from the capital. Here you can find some of the most beautiful tapestries you can ever hope to see.
Organise a trip to the mountain stronghold of Thaba Bosiu. Just outside the city, this was the stronghold of African kings and over a period of four decades, never once fell to invaders.
Try canoeing! With the city near the Caledon River, a canoeing expedition is a must! Take a day out and get a little wet!
Visit the Mokorotlo building, a modern structure built to look like a traditional hat worn by the locals.
Sehlabathebe National Park
Set in the peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, Sehlabathebe National Park is worth a visit here alone for the stunning vistas the Drakensberg peaks and rolling grasslands present. For travellers who love photography, well, let's just say you will be snapping away constantly. And that's even before you see any of the wildlife.
It's also a fisherman’s paradise with many bodies of water found throughout the park, all stocked to the brim with trout waiting to be caught. You may also catch a glimpse of the rare minnow fish, once thought extinct. Other wildlife found at this UNESCO World Heritage site includes various bird species, baboons, orbi antelope, mongoose, wild cats as well as jackals.
Your Sehlabathebe National Park tour guide will also offer extensive hiking trails as well as pony trekking opportunities, the perfect slow pace to see the stunning beauty this part of Lesotho has to offer.
Situated in the Moteng Valley, this area around the Liphofung Cave has been populated by humans for centuries and is the best place to see the ancient art of the San people.
There is much to see and do here. Your tour guide will no doubt take you for a tour of the nearby museum which documents the history of the area as well as the various people to live here over the centuries. A small craft area is a must visit to buy local curios to remember your trip.
Tse'hlanyane National Park
The reserve at Tse'hlanyane is ensconced in the Maluti mountains, and covers around 5 600 hectare that includes a rare woodland region, scarce in Lesotho.
What awaits you in this magnificent reserve? Well, the scenery is the first thing that will strike you. Like much of the country, this is an area of extreme beauty where mountain peaks rise towards the sky, stretching to touch the sun.
Bird spotters will have the time of their lives in Tse'hlanyane with approximately 60 bird species found throughout the park, including several birds of prey. And if adventure is your thing, then consider the two-day, 39-kilometre hike between Tse'hlanyane and Bokong Nature reserve. Explore the local fauna and flora, take a dip in one of the many mountain rock pools, saddle up a local pony and or just relax in these spectacular surroundings.
While in Lesotho:
Why not kayak on the Katse Dam (you will need to carry your own watercraft and need to be licensed) or go white water rafting on the Ash river? Or the most challenging, White snow kayaking near Semonkong. For the less adventurous, a boat trip on the Katse Dam is a must!
Lesotho is a paradise for hikers. Hiking opportunities are available all over the country, since its mountainous. You could hike in the Basotho valley, or in Semonkong or Malealea. Other options include Ha Lejone to Oxbow, Mokhotlong – Thahana Ntlenyana – Sani Top and Sani Top to Seblabathebe. It's the perfect way to take in all the splendour Lesotho has to offer.
Camping is a popular activity, especially while on hikes. You could pick a spot and camp from anywhere near the Matebeng River, Maseru or Mokhotlong for a few days if hiking is not your thing.
Ski! Yes, in winter, the snowfalls in the high mountains bring skiing opportunities. The best months to do this is during June, July and August. The main areas for skiing include the Maluti and the Oxbow mountains.
4x4 adventures. Finally, if driving a 4x4 through treacherous mountain terrain gets you all revved up, then Lesotho has you covered! 4x4 trails include the Cannibal Pass trail (the closest town to which is Ramabanta), the Letsapong Cannibal Cave trail, and much more. You could hire a travel guide for any help that you need!
“Craig Taylor is a freelance writer and blogger. A lover of wildlife, he loves to travel and have as many new experiences as possible, particularly with food! His other passion is photography.”
Image details and licenses: Thaba Bosiu: https://flic.kr/p/2e8KAww (Chiemgau Biking, CC BY-ND 2.0), Sehlabathebe National Park: https://images.app.goo.gl/KCNgDGxdH8A7RE4m9 (Luke N. Vargas), Tse'hlanyane National Park: https://flic.kr/p/dTFWX1 (John Karwoski, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)